Welcome from Isabella and Suhaila Salimpour

Welcome to the 50th anniversary celebration of Bal Anat! My daughter and I are so honored that you are here to share this momentous occasion with us.

When my mother created Bal Anat in 1968, she was merely providing a creative solution to a problem. Her students were skipping her Saturday dance class and spending their weekends at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Novato, California, just north of Berkeley, where we lived. When Phyllis Patterson, the director of the Faire, asked her to rein in her students, who were blocking walkways and “falling out of trees,” my mom proposed a full-length extravaganza featuring dances from around the Middle East. From her rag-tag group of students—-hippies, flower children, and counter-culture kids—-Bal Anat was born.

My mom spent her life collecting anything she could on what she called “La Danse Orientale.” In our house, there was literally a pathway from the front door, through the living room, through the dining room, and to the kitchen, surrounded on all sides by stacks of books, magazines, and my mom’s own handwritten notes. She had to hunt for every little scrap of information on belly dance that she could find. National Geographic magazines. Photos tucked away in a dusty library books. Paintings in funky antique shops on Telegraph Avenue.

From her obsessive research and collecting she created each original Bal Anat dance. And from her experience with the circus she even invented a few, like the snake dance, dancing on water goblets, and of course, the sword dance. In 1999, I took over as director and have since updated and created all new choreographies for a new generation of dancers and audiences. When I began to re-create the core dances, I was worried that my mom might be offended. But when I very gingerly told her that I wanted to remake them, she sighed with relief and said that it was time that they evolve. When preparing for this tour, my mom and I reminisced about old Bal Anat stories and the people who have danced with us through the years. My mom felt such satisfaction knowing she had created such an amazing show that not only changed the face of belly dance but also stands strong under my direction.

Creating the vision for this tour gave my mom a reason to wake up each day, particularly in the last few months before her passing in December. In her final days, she let me film her saying that she felt that this tour was an amazing accomplishment for both our family and the belly dance world. “It’s amazing,” she said. Now after my mother’s passing this tour has taken on another meaning for me. It is a celebration of not only the show and the impact Bal Anat has had on the belly dance world, but also it is a year-long celebration of life and my mother’s legacy. For me, Bal Anat means “family.” When I was growing up, I thought every little girl spent their late-summer weekends dancing with richly-costumed ladies in dark eye make-up and heavy jewelry. Even though I know that this wasn’t a typical childhood experience, each Bal Anat show still feels like a big family reunion. And I know our cast members feel the same. In the spirit of family, my daughter Isabella will be performing as the Finale Dancer, a role I used to dance 20 years ago. Like me, she started dancing with Bal Anat as a Tray Dancer, opening the show, when she was only a little girl. Now she’s all grown up, and closing the show. I wish my mom could have seen her. Thank you for joining us today for this very special celebration of belly dance, family, and tradition.

Isabella and Suhaila Salimpour

The Tantalizing Tale of Bal Anat

Originally created in 1968 for the spectacle and wonder of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Northern California, Bal Anat is now the longest-running concert-length belly dance show in the world.

Drawing from her experience as a performer with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, belly dance innovator Jamila Salimpour formed Bal Anat as a truly unique and exciting entertainment experience. She named it for “Bal,” the French word for a dance gathering, and “Anat,” an ancient Mesopotamian mother goddess: Dance of the Mother Goddess. Entering in a flurry of finger cymbals and richly decorated costuming, the ensemble features at least 40 performers, each performing a different dance, each with its own character and origin. Innovative from the very beginning, Jamila Salimpour’s groundbreaking presentation was the first to integrate dancing with and balancing a sword, a now quintessential belly dance prop. Bal Anat stands at the crossroads of tradition and fantasy, but is always rooted in the traditional dances and cultures of the Middle East, from North Africa, the Anatolian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and the Levant. Middle Eastern audiences have praised Bal Anat for its sentiment, reverence, and nostalgia. Every performance of Bal Anat is different, and you’ll never see the same show twice. You might see the fierce women of Morocco, the stately Ouled Nail from Algeria, the flirty 19th-Century Ghawazi from Egypt, or the coy water pot dancers. But you’ll always witness the masked dance of the Mother Goddess, the archetypal feminine creator and destroyer, a tribute to matriarch Jamila Salimpour herself.

