In the Belly Dance Beginning.
The Los Angeles Bellydance Academy finds its origin in the most unlikely places with less than a predictable outcome. Picture in your mind the capital city of the sunflower state in which time was left behind. Do you know the sunflower state? It is easy to locate. It’s in the middle—the square shape state in the middle of the United States of America.
Now picture a young dancer with a dream. She believes the world is a beautiful place, and it would be fun to continue to dance, not walk down the path of life. Stefany’s’ aliases included the name Stevie, her childhood name given to her by her first dance teacher. At the age of three, she began learning how to dance at the Fairlawn Plaza Mall at the local dance studio called Dance Factory. Her mother enrolled her, her grandmother would drive her, and her father would show up at every show to video record. This once a week, sixty-minute tap and jazz dance class for kids expanded into a focused and disciplined study of classical ballet and contemporary American dance styles.
During her young adult years, Stefanya participated in numerous regional and national dance competitions. While still in high school, she was the winner of “Best of Show” at Termain Dance Convention national finals. She was awarded the top score out of four hundred entries for a lyrical dance number, which she choreographed and performed. Still in her youth Stefanya was the recipient of numerous scholarships to study with professionals at studios in New York and Los Angeles. These experiences, combined with her enthusiasm and drive, led Stefanya to decide she would leave her hometown in Kansas and move to Los Angeles, California, to refine her artistic skills and pursue a professional dance career.
Not in Kansas anymore.
Stefanya’s training and specialty skills soon landed her a spot as a cast member of the world-famous Bellydance Superstars. She caught the eye of mogul Miles Copeland, the show’s producer, and was chosen from a 90-dancer audition in Los Angeles to join the touring belly dance company. Since her debut, she has performed in over eight hundred belly dance shows across twenty-five countries at the world’s most well-known venues for celebrities, dignitaries, and royalty.
While performing her specialty act of dancing on stilts, Stefanya was also the troupe’s assistant director. At this time in Stefanya’s life, she cultivated a deep appreciation and love for oriental dance style. Night after night Stefanya would share the stage with the most memorable, talented, and cutting-edge American belly dance artists of that time, such as Bozenka, Sonia, Rachel Brice, Zoe Jakes, Amar Gamal, and Jillina. After eight incredible years of world tours, Stefanya returned full time to Los Angeles with an intact passion for dance and new ambitions.
The LABA is born.
In 2011, Stefanya founded The L.A. Bellydance Academy with business partner Katya Malaya and started welcoming new belly dance students in a cozy studio located in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. The dance studio space was previously owned and operated by a legendary male belly dancer Adam Basma. Earlier in that same year, introduced at Beirut Nights Belly Dance Competition at the Byblos Night Club in Los Angeles, Stefanya and Adam started developing their friendship.
Stefanya was the dance director of the Adam Basma Dance Company from 2011 to 2017. During this time, she produced live stage shows, including “Arabic Arts Festival” and “A Show for Lebanon” inside Dorthy Chandler Pavillion. Stefanya further contributed to cultivating the legacy of legendary artist Adam Basma with tribute showcases and video productions.
Belly Dance Evolution
2014 was a big year for the studio. Katya Malaya moved her family back to Haifa, Israel. In contrast, Stefanya moved the studio across the street into the Mid City Arts Center to provide a more spacious and comfortable experience for clients and belly dance students. This new facility, owned and operated by Stefanya, was a versatile rehearsal/performance space. Once an acting studio, the Mid City Arts Center, a black box theater, was the home to many belly dance showcases and studio open house celebrations.
Today’s studio is a beautiful 2,000 sq ft. facility located in the same building as the Mid City Arts Center, but as of October 2019, you will find us in a new room. We have upgraded our Belly Dance Boutique to supply dancers with an extensive collection of belly dance outfits and workout apparel. Our dance studio hosts 20 belly dance classes a week taught by active professionals. Students also enjoy participating in belly dance private lessons, belly dance workshops, open houses, and different cultural events throughout the year in our new facility.
2020 was the kick-off year for our online belly dance classes. While our dancers stayed safer at home, we brought the studio to them with our member-online belly dance website. Learn to belly dance online is now interactive and fun when joining us to belly dance on zoom.
Who is Stefanya?
Stefanya is a performance company member of the world-famous touring belly dance company, The Bellydance Superstars. This professional dance experience of over eight hundred shows in more than twenty-five countries provided Stefanya the tools and motivation needed to move forward, passionately with insight and professionalism. She has produced multiple successful events, including “Allah Kushnir LIVE in Los Angeles”, “Club Bellydance L.A.”, and the “Arabic Arts Festival”. Stefanya’s goal is to unite dancers in celebration of truth and life through the love of dance.
If you’ve been following the dance studio over the past nine years, you may recall that Introduction to Bellydance class, which offered an introduction to waterfall charts. Given that the post is now a few years old, I think it merits a refresh.
What is Belly dance?
The word belly dance is a misnomer, and as you develop your knowledge base on the subject, the inaccurate designation will become more evident to you. This term is popular in English-speaking classes; however, we hope to inspire all belly dancers to learn more about the Arabic language by exploring words such as; raks sharki, beladi, wahda wa noss ect. The art and culture at the heart of the belly dance stem from the Arab nations. Countries like Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco are famous for their belly dance artists and cabarets; however, the modern dancer will incorporate styles from various places, including the Saudi gulf, Tunisia, and Algeria northern Africa. By no means is this influential style exclusive to the Arabic-speaking nations, you can also find belly dance styles in Turkey and Greece, but its’ influence is found across the globe.
Dance is the soul’s language and is used to nourish our bodies to ignite the divine spark within us all. We used to dance to create a connection to our past, ground us in the present, and inspire a future of love. We expand through experiencing the joy of dance.
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