World Fusion Dancer Dalia Carella of NYC Tells us Like it is – ALLAF 018
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Discover Dalia’s secrets on doing belly dance fusion well, find out why she dances Flamenco Arabe on beautiful angles, and know what to do next time your inner voice says, “I’m not sexy enough”.
Alicia: I have the immense pleasure of having Dalia Carella on the show today. I’ve met her at Super Fun Dance Camp. We’re actually recording in a cabin at Super Fun Dance Camp after days of partying and dancing and drumming and going wild. Welcome to the show Dalia.
Dalia Carella: Thank you so much. I’m so honored to be on this podcast.
Alicia: Tell us a little bit about your history. What brought you into dance and where you are now…
Dalia Carella: I been in the field of Middle Eastern dance and fusion dance probably for 45 years. When I was first born, I was dancing. And when I was about 17 and a half, there was a belly dance teacher that came into Niagara Falls, New York, and at that time, it was a very conservative little town, and everybody was betting me if I would take the class. It’s really funny because a lot of people say, “Oh, I studied Middle Eastern dance because the goddess called me or the goddess Isis came to me in a dream.” I started because I needed $30. So I went into the class and as soon as I started taking the art form, I really said, “Oh, my God, I have arrived.”
It was through their bet that I discovered Middle Eastern dance. I live in Manhattan. I had been living in New York City for probably the last 30 years. I started dancing in Niagara Falls, New York, and then I moved to Buffalo, New York and realized that I had a very serious calling in this form, not just as a performer but a teacher and I knew that I had to move to New York City to go bigger. As I moved to New York, it took me a while to get known teaching and performing, but then I just started touring all over the world and I haven’t stopped.
Alicia: There are a lot of times in life when dancers dance, when it’s not in the studio, it’s not on the stage and we just feel like dancing. Are there any times in your life when you just feel like dancing and you’re out of that dance performance context?
Music and dance is my essence. I came into this world as a dancer.
Whenever any kind of music comes on, I will dance to it. I could be walking by a grocery store and I hear a piece of music and I’m starting to dance. I’m always dancing whenever I hear any kind of music. It doesn’t have to be Middle Eastern because I came from a family of jazz musicians. I’m not just into belly dance or raks sharki, whatever you want to call it.
I have studied all kinds of dance from African, Brazilian, Samba, salsa, tango, Afro Cuban, dances from the Maghreb , which is North Africa, Middle Eastern dance, jazz, ballet. And I keep continuing in my art form as a world fusion dancer. I consider myself a world fusion dancer because I do so many dance styles.
Danceable Song: All Along the Watchtower
I recently have been working with a remake of “All Along the Watchtower” and the group is Afterhere.
It is very intense and emotional and so deep and poignant the way the band has remade it. I performed it twice now at two events, one for the Dance Parade in New York City and one for Kaeshi Chai’s IMPURE conference and I dance with a flamenco fan and five yard silk veil. It’s really an unusual piece of music, but it’s haunting and they recorded it so haunting. And you know Jimi Hendrix, we all know how haunting and poignant he was. I grew up in the 70s. I was in my teens listening to all this music, so it really brought me back.
I really love Middle Eastern dance but because I’m American, I listen to all kinds of music.
My brother was in Woodstock and so I was listening to all that music. It really had an impact. I’m starting to bring back those songs that were so popular back in the early 70s and a lot of remakes are coming in.
My new work is going to be a group work, and I need funding for this. I’m trying to get funding for “Stairway to Heaven”, so that’s going to be my next project for a group choreography, so I’m really excited about that.
Alicia: What damn sexy dance move would you like to share?
Dalia Carella: There are so many damn sexy dance moves that I would love to share, but I think one that the girls love when I teach… It’s usually called a dance break – when the musician gives you a break in the music, usually in a four count.
I think the most sensual part of a woman when she’s dancing is diagonal because you see her curves.
I kick with my right foot but I’m in a left diagonal. I kick my right leg and then I roll down leading with my chin, chest, and pelvis, and then I roll up again and I just look at the audience, throw my hair back, and roll my shoulders back and that seems to really be popular all over the world.
You kick out, you kick out on one two, and when you start rolling down, you lead with your chin, chest, and pelvis and then you roll up vertebra by vertebra and then you throw your head back and you just give them a little bit of a shoulder roll going back and that’s one of my famous moves.
Alicia: In class yesterday we were having so much fun. Everyone was wearing huge skirts. I love that you insisted on everyone wearing a skirt because it really changed the experience of the class and you were mentioning Flamenco in it and how Flamenco happens with angles. I hadn’t made that distinction before.
I think that Flamenco really changed my Middle Eastern dance moves and also my other world fusion dance moves as well because everything is done on a beautiful angle. Even when they’re in front, they’re at an angle, when they’re in back, their bodies are angled and they’re looking over their shoulders and everything. I love that style.
