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Interview with Belly dancer Nataliya Strelchenko

by Salome

Daughter of a Ukrainian Cossack and half Rroma mother, Nataliya was born in the Republic of Komi, in the Russian Federation. Her involvement in the performing arts began after High school. Nataliya enrolled in a two year Circus trade school where she studied Tap dance, ballet and hula hoop feats.

She worked briefly for the Vladivostok City Circus but gave it up to pursue her love of dance. Nataliya was engaged to perform, as a member of a tap dance group, in Romania. A Turkish Belly dancer, performing at the same venue as the tap group, piqued Nataliya's interest.

Returning to Moscow, Nataliya learned to dance via video of Egyptian dancers and informally from Alla Zhanataeva. Alla arranged a contract for Nataliya in Cairo, Egypt. She now resides in Moscow, actively performing and running her own studio "Bosonozhka" meaning "little bare foot girl".

Nataliya Strelchenko

Salome: Performing in Cairo, Egypt is the dream of many Egyptian style dancers and you accomplished it. What was the experience like for you?

Nataliya: Most of all I liked the live music. An orchestra sitting behind you, it's live energy, it's unforgettable. Cairo is a place of never ending learning, a bottomless well of knowledge.

Salome: You won the 2003 title Belly Dance Champion of the World. In the United States we have heard little more than the name of the event but are curious about it. Can you share the details about this competition and your experience in it?

Nataliya: At the first Championship of the World competition where I won first place there were not a lot of dancers from abroad. And there were no dancers from Arab countries at all. So I don't feel that I am a Champion of the World. For me it was just a regular contest.

Salome: Can you draw us a picture of what the Oriental dance scene is like in Russia? (For example; is it popular, are there a lot of women choosing it for a career, or are most in it for exercise, are there places to perform and where, where do you get costumes and music, and are there many teachers?)

Nataliya: There are many restaurants in Moscow where belly dancers perform. But unfortunately not all of them, in my opinion, present this kind of art correctly. The selection of dancers generally happen by how attractive they are not by how well they dance.

Not every place has a stage or good lights. Belly dance is a kind of magic, and the audience should be prepared for it. I would like restaurants, where belly dancers perform, to have an oriental interior and Arabic (oriental) background music. This kind of ambience will prepare visitors to expect something mysterious and beautiful. But unfortunately now in Moscow only one or two such places exist. In general, in Moscow restaurants several dancers dance on the stage or on the floor at the same time. And I personally don't care for such places. Only one belly dance performer should be on stage at a time!

We buy music everywhere we possibly can. We bring it from Arab countries, download it from the internet, buy it in the Moscow on music market "Gorbushka". But it's still a problem for us to find good, new Arabic music in Moscow.

Salome: What projects are you involved in and what are your future career goals? Any chance that you may visit America to teach or perform?

Nataliya: Invite me, I'd like to come! I participate in all projects with pleasure. I often visit other Russian cities to teach workshops and perform in concerts.

Salome: What are your thoughts on creating a universal movement vocabulary for Oriental dance, and/or certification system?

Nataliya: I am for a system of certification and creating a universal vocabulary of movements. Great idea!

P.S. All the women in the world are beautiful and strong! Let's unite!