STORY OF A… Belly Dancer
Suspira Tiouat, 39, teaches women to embrace their inner goddess with every hip hit and shimmy.
“I started getting into ethnic dance in my teens. I went on to be a classical dance major in college, and I started formally training in Middle Eastern dance. Once I graduated, I knew that it was my ideal art form. I said, ‘This is me.’ I loved it.”
Tiouat has been belly dancing for 25 years and teaching it for 22. She performed for several years at Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion, where she met her husband. “He was working in the restaurant I was performing at [Restaurant Marrakesh], and it was interesting for him because I was the only American dancer. It was kind of a novelty.”
At her dance studio, Orlando Bellydance, Tiouat instructs nervous beginners and passionate experts alike. She also choreographs and produces three large shows each year in addition to performing solo regularly.
“Belly dancers come in every size, shape, age, walk of life. People get it confused a lot of times with exotic dancing, and it’s not that at all. It’s a deeply emotional, expressive, beautiful cultural dance that I think is an unsung art form.”
Tiouat’s fascination with belly dance soared after a visit to the Middle East. “Some of the stars in Egypt and Turkey are larger women, which is considered very sensual and beautiful. They just don’t have the same confinements that we have here.”
“There are two different types of major movements. There are the sensual movements of pretty much every body part, circular and undulating movements that are for the slower music. The percussive movements go along to the hits of the drum and are isolating and sharply moving, mainly [involving] the hips. It’s called belly dance but the hips are the biggest part of the dance.”
“A great belly dancer is connected with the music and illustrates the emotion of the music effectively with her body, so she kind of illustrates the song for the audience.’’
“My favorite part of this job is seeing the transformation of my students gaining confidence and just feeling beautiful, a lot of them for the first time. If they’re not 18 and a size two, a lot of them are scared to even come to class. And just seeing them own their goddessness, it’s awesome. Belly dance has made me truly realize how beautiful all women are.”