My journey in dance started in the early 50’s as a young girl. Like most little girls dreaming of one day being a ballerina gracing the stages of the world I started with much enthusiasm. Growing up in a British colonized country the Royal Academy of Ballet (RAD) and its strict rigid syllabus was always evident in our classes. It was also a time that children in my town did not take anything for granted and I had to ensure that I passed every exam by working hard and relentlessly in order to have the best dances to perform.
I was also born built much like my father which resulted in my body not looking at all like the average ballerina and it soon became evident that I would never grace the stages of my dreams. I increasingly leaned towards sporting activities like gymnastics, athletics, swimming, tennis, field hockey and netball as I naturally excelled in these areas. My heart however, never left dance and I started branching out to modern dancing and tap, which appeared more forgiving on my body type than ballet did.
When I left home to start my own life, which resulted quite decidedly in many choices I regretted and many that continued my dance path, over the years, I found myself in genres of Ballroom, Cabaret, Spanish and Disco dancing and in the 70’s and 80’s I went back to ballet and as an adult loved the core strength training I was no longer getting.
By this time my daughter was born and old enough to start dancing. So my journey continued albeit the emphasis was now on her and not myself.
How did I get to Arab Dance?
Well, it was actually by accident. In the middle of the 90’s I saw a woman on TV performing in a Turkish Restaurant. I was completely mesmerized. She was not very young, not skinny or even very feminine looking but her movement across the room and the strange sounding music captured my attention. I started researching this art form wherever I could and started my own study on VHS tapes for the next 4 years. I had no idea that a community of dancers already existed in my country or even in my city until I started looking for people to dance with me. And that was how I started my first official class of Arab dance in 1999.
I continued to research and study by myself and eventually found I was in a position of knowledge and skill that I could not get from the local teachers. I then found an association that was national and was trying to consolidate best practices from various dancers into a syllabus to standardize terminology etc. as well as giving dancers guidelines of ethics related to various cultures. I liked the discipline and signed up.
What became known, as BDASA was a 7 level certification program to prepare for a career as a professional dancer and 7 exams more to become a professional teacher. So a total of 14 certification exams from student to professional.
I worked my way through this and became certified both with BDASA (Belly Dance Association of South Africa), UNESCO and DTA (Dance Teachers Association).
Since 2005 to the present I have had the privilege of traveling to the Middle East, Europe around the Mediterranean, North Africa and many other countries around the world researching and to learn about this art form and folkloric dance, it’s related cultures and ethics surrounding it.
In 2005 I started Dance Orientale Dance Company in South Africa with different teaching locations and performing groups. In 2008 when I immigrated to the US I started teaching again and after 18 months was able, and formed a dance troupe called the Daughters of Nefertiti in the Midwest.
It is funny how life is so circular because as it then happened, I formed a partnership with my daughter Liezel Lane, a retired ballerina, in 2010, which evolved into the founding of Global Dance in 2013. Together we launched Atlanta S.E.E.Ds in 2011 and Zaia Hadiyyah Originals in 2012. We have had some amazing students and the studio and program flourished so that in 2015 we prepared to move into the Global Dance Flagship complete with its own theatre. I have since then stepped back for her to continue the valuable work with SEEDs combining her professional qualification as a psychologist and her dancing career to bring to young people the diversity of dance from the world and helping them develop into fine young people in their community.