Never static or stale, Bal Anat is ever-evolving. When Suhaila Salimpour, daughter of Jamila Salimpour, took over direction of the company in 1999, she revived the show for a new generation of dancers and audiences. She replaced the original dances with all-new choreographies, including the classic Sword Dance, Pot Dance, and Dance of the Mother Goddess. Suhaila invites dancers with high-level certification in the Salimpour certification programs to contribute dances to the show, such as Fan Veil, Voi, Persian, and the Arabian Gulf Khaliji dance. Suhaila continues to add new pieces herself, such as the exciting “Salaam Allay.” We welcome dancers in the Salimpour certification programs to join the global Bal Anat family. Dancers who hold certification in Level 2 in both the Suhaila Salimpour Format and Jamila Salimpour Format are invited to perform with the show. Its groundbreaking blend of the traditional, folkloric, and fantasy has inspired and will continue to inspire generations of belly dancers.

Bal Anat is the past, present, and future of belly dance.

A Tribute to Jamila Salimpour

August 16, 1927 – December 8, 2017

In memory of a mother, grandmother, dancer, teacher, researcher, and innovator.

Born Guiseppina Carmela Burzi to a Sicilian-Greek family in New York, the woman known to the world as Jamila Salimpour forever changed the face of belly dance.

Drawing from her father’s letters about the Ghawazi in Egypt, her formative experience in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the countless Egyptian films she watched with her landlady and friend Hyganoosh, she created Bal Anat out of a lifetime of love, respect, and fascination with what she called La Danse Orientale.

She revolutionized belly dance instruction by naming the steps she saw performed by dancers from around the Middle East and North Africa—and creating a few of her own—such as “Basic Egyptian,” “Choo Choo,” “Maya,” and “Turkish Drop,” helping students both imitate and contextualize each movement with an origin and character. Her groundbreaking dance company, Bal Anat, has inspired thousands of dancers around the world since its first appearance 50 years ago.

And if that weren’t enough, she was one of the first women to own a Middle Eastern nightclub in the United States: the Bagdad Cabaret, nestled in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco.

In her twilight years, she continued to teach, create new cymbal patterns, and cook hearty Sicilian meals for her family and friends. In 2013 she was awarded the Isadora Duncan Award for Sustained Achievement, and in 2018 World Arts West will be honoring her with the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Field of Ethnic Dance and Music.

She inspired so many, and her memory will live on in our dance.

You can honor her memory by donating to either or both of these two causes:

World Arts West
“In honor of Jamila Salimpour ”

The Performing Animal Welfare Society

Our Global Cast

Dancers from around the world have trained for countless hours and taken time off away from work and their families to join us on this tour. All of our cast members hold or are working towards earning their Level 2 certifications in both the Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour Formats. The formats’ codified technique and structured terminology allow dancers to train and study with the school regardless of where they live. Each dancer was required to submit an admission video, performing Jamila Salimpour’s challenging “1 – 8” finger cymbal choreography. They then were cast in one or more dances, which they learned through through the Salimpour School Online. A local instructor or one of our highest-certified instructors has been providing guidance and feedback either in person or through through online video chat private lessons. Cast members make their own costumes, as overseen by Suhaila Salimpour and their assigned choreography captains. The night before each performance, Suhaila Salimpour works with the cast to rehearse staging and transitions.

Together, we are Bal Anat.