I really think that dancing with skirts is amazing, especially Latin Caribbean dance like a from Puerto Rico, Bomba and Plena, I love that style of dancing. I fuse Flamenco in with Afro Caribbean and it’s just such a nice blend. It’s very exciting and the skirt has it’s own language.
When you’re dancing with the skirt you have to understand that sometimes the skirt leads you, and sometimes you lead the skirt.
The skirt can have its own personality ranging from sensual to fiery and exciting. It’s just knowing how to use it, knowing how to hold it, using the proper fingering when you’re holding a skirt as well. It’s definitely a language. It takes time to really understand how to dance with fabric.
Alicia: I love how you called us out on our energy level during class yesterday. You said, “Well, how does this make you feel? Look like that!” I just love that because the whole energy level of the room went back up. It felt so much fun to dance across the floor to do those lines with the energy level back up to where it should be in class.
Dalia Carella: I love teaching what I call Flamenco Arabe because it’s a mix of Arabic dance and Flamenco.
I feel like a lot of dancers are shy when they’re first learning something and there’s a lot going on in their head. They’re sabotaging themselves. Sometimes and they’re saying, “Oh, I can’t do this. I’m not sexy enough.” They’re in a whole new style that they’re not used to. A lot’s going on in their brain.
In the styles that I teach, like Flamenco Arabe, I feel like I can get the girls out of their heads and into their bodies and coming from more their heart chakra and open up the root chakra. I think a lot of women, because of what they’ve gone through all these years, are closed in really expressing themselves.
I think the skirt draws them out once they really trust me and once they trust themselves. Then they start really letting go and the energy just builds and builds. And at the end of the class, everybody is full of so much joy and all their fiery side comes out. That’s when I know I’ve done something good in this world.
Alicia: I’ve felt that in both the classes I’ve taken with you. You really wanted to change us internally just a little bit. You wanted to give us that gift. As a student, that made a big difference for me. It opened me up to seeing moves in a different way and connecting to the moves and a much deeper way than just learning the technique and drilling it, so thank you for that.
Alicia: Another thing you said in class the other day was, “I would rather see you fall flat on your face then stay in your own style.” I really liked that too because we have so much to learn from all of these styles. Not all of them. We select the ones that appeal to us, right? We have so much to learn by feeling that music, by being that dancer and that style. Thank you for giving me permission to do that more.
Dalia Carella: Oh, that makes me feel great. I really like people to explore my classes. I attract a lot of people that are just so incredible, and I feel so blessed the people that they study with me. I want to continue to attract those kind of people. It seems that when a negative person comes in, you don’t know what that person’s going through. And sometimes it can be they’re dealing with abuse and they’re having a hard time trying to be sensual and sexy. When that does happen, the girls will look at that girl or man that’s having that issue. And they’ll all start hugging that dancer. It’s such a healing experience.
Dance is healing. It’s not just looking sexy or learning the moves.
To me, it’s so much more. To be honest, I don’t know how I would survive without dance and what I’ve went through in my life.
I think that dance has been my lover, my husband, my dear friend, and my family.
And I was telling one of the dancers yesterday, if I were to die tomorrow, I have transitioned the most wonderful life of abundance. It’s like I’m a millionairess. I have done everything I’ve wanted to do in my life, and it just keeps getting better. I just feel extremely blessed. And part of that is the dancers, all the love that they’ve given me.
When you have that much love and respect from all these dancers, it just goes inside of you, and you just want to become a better person.
Vegan Whole Food Ingredient Dalia Loves: Kale
I really like kale. I’ve been putting it into my smoothies. Get it organic. Kale is so good for you. I started eating it because it’s supposed to be very good for you and I notice a change as well, so I like eating it. And the other reason why I like eating it is for bone density to keep your bones strong. There’s calcium.
And I just started doing tea infusions. I do an infusion of stinging nettle and wild oats, straw tops and horsetail. Since I’ve been drinking it, I started building bone back in my spine because my bone density wasn’t perfect and I dance a lot. Now I’m starting to drink it, and I took a bone density test just recently. They told me that I grew more bone in my spine. That’s the plant kingdom.
It’s interesting. When I was a young dancer, I was all bedazzled with all kinds of jewels. But as I have matured in my dancing, I see a lot of dancers like this, too, go less. And I don’t the jewels as much, but I use fabrics. And just recently I taught class and I wore a tunic that D. Webb Designs designed for me. She’s a amazing designer in Astoria, New York, and a good friend of mine. It was this beautiful shiny, golden fabric with different colors in it and it just makes everybody look like a million dollars with this fabric.
I think I go more for fabric now and less for all these jewels on top of me because when you’ve danced so long, your movements there. And I continue to grow, of course, with my movement, but my movement is there.
