Beginning her belly dance career in 1995, Rachel has become an extremely sought after performer and instructor. Rachel is one of the highest certified dancers in the world in the Salimpour formats. A perpetual student of movement art, this Level 5 certified dancer is a multi-award winning performer and teaches workshops and classes worldwide. Based in Southern California, Rachel is San Diego’s number one premier Belly dance entertainment highlight. Rachel continues to teach and perform her incomparable musical interpretation with a great rooted understanding in Middle Eastern cultural history and dance movement; illustrated by her strong technique and isolation strength.
Rachel’s performances are fantastically radiant, full of style and grace accompanied by her uniquely captivating personality. Her dynamic artistry brings to the classroom and stage a rare and powerful element in emotional expression that leaves her audience thirsting for more. And her unmatched enthusiasm for the dance, cultural history and correct training is reflected in her performance and teaching process.
AM NORTHWEST Rachel guests on Portland's morning TV talk show
O. How would you describe your style as a dancer, Rachel?
R. I would describe myself as an athletic, technical dancer, a hard-core
teacher and an emotional performer.
O. So, were you driven to perfection right from the beginning?
R. (With Laughter). Oh no. I began dancing because I wanted
to wear a belly–dancing costume for halloween and I knew people would
ask me to dance in it. I opened the phone book to look for an instructor
and found Fariba. I took her package deal and at the end of my lessons —
I could close a car door with my hip!
O. She taught you to close the car door with your hip?
R. Yeah — so I was twenty and wanted to go to the Copper Penny for a party,
(also my birthday was on the 22nd of October and I was turning 21). I actually
made the costume with black lace pantaloons with gold woven in — I got the
pattern from a fabric store. I went to the Copper Penny — yes, everyone asked
for a move — so I closed the car door with my hip!
O. You continued classes with Fariba?
R. Yes — but for me, I wasn't getting the information
that I needed. Fariba was always referring to Aziza who she had kind
of placed on a pedestal as the "Unobtainable Belly Dance Goddess" — so
that piqued my interest and I began to seek her out.
O. How did you find her?
R. I actually heard about this fabulous dancer working
at a restaurant on the hill. Went to see her and she turned out to be Aziza.
I approached her and asked about classes. She said she was out about eight
months due to injury so I consistently called her each month to see if she
was better until we could begin. In the mean time I checked out a VHS from
the library called Atea and the Harem. I copied the basic moves from this
video for six months trying to learn the 3/4 shimmy.
O. So finally you began to study with Aziza?
R. I began with Aziza, and only wanted to take privates
so I did that for 2 years.
O. So, you began study with Ruby?
R. I took group classes with Ruby and learned a lot of new moves, particularly
floor — and she fully broke down the timing on the zills. She was skilled
at explaining the timing of body moves and zills together which totally opened
O. Were you performing at this time?
R. It was at about the three year mark that Aziza was having
trouble fitting Santorini's Restaurant into her schedule so she placed me
O. How did that feel?
R. Wow — it was a big confidence issue because at that time I was still
studying and hadn't found the emotional source of my dance. And of course,
I was Aziza's student and everybody had big expectations — but you know,
dancing at Santorin's really gave me confidence.
O. How did you get to the "heart"?
R. Ruby kept talking about Suhaila Salimpour so I watched
a video called "Unveiled" and
I remember thinking "Aah, so that's what it means to
'dance with your heart!'" I enjoyed it so much that I studied and was
able to break down a lot of cool moves and use them in our award winning
O. How did you actually connect with Suhaila?
R. Well, I still had a lot of questions and I felt that
I hadn't connected with anyone knowledgeable enough to answer them. In the
year 2000, I saw that Suhaila had a week long seminar. I invested $525.00
to take her classes — actually I had a total output of about $1,000.00.
I was instantly impressed with her technique because even though I had worked
out since I was fifteen; I couldn't do it. I felt like a beginner. Even though
I couldn't walk by the second day — I embraced her teaching style.
O. I think it's important that you were willing to invest in your education — both time and money. So how did this change you?
R. I came back and immediately began to teach the logic and the geometry
of the dance. I found that breaking it down actually showed me if I was doing
it right — I believe that if you can't break it down you don't really know
what you are doing!
O. Did you continue to study?
R. For five years I took Suhaila's classes and continued to hang out around
level one because that was where I felt comfortable.
O. Were you certified at level one?
R. To become certified in level one, you must know Jamilla's and Suhaila's
terminology. You must have endurance and the comprehension of putting the
movement together. Use the tools — do the homework. I was practicing for
an hour 3 days a week minimum.
O. So importantly, you didn't just become this overnight sensation.
R. For the first time I totally connected with my physicality within this
dance. I mean, the first time Aziza saw me dance after the week-long I noticed
she was looking at me quizzically. I felt she could see the serious changes
and in fact she said that due to what she saw she felt compelled to take
O. Do you feel any dancer at any level could benefit from this study?
R. I feel it improves confidence because it teaches you the mechanics of
your dance. Therefore, any dancer can improve at any level using this technique.
O. So as we speak, you are certified at level two in the Salipour Technique
and about to take you third level certification. What comes next?
R. Respectfully, I am not interested in studying long term with any other
teacher because I feel it will pollute the integrity of what I've learned.
I feel I'm lucky to have Aziza's fun and fluidity and Suhaila's strength.
O. I know you have competed quite a bit.
R. Yes, I felt it was important to have the titles for my career.
O. Titles are?
R. Mmm . . . Belly Dancing Performance Artist of the Year with Double Crown
, Aphrodite with Emerald Rain, Belly Dancer U .S.A. . I think there are a
couple more competitions I will attempt, because I believe that in this society
that recognizes accomplishment, people who are even unfamiliar with the dance
will recognize that I've accomplished this success and recognize my effort.
O. So, here's the What's next for Rachel George" question...
R. Teaching. I find it emotionally fulfilling to see someone
improve by learning. I feel good about being able to recreate what I've learned
in somebody else. Eventually, I would love to have my own dance studio with
all kinds of dance being taught by several teachers. I would feel like I
was offering back what I've received. Also I truly believe that God who created
us all is the ultimate creator. He delights in his creations and so to me,
not to create is an insult to God.
O. What do you still want from this dance Rachel?
R. (Thoughtfully) I want to be the best dancer I can be
within my abilities and, fortunately, I haven't found my boundaries
yet so I'm going to keep dancing forward!
Thoughts on Dance
I believe that dance is your own expression and personal interpretation of the music. As an artist, a picture is painted of the music with movement on to the stage as the canvas. When I dance it is always an emotional experience; happy or sad. Greatly influenced by so many wonderful dancers and their personal interpretation of music I will continue to study and teach for the duration of my ability. The most important thing that we share as dancers is the love for dance. The friendships that have been created through this dance have deeply influenced my life in so many ways. I wouldn't change it for the world. Dance should an artistic path for you as the artist, and above all you should enjoy the talent God has blessed you with. If that ever changes we do it for the wrong reasons!