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Meet Zizi Zabaneh of Fusion Gitana in Little Havana

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zizi Zabaneh.

Zizi, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Miami. I am an international dance instructor, performer, and choreographer. I specialize in the fusion of Flamenco, Latin and Middle Eastern Dance (Belly Dance). I have my own dance company called Fusion Gitana & I am the founder/president of Fusion Gitana Cultural Dance Exchange, a non-profit organization that provides cultural events and free dance weekly classes to children in Little Havana.

I started dancing at the age of 15 when I enrolled in Salsa classes at Miami Dade College. At the age of 16, I became a part of Grupo Arara, a professional Latin Cuban Dance Company. Shortly after I started taking Flamenco classes for the purpose of improving posture and building a stronger foundation of dance technique.

I then became a principal dancer of the Flamenco company Gypsy Fire.  At the age of 18, I started searching for my roots and by doing so, I fell in love with Middle Eastern dance (I am part Lebanese). Since then, I began to mix Flamenco and Middle Eastern dance and created my own fusion. Now, I teach locally and produce cultural dance shows in Miami, Florida. I also get to travel the world to teach my dance style.

Has it been a smooth road?
I certainly have had my struggles in my dance carrier. So many people have that certain mindset that in order to be a dancer you need to be young and fit, but for me, dance has always been about self-expression. It’s about the ability not only to connect with the audience but to connect with your soul. My main focus is to encourage women (and men) of ALL ages, ALL backgrounds and ALL sizes to dance. I have seen so many of my students transform in so many ways. They start out extremely shy (as I did when I started dancing) and then, they built this self-confidence. I see some who start dancing due to depression and then I see them so happy to be alive.

I produce dance productions (like my yearly production of Caravan of Dancers, where I bring professional dancers and musicians from all over the world to perform every year in November) where all my students (who range from 4 years of age to 78 years of age) get to perform. My students also get to perform in other theaters in Miami and in other local events.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am known as a Flamenco Fusion master. I teach in Miami three times a week. Saturdays are my busiest days of classes as I teach 3-4 hours back to back.  As I mentioned before, I teach dance classes for free to any child (ages 4-13). I want to make sure that any child who wants to dance gets that opportunity as I know that many families struggle to make ends meet and it’s sometimes hard to have extra money to put kids in extra curricular activities . Classes for kids are every Saturday from 1:00pm-2:00 pm at DAF Dance studio (the home studio for my dance company Fusion Gitana) located at 1501 SW 8 ST. (2nd Floor), Miami, FL 33135.

I have traveled to teach and perform in Mexico, Dubai, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Italy, Colombia and all over the United States. I have performed for celebrities including Tom Arnold, Elizabeth Shue, Chris Evert, Alonzo Mourning, Dwyane Wade, Alan Thicke and many more.

I am absolutely grateful to have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people throughout my dance career. I love when I travel to teach and I get so emotional when I hear that so many students drive or fly for hours just to take a 2-hour workshop with me.  In 2017, when I taught for the first time in Buenos Aires, Argentina for an International Middle Eastern dance festival called Winter Dance Festival (which I have been invited to go back this year in August for the same festival), I had a sold-out workshop in which I had over 400 students.

What are your plans for the future?
My plans are to create more opportunities for dancers (of all ages) to perform in professional dance productions. I want to be able to start producing more dance productions not only in Miami but in different parts of the United States and abroad as well.

I want to bring more cultural events to Miami. Especially, when it comes to “Belly Dance.” So many people have a misconception of this beautiful art form. They only see what it’s shown in movies and they have no idea of what real traditional Middle Eastern dance is all about. So many different styles of Middle Eastern Dance from Folkloric to more modern styles. It’s so beautiful.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
(First photo of me with fan) Rich Veliz, (photo of the 4 girls in pink & adult dancers in red long skirts) James Keith, Jack Govaerts, Manish Vanmali

Getting in touch: VoyageMIA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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