I want the dancers and the audience just to see my movement and not to say what a beautiful costume I’m wearing.
Because I think it was reversed. I had designers that would really make the most beautiful costumes.
When you’re wearing a really, really beautiful costume, to me, it takes away from your dancing.
When you really think about it, when you see someone like Jennifer Lopez, when she comes out, she’s a good dancer, but her costumes. You look at their costumes and you kind of miss a little bit in their dance because you’re just watching how the costume moves and everything.
I stripped myself down right now because I just want people to see my movement. You’re mastering these movements, so now it’s time to just be the movement.
I don’t want all the beads covering that movement. I just want to be free. To just be the energy of my movement and show people what these movements are all about.
And not let them be hidden by all the fringe in the fabric.
Alicia: If the intention is to just showcase the costume or showcase a prop, then that’s different.
Dalia Carella: Yes. When I performed my show, Menagerie d’Arte, I came out with a long Bata de Cola and a fan. Now the whole thing is the Bata de Cola. It’s a flamenco dress with a train and you have to kick it, and I had to kick it and use a fan. Everybody was watching the Bata de Cola, that’s what it’s meant for. When I have all these coins and everything on me, it’s too much for me too. Like last night I didn’t have even a dance belt on and I don’t know, maybe I looked too bland, but …
Alicia: I remember you dancing. I don’t remember your costume. I remember you dancing.
Dalia Carella: See, that’s what I want people to remember.
Alicia: You do so many different dance styles. You’ve learned so much from all over the world, so many teachers.
Fusion can get really fuzzy and blurry. And people can say that we’re not doing something as it should be done because we’re a fusing elements from different dance forms. Could you talk a little bit more about how you do fusion?
Dalia Carella: I teach many different styles of dancing. In order to dance them well and teach them well, you have to go into that dance form and study and study and study. I notice, especially in the Middle Eastern dance field, no matter if it’s tribal or raqs sharki or belly dance or whatever. A lot of girls are starting to do fusion, they have been for years. But some of them don’t even know how to count music. They just put on a piece of music, and they wear a costume that looks like the art form that they’re trying to fuse and they know nothing about it. And the movements are incorrect. I’m always saying “fusion equals confusion”. When people take my styles of dancing, I tell everyone first to get out of their heads of their own style. And then I educate them on the style that they’re going to be taking.
I talk about the style of music. I talk about the costuming. I talk about the feeling, the emotion, and I think that’s very important. A lot of these new dancers don’t even know how to count music and when they’re going into a new style, they’re lost. They don’t even know where the one is. I think it’s the teacher’s responsibility to teach these people the right way. And the only way teachers can teach people about world fusion dance is knowing that style and being in it.
To give you an example, next month I’m going to be teaching a tango veil class. I can’t just listen to tango music and put this veil piece together. I’ve been studying tango for four years and veil, I’ve been dancing since… almost 40 years. I fuse the footwork in tango. I fused the intensity of tango and then I put dancing with silks together with that and it’s such a beautiful combination.
I feel like I’m backing it up with the true essence of each part of the dance.
So I tell people when I do tango and Middle Eastern, act like the veil is their dance partner. And that’s how I bring the tango in. Then I do a lot of the ochos done in tango. The back ochos are beautiful, the kicks and things like that.
You have to know what you’re doing in order to really do it correctly because people are educated. Especially in Tango, people study Tango. That’s a very serious art form. And if you go out there and you flail just with the music, people are going to know. I am very particular when I fuse and when I do world dance because I have to really walk the talk.
My style, El Mundo is sort of like Flamenco Araby. El Mundo, it means world. It’s a mix of Flamenco, Middle Eastern dance in Latin Caribbean. In that style I do Flamenco arms and hands and Flamenco feeling and then Latin Caribbean skirt work and Middle Eastern hip movement. In Flamenco, they don’t use their skirt as much as their hands in their arms, but they do use their skirt for accents. So I’ve taken all those personalities, and I fuse them together.
Alicia: In the class yesterday, I like how you really presented the context of a party as a celebration. I almost felt like I was in the streets with my skirt. I thought that was really fun the way you set that up for us.
Dalia Carella: Well, the reason why you felt that way is because I showed the class the dance styles of Bomba and Plena from Puerto Rico and those dance styles are done in the streets and they’re done at parties. And the style that I showed you is dancing with the skirt. But when you go to a party in Puerto Rico, they’re dancing Bomba and Plena, both men and women, they don’t even have skirts on. Sometimes they just have jeans on or a very short skirt. And the men dance it as well, so it is the dance of the people in Puerto Rico.
Positive thinking. And inviting all your fears… Inviting them in for tea. And really understanding if it’s real or not.
