Superstar Features

Decidedly a Woman's Dance

Colleen Anderson
Moria Chappell
Moria Chappell
Tribal Fusion Superstar, Moria Chappell, travels worldwide performing and teaching the beautiful art of Tribal Fusion Bellydance. After lengthy stays in India learning the Mahari tradition of sacred temple dance, Moria is credited with creating the new tribal genre "Odissi Fusion." | Moria Chappell, Bellydance, Dancer, Odissi Fusion, Tribal, Teacher, Performer, Stomach, Belly, Abs, Sitting,

Bellydancing is not a dance to seduce men

I LOVE BELLY dancing! I have always regarded it as a divine dance that celebrates the sacred feminine. Belly dancing requires balance, grace and strength, yet it is accessible for every woman regardless of age, weight or ethnicity.

Now, before you get your feminist panties in a bunch, belly dancing is not a dance to seduce men. That's a western-cultural misperception. To the contrary, belly dancing is one of the oldest-documented dances, and it was created by women, for women.

If you've never had the opportunity to see belly dancers in person, I suggest you check out one of the amazing "Bombay Bellywood" shows that Bellydance Superstars brought to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Philadelphia.

If you want to learn how to belly dance, send me an e-mail. Philadelphia just happens to be home to a large belly-dance community with many outstanding belly-dance teachers, too.

If you're more of a spectator, I can tell you that I saw a riveting performance of the Bellydance Superstars, and they were nothing short of amazing. By 2016, Superstars dancers had performed in 30 countries to well over ten million people.

Moria Chappell, 31, is one of Superstars' amazing dancers. She recently spent an afternoon with me, sharing her passion about this womanly art.

Q: Moria, many people have misperceptions about belly dancing. What are your thoughts on that?

A: It's a women's art. You dance more for yourself than anyone else. The audience can watch and be inspired. It's a sense of appreciation for women's bodies. It's a very different standard. It's a celebration of curves and how to move in a women's body.

Belly dancing is decidedly a woman's dance, so bringing it to the public sphere gives women a chance to be women in a place of power.

Q: Is it true that your mom was a dancer and your dad a yogi?

A: Actually, both were theater actors. My mother did dance - not performing, but for her own personal development as an actress - and my father did yoga for similar reasons. It was fantastic. So creative.

My parents married and moved to the mountains of Tennessee. We didn't have TV. My dad practiced yoga and played African drums. It was a bohemian lifestyle. My parents were from the '60s and believed in creativity, self-expression and the possibility in everything.

Q: So you were immersed in creativity from the beginning. Did they introduce you to yoga and belly dancing at an early age?

A: I was always in dance classes after school. My mother sent me to ballet on Mondays, tap on Tuesdays, gymnastics on Wednesdays. . . . I was continually involved in traditional dance classes until high school. I liked them, but I did not love them. It felt more like a chore.

When I was 21, in college, I saw a belly dancer, and I thought it was the most incredible thing I ever saw. How she moved her body - everything was curve-oriented as opposed to line-oriented. The use of space and energy really resonated with me. I started taking classes. I felt an immediate passion for it.

Q: That's wonderful. How do your parents feel about your career choice?

A: They love what I do. They are proud of me. There are so many possibilities in the world. They always taught me to follow my passion: Do what you are inspired to do. When I asked them what they wanted me to become, they answered, "We wanted you to become you."

Q: That certainly is an enlightened attitude. Do you also practice yoga? Do you find similarities?

A:I do, I do. For me, I came to a place in belly dancing where my movements were not going as far as I wanted them to go. I was going to the gym, running, exercising - and then I hit a wall.

Then I started doing yoga more seriously. It opened my body and allowed me to open up more naturally. Yoga made me more balanced. Dance is not just about movement and contraction. It is also important to know when to relax in the movement.

Q: So yoga really helped you improve your dancing. Tell me, how much do you practice when you're not on tour?

A: On tour it's difficult. We're on the bus about five hours a day. We have about two hours to do a tech rehearsal, get into costume, two hours to put on hair and makeup, and then we do a two-hour show. After that it's off to the hotel for rest and then back on the tour bus in the morning.

When not on tour, I spend about seven to eight hours dancing and doing yoga every day.

Q: Touring is tough on the body. It must be really challenging eating healthy on tour.

A: We're all healthy eaters. During the tour, when we get to a Whole Foods, it's like heaven!

Q: I can imagine. You specialize in tribal belly dancing? Tell me about that. Who are some of your dance influences?

A: Tribal style is purely American - American interpretation of Middle Eastern dance. It is a mixture of various styles, and it comes from the feminist rebellion. It's not the cabaret style with the high heels. Some of my influences are Jamila Salimpour, Suhaila Salimpour, Rachel Brice and Maggie Love. They really opened up my mind to the music, textiles and the dance.

Q: What's next on your artistic horizon?

A: Odissi dance in India, one of the oldest dances in the world. Going to India to study and train.It had been outlawed by the British; then it was brought back in the '60s. Now it's being passed back to women. It is sacred . . . feminine.

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Updated Jan 14, 2018 6:23 AM EST | More details


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