Arella

Belly dancer at Mirage (soon to be called Cairo Café) Director of the Young-Williams Animal Center

Street Talk

How does a girl who grew up in Athens, Tenn., become interested in belly dancing?

I actually saw a video of [late country singer] Eddie Rabbit's wife belly dancing and that got me interested.

Raqs Sharqi [belly dancing] has several forms and has also become westernized by the influence of many modern dance forms. How would you describe your style?

I'm classified as Egyptian Cabaret, which typically has a lot of Egyptian movements. But I also incorporate jazz, ballet and hip hop into my dance.

How the hell do you keep that sword balanced on your head at Mirage? Is it real?

It's actually called a scimitar. A guy in California makes them specifically for belly dancers because it has the perfect balance.

Have you ever dropped it?

It's been many, many years. I don't even remember the last time it happened. I've been balancing it for about 10 years now, so I know exactly where it's going to be.

What about the guy who follows you around with the fez hat and drum?

That's Tony. I'd actually just been in the Knoxville area for about a year, and he just started showing up at Mirage when I was belly dancing. After that he's been there every night drumming for me. He's even come with me to some of my private functions.

Where else do you perform?

I've performed in New York, down to Miami and out to Texas. I was in Atlanta at various restaurants for four years. I've performed everywhereâ"at racetracks, in the middle of wrestling rings. I guess any time is a good time for belly dancers.

I'm sure you have to stay fit for performances. Do you have a certain regiment?

Yoga is what helps me most because of the isolation and the balance that goes into it. You also have to be very flexible to belly dance.

Does belly dancing help you pick up men? You ever get asked out on dates at Mirage?

Not necessarily at Mirage, but I have my business card there so guys will call me and say, â“I saw you perform, you were good, you want to go out some time?â” But I'm married, so that doesn't really work out.

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