Worth all the hard work

Christine Hennebury
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Local belly dancer invited to perform with belly dance 'royalty' in Toronto

It's not every day that you are invited to work with and learn from a leader in your field.

So, needless to say, local belly dancer Andrea Kitta was thrilled with her invitation to dance with world-renowned belly dancer Suhaila Salimpour during a gala performance in Toronto tonight night.

Andrea Kitta

It's not every day that you are invited to work with and learn from a leader in your field.

So, needless to say, local belly dancer Andrea Kitta was thrilled with her invitation to dance with world-renowned belly dancer Suhaila Salimpour during a gala performance in Toronto tonight night.

"It makes me feel like all the work I've done over the years has been worth it. Every moment in classes, sweating away at the gym, stretching, putting myself out there, dancing in tiny, hot rooms, setting up classes, training the troupe. ... It's all led to this moment. As an instructor I'm rewarded every day I teach, as an artistic director I'm rewarded every moment I'm around my troupe, but this will be my reward as just a dancer."

According to Kitta, Suhaila is a second generation dancer and she is belly dance "royalty" (Her mother was responsible for most of the terminology belly dancers use today). Suhaila's website states the dancer is "the world's most sought-after performer, teacher, and choreographer of belly dance." And she was the first to offer a certification program for belly dancers.

While in Toronto, Kitta will not only attend a workshop and represent the East Coast during the gala, she will also be tested as Level 1 teacher in Suhaila's training program.

Kitta had not actually applied to perform, only inquired about attending the workshop, so she was surprised by the invitation to dance during Suhaila's gala performance.

"I expressed interest in the workshop, but I didn't apply to dance at the gala. However, the organizer looked into my background and saw some of our videos and she extended an invitation to me to dance. It's a pretty big deal. I didn't even have to audition or anything. I actually was invited on reputation alone."

Originally from Pennsylvania, Kitta was born into a belly-dancing cultural group and has been doing belly dance with family members since she was two, with her first public performance at age four. Since that time, she has performed in a variety of places, including Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and throughout Newfoundland.

Kitta moved here in 2003 to do her PhD in folklore, and has been teaching local belly dancers since. She is the lead instructor, artistic director, choreographer and one of the dancers for her troupe, The Neighborhood Strays, who are well known locally for their performances at various festivals and conferences.

Despite her extensive background, Kitta has had to do a lot of preparation before heading off to perform with the world-famous dancer. Suhaila sent out a list of things to do to prepare for the weekend, but Kitta has been doing extra work to ensure she is ready for the gala performance.

"I'm also doing a lot of my own things to prepare for the performance. I'm doing 40-60 minutes of cardio a day, lifting weights, yoga every day, working out to Suhaila's videos, drilling, and working on my solo."

And, as anyone who has seen a belly dance performance can attest, a dazzling costume is a part of the experience. So, in addition to her training, Kitta has been seeking just the right thing to wear for the gala performance.

"(I'm) tearing through the house and doing some last-minute shopping and sewing to get an amazing costume together!"

All of her hard work will be evident in her performance at the Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto tonight.

Kitta says the workshop, and performance will be an important step in her development as a dancer and instructor.

"It's only a few minutes, but it will be the start of so many things for me personally as a dancer. The best part is that I'll not only get to learn amazing new things, but I'll be able to take those things back to Newfoundland and teach them to everyone else!"

Organizations: Jane Mallett Theatre

Geographic location: Toronto, Pennsylvania, Newfoundland East Coast Kentucky

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