Today we’d like to introduce you to Roshana Nofret.
Roshana, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My relationship with Middle Eastern culture began around the age of 13. Growing up, my maternal grandmother and I spent a lot of time together; she would spend hours recounting stories of her life, our family history and our ancestry. “Your great grandfather was Arab, he was Lebanese!”, she would always say proudly. She sadly never met her father, but nevertheless always felt the need to remind me. This eventually sparked an interest in learning more about this part of my ancestry and led me to discover Arabic music and Raqs Sharqi, or what is commonly known as Oriental Dance/Bellydance. Being a shy and very insecure teen, I tried to teach myself some moves on my own in private and never even entertained the thought of formal training until my mother, having noticed my interest, encouraged me to start a Beginner course at The Mid Eastern Dance Exchange in 2004. I was hooked. I attended every single class I could with as many instructors as possible and began performing shortly thereafter. I was accepted into a professional dance company under the world-renowned dance artist Boženka the following year, and traveled to Egypt as well.
Over years of in-depth studies, I gained ample experience as a performer with my dance style repertoire ever-expanding as I studied folk dances and styles from all over the Middle East in addition to the creative possibilities of fusing Middle Eastern dances with other dance styles. I have traveled to perform and teach in various countries and throughout the states as well. I now run my own performing company, MECA Dance Ensemble, have taught for a time in nearly all local studios that specialize in Middle Eastern Dance, and participated in cultural festivals and other educational/community events among many other special experiences.
I currently still teach and perform both locally and abroad, and also produce events for the South Florida community — dancers and non-dancers alike. My specialties lie in Iranian dances, Raqs Sharqi, the many sub-genres of folk dance, and contemporary interpretive Middle Eastern dance.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but definitely rewarding. Having control over my artistic image has always been incredibly important to me. I’ve had to learn how and when to put my foot down and stand up for the way I wish to present myself. I always follow my instincts and difficult as some situations have been, they haven’t failed me.
I’ve dealt with many cultural misunderstandings and have been met mostly with openness towards learning but sometimes with rejection from those who prefer their fantasy version of a culture much better than the reality. This is why I love being an educator through the arts — if I can somehow open or change at least one person’s perspective, that is so personally gratifying.
Being a non-native of the cultures these dances originate from is another challenge, as I have to study that much more deeply to learn and embody aspects of the culture, music, language, beliefs, and more so I feel like I am delivering the best and most authentically expressed performance possible. It’s all in the details.
There are many different kinds of struggles aside from these — being a performing artist is not an easy profession by any means and you question yourself often. We give a lot of ourselves. We put so much into learning and growth, have long rehearsal hours and unstable work schedules, suffer and nurse injuries on the job, our personal lives can often be altered and impacted by our lifestyle, we go through crises and try our very best not to let that affect our performance character, and stress about so many things when producing events. But in the end it feels so good to do and share what you love.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
I work as a freelance performing artist. I teach Middle Eastern dance classes and workshops for various levels, and perform at cultural festivals, community events as well as other public functions and private events. I produce local dance events such as workshops, intensives, and shows.
My dance company, MECA Dance Ensemble and I are known for our unique style of performing Middle Eastern and Central Asian classical, folk, and modern/experimental dance styles. I have an especially close relationship with the Iranian communities throughout Florida and that is one of our favorite genres to represent.
I feel that what sets me apart is my way of expressing tradition but also pushing for educated innovation. I don’t like to play it safe, I like risks (just like I always prefer to improvise instead of choreographing my solos) but I always make sure I know and understand everything I’m working with before presenting it. I’m very honest as a person and as an artist and I don’t like to fit the mold. I respect and study traditional motifs but remain true to my personal creative vision of how I want things to be portrayed.
I’d say one thing that makes me most proud is positive feedback from natives of the cultures I represent. If I can pleasantly remind someone of home or otherwise gain their respect and admiration whilst being completely true to myself in respecting their culture, that is the highest compliment for me.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’ve been really fortunate but then again the perspective of what’s fortunate or unfortunate varies from person to person. One person’s success might be someone else’s failure. Maybe someone else wouldn’t see it as good luck. Sometimes things that seemed fortunate go from good to bad or vice versa as they unravel, too.
I’m honestly not quite sure what has been (good or bad) luck, fate, or just the results of good training, listening to my gut and sticking to my guns.
- Website: www.roshanadance.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @roshana_nofret
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/roshanamideasternarts
- Other: www.mecadance.com
Denise J. Marino Photography