Whenever I feel stuck or I get a weird feeling in my gut after something has happened, I invite it in for tea as I say, or I’m afraid to move forward and I have to make a decision and I ask myself, “Is this fear really true?”
If my fear is true, then I ask myself three questions. I ask myself: What’s working? What’s not working? And what’s my next step?
And then I ask myself if this fear is true, what kind of steps can I take to get out of this? Because when you stay in your fear, you get stuck. And sometimes you lose really great opportunities in the matters of love and the matters of finance, in the matters of health and your emotions, your growth.
I’m a life coach. My goal is to really help them look at their fear. And when they leave. They realize it’s not as big as they thought it was. Or I give them tools, pagan rituals, like writing things down, writing about the fear, and then I ask them to burn the fear afterwards and say, “Be gone. And I am grateful. And I let go. And I let the universe or I let God…” Whatever you want to believe in.
I feel powerful because I see how I can help them move their energy forward. And I do that in dance, and in my work I also do that.
My goal is not just to teach dancers how to dance.
I think the goddess part is really doing your inner work. And really feel and act as if you already have something before you even have it and just be patient.
Saint of Truth
Dalia Carella: I didn’t think that the dance community would accept me for being a tarot reader, a clairvoyant. I’ve studied a lot with Dr. Joe Dispenza. He’s really helped me out a lot. Deepak Chopra’s, one of my teachers. I love Oprah. I take the time to really listen to these people because there’s so helpful. And what I do is I, from my own life stories too, I take that and then I work with the ancient art of tarot. Because the tarot cards are more powerful than people can imagine. They’re ancient cards and they really tell a lot about the inner makings of your super consciousness and also your subconsciousness and your consciousness.
Dalia Carella: I feel like I’m a very wealthy woman right now because I’m doing what I love to do. I’m getting paid for it.
A lot of people in their heads feel like they can’t do what they love and get paid. That’s nonsense. If you feel that, then guess what? You’re not going to get paid.
But if you really feel, “I deserve this,” and you see everyone else making a really great living, helping people and living a healthy and wealthy lifestyle, you can do that, too. That’s what I’m all about in dance and in just life in general.
Alicia: Yeah, the whole starving artist bit is really not compelling. I’m amazed that it’s still so prevalent.
Dalia Carella: It really bothers me. And I’ve had that in my mind for too many years. Let me tell you something. What I’m talking about is not easy. I have lived in the abyss. I’ve gone through hell and came back.
Life can be really tough. It’s not for sissies.
But when you know how to work in spirit, it becomes more straight line. Just with a little bit of bumps, it goes up and down. Even when really serious things come in your life, when you have your spirituality and the tools that you learn how to use when you are in those bad times or when you’re visiting the abyss, you don’t stay there that long. And it’s a really beautiful thing.
When I get into a negative state, I literally only get into it for a moment because I just say, “Listen, you can come in for tea, we’re going to have a talk. Then you need to leave.” I invite it in, but I kick it out quickly.
Alicia: Dahlia, thank you so much for offering this amazing collection of what you have gained from all of these teachers in your life. All these places, all these experiences you’ve opened yourself to and thought about and internalized and repackaged to gift to all of us dancers. Thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure to camp with you at Super Fun Dance Camp and get to know you a little bit and take your classes and see what you have been working on for your life and what your legacy will be in the future. It’s beautiful. Thank you so much.
Dalia Carella: Oh, you’re so welcome. I feel so honored. This has been amazing. I am so happy that you asked me. I really enjoyed it so much.
Alicia: How can people find you online?
Dalia Carella: A couple of ways. My dance site is called Dalia Carella, both on Facebook and on Instagram as well. My tarot site is Tarot by Dalia Carella on Instagram or Tarot/Coaching by Dalia Carella on Facebook, and my Instagram for dance is Dalia Carella.
Alicia: And I’ll tell you what, go to Dalia’s site to see the gorgeous photographs she has on there of her doing all of these different dance styles with all different people. It’s amazing. You just scroll down the homepage and see all of gorgeous images. Check out Daliacarella.com and if you’re in New York City, drop into the studio. Is it possible for people to just drop in and take a class?
Dalia Carella: Tuesday nights. You can go to my website and I have the address there and everything.
And I have a very big show coming up in the fall with my co-producer D.Webb Designs called Menagerie d’Arte. We did it last year, and we were sold out almost every night. We’re doing it in November. Check out my website and my Instagram, then you can catch up on whatever I’m doing in New York City in the future.
Alicia: I hope you’ve enjoyed the show! Please subscribe and let your friends know what you got out of this show. Dance with me on YouTube. Listen to the music I’ve selected for you on Spotify and try some free Vegan recipes on Aliciafree.com. This is Alicia Free, hoping this show helped you feel a little lighter.