Meet Shannon Bishop and Black Cat Belly Dance. Shannon was one of the 20 Legacy Companies that helped form the Central PA Theatre & Dance Fest. http://www.blackcat-bellydance.com
- What led you to belly dance? A friend! She asked me to try a class with her, and I did, although I really had very little dance background. But I really liked the teacher and I really fell in love with the music. And so from there I took classes a few times a week here in State College and then I started traveling to a lot of Bellydance festivals around the East Coast. When my teacher moved out of town, she encouraged me to start teaching and that was over 15 years ago!
- What has been your favorite performance to date? What’s something related to belly dance that you’ve never done that’s on your bucket list? My favorite performance is easy! It was definitely every time I’ve ever danced in Egypt with live musicians. Two years ago I did some shows with a live band on some Nile cruises so it was really amazing to dance in Egypt, with live music, while watching the Nile pass by as the ship cruised up and down the river
- What advice would you give to someone just starting out in belly dance? Find a good teacher who will teach you more than just some steps. The beautiful thing about Bellydance is all of the cultural ties that it has and it’s such a great opportunity to learn about another culture while doing something really fun. If your teacher isn’t sharing those things with you, then he or she is leaving out the best parts of what makes the dance so magical. Having said that, it’s also a good idea to study with as many people as you can.
- What’s your approach to belly dance? I try to really honor the spirit of the dance, meaning, I try to make it a celebration of movement but I also am very respectful of the fact that this is a cultural dance that comes from a vibrant, culturally-rich tradition. Also, it’s a dance that can be done beautifully by anyone: women, men, little girls, grandmas, etc. But it’s also not an easy dance to do. So it’s great to keep training! I’ve been learning about this dance now for 17 years and I still have lots and lots to learn
- What’s something you want everyone to know about this art form? Lots of things! Lol. It shouldn’t be judged with the Western lens. Meaning, it’s not like a lot of other dance forms. It’s meant to always be improvised, it’s meant to have a strong and direct connection to the audience, and it’s best performed up close and personal to people, and not necessarily on a large formal stage. And it’s really fun!