Abigail Keyes
Alexandra Samadhi
Alice Leroux
Alima Linda Nicholson
Amana Harris
Amanda Nousiainen
Amber Graham
Anaïs Van der Stichelen
Angelica Wu
Angelique Hanesworth
Anjanie Dindyal
Bára Mólová
Barbara Bauer
Béatrice Walker
Benita Hartwell
Carol Morillo
Chantal Clément
Ciana Boetius
Déborah Deprez
Dhiya Arora
Didi Benedict
Donna Eileen C. Manalo
Ellinor Roxengren
Emelie Bratt
Emma Ahlex
Emma Butler
Erika Elliott
Farah Faaridah Taylor
Fabiola Wong
Frances Tomlinson
Francesca Calloni
Gilly Martin
Gloria Lanuza
Gwen Booth
Heather Foy
Helena Sjölundh
Jamie Lewis
Janelle Rodriguez
Jennifer Kleiber-Boatcallie
Jenny Nichols
Jessica Fagan
Julianna Aberle-McClellan
Kah Wei Ng
Kandice Grossman
Kayla Hummel
Kelly McKinley
Larry Saunders-Belcher
Laura West
Lauryn Elise
Leena Nichols
Lorraine Costello
Lenka Adámková
Leslie Holmes
Lisa Price
Lisa Chen
Lydia Lorenzino
Maëlle Quintart
Majda Anwar
Maria Font
Maria Granström
Mariana Vieira
Marjorie Vervaecke
Marwa Marcia Gómez
Mathilde Steygers
Melanie Gregory
Morgane Crispin
Nawal Doucette
Parya Saberi
Patti Kjonaas
Rachel Duff
Rachel George
Renee Rivas
Sabriye Tekbilek
Sandi Harrington
Sara Saršon
Sarah Bell
Scarlett Bales
Shereen Nairne
Sonia Gaaloul
Solveig Rundquist
Stacie Clarke
Stacey Lizette
Stefanie Schlief
Theresa Schaub
Theresa Tickemyer Kudo
Tina Toy
Tomáš Klinger
Tommy Daynjer
Toria Ficette
Ülkü Holago
Vanessa Davidsson
Victoria Gorchakova
Whitney Barfi eld
Xanthe Whittaker
Yu-Ting Hung
Yvonne Pereira-Dudley
Yvonne Carol McCombie
Zaremba Anna-Biess

Thank you to our Sponsors

Stockholm, Sweden
Small World Dance
London, England
Maëlle Danse ASBL
Brussels, Belgium
Yvonne’s School of Dance, LLC
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Atlanta Fusion Belly Dance
Atlanta, Georgia
Blue Lotus Tribe
Chicago, Illinois

Suhaila’s Personal Thank Yous

All our sponsors for creating such a beautiful and monumental platform for this 50th tour. Faaridah Taylor for her work on organizing the tour and her marketing savvy. Yvonne Pereira-Dudley for her work with each dancer making sure they were “Salimpour Ready” throughout the audition and rehearsal process. Maria Linkous and her husband for the BalAnat50th.com website. Suhaila Dance Company—Abby, Lisa, Parya, Rachel, Tina—for being by my side and physicalizing my dance vision. Our Choreography Captains—Abby, Anna K., Maelle, Sabriye, Stacey, Whitney, Yvonne P.D.— for assuring me that the show will be amazing through checking in with each dancer to give them individual clean-ups, guidance, and costume refinements. Tina Toy for her wonderful Salimpour Liaison outreach. Abby Keyes for being assistant director and overseeing the Choreography Captains, and for creating our beautiful program. Kayla Hummel for the slideshows and video editing. Rita “Rebaba” Alderucci for being an ambassador and making sure to include our extended Bal Anat family. The Bal Anat “Alumnae” who danced with the original company in the 1960s and 1970s and are joining us in the back line to keep the legacy alive. The entire cast of this show for their hard work, dedication, loyalty, and commitment. You are all what makes this possible and able to carry out my mothers work, vision and legacy. A very special thank you to Vonda Totten, who without her love, support, vision, persistence, guidance, and friendship, the Salimpour School would not be the successful and global institution that it is today. And last but not least, I want to thank my daughter Isabella for her daily inspiration to be the woman I am and to continue this legacy for us all. We are making Nonna proud.

**Please respect that photography and/or filming is strictly prohibited during the event.**

2018 Tour Locations

  • Stockholm, Sweden: April 1, 2018
  • London, United Kingdom: April 6, 2018
  • Brussels, Belgium: April 8, 2018
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida: April 21, 2018
  • El Cerrito, California: August 4, 2018
  • Atlanta, Georgia: September 23, 2018
  • Chicago, Illinois: November 3, 2018