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History of Bellydancing
Suzy Evans - A Dancer With a Vision
- by Jane Henriksen

Belly dancing first hit big in the United States in the 1960s and 70s and has recently enjoyed a resurgence of interest due to pop idols such as Britney Spears and Shakira incorporating belly dance into their videos. But the real stars of belly dance are highly trained dancers who have dedicated their lives to the art.


The IAMED booth at Cairo Carnivale 2000
Carolynn Ruth, Suzy Evans, and Jillina

Suzy Evans has set a new standard of excellence for the belly dancing community with her dance concerts showcasing internationally famous belly dancers in equity theaters with state-of-the-art sound and lighting. Evans has flown in dancers from Germany, Brazil, and Canada, and more, as well as across America, to make her shows truly international. Videos of the concerts are released under the IAMED production company label, making these extraordinary events available to the public.

In addition to the Awards of Belly Dance, Suzy Evans has also produced many exciting events, including the highly acclaimed shows at the prestigious Ford Amphetheater in Hollywood, exposing thousands of new fans to the elite belly dancers from around the world. Her commitment to presenting this art form at its best has earned her the reputation of producing the "Best Belly Dance Shows in the World." She has also been producing a series of broadcast-quality belly dance instructional videos featuring award-winning dancers teaching their specialties.

Evans became involved in the Middle Eastern Culture and Dance Association (MECDA) and held the position of President of the High Desert chapter of MECDA. She performed at restaurants and private parties, appeared on several music videos, and made an appearance on the Leeza Show, but even still she felt performance opportunities were limited in comparison to other dance forms. It also began to chafe on her that few people in the general public took this art form seriously.

Ms. Evans' wicked sense of humor appears in her comedic belly dancing character called SleezAnna, which she created in the early 90s. "SleezAnna parodies the worst stereotypes of belly dancing – she's just awful! But I don't want to make the public image of belly dancers worse, so I only perform her in front of fellow dancers. The general misconception about belly dancing is still so strong, I'm afraid the average person won't get the joke."

Knowing how some of the mainstream audience perceived belly dance in general, Suzy had a vision — she wanted to do something about the poor public image of belly dancing and belly dancers. "Although this is a highly evolved art form, too many people think belly dancing is cheesy entertainment in bad restaurants, because there are few venues for the general public to see the real thing." Evans was also frustrated by the paucity of good instructional or performance belly dance videos. She decided to do something about that too.

Thus, the two halves of Evans' life converged when she decided to use the business savvy and marketing skills from her career as a corporate controller to produce concerts and videos designed to highlight the best of Middle Eastern Dance.


Delilah accepting an award at "The First Awards of Belly Dance"

She took her first step toward realizing her goal in 1996, when in affiliation with the High Desert Chapter of MECDA, Evans produced a show featuring some of the best local dancers and starring international belly dance sensation Delilah of Seattle, Washington. The event took place at the 150-seat Beverly Garland Holiday Inn Theater. The success of this show convinced Evans she was on the right track.

In addition to suitable venues, Evans believed that that belly dancing needed an awards ceremony with recognition based on peer review, not competition. The two ideas naturally blended, and thus were born the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance and the Awards of Belly Dance. Fulfilling that dream, IAMED members now nominate and vote for 10 Awards of Belly Dance, including Dancer of the Year, Best Modern Egyptian Dancer, Best Cabaret Dancer, and Best Choreographer. The Awards of Belly Dance are the most coveted awards honoring excellence in Middle Eastern Dance. Just being nominated for an IAMED award gives a dancer bragging rights.

When she started, Evans realized that everything IAMED did had to be first-class, right out the gate. In every detail — from creating a captivating advertising flyer, searching out the best performers in the world, finding a suitable equity theater equipped with excellent lighting and sound, to placing the multiple cameras to capture the event on video — she strove for only the best. "I knew if I was going to be taken seriously, I had to put my money where my mouth was and do it right. My motto is, 'It's never good enough.' " Ms. Evans bankrolled the entire event, and she was determined that whether or not the first Awards of Belly Dancing was a financial success, she would produce an event she would be proud of.

The first Awards of Belly Dance took place at the Los Angeles Theater Center on September 7, 1997. The following four Awards shows took place at the Performing Arts Center Northridge, and Hollywood Babylon at Burbank Center Stage. With Rockin’ the Casbah, IAMED returns to the Northridge Performing Arts Center. There have been many other wonderful events since then in a variety of lovely venues, including the the popular shows at the Ford Amphetheater.

Suzy Evans has now produced a full library of videos under the IAMED label, including almost 20 performance videos and dozens of high-quality instructional videos. Not only is there a large selection of products currently available, there are always new videos either being planned or in post-production, with new releases coming out almost every month!

In addition to continuing to produce state-of-the-art belly dancing concerts and videos, Evans' future goals include public presentations about Middle Eastern Dance to educate the public and help this beautiful and diverse dance gain its deserved place among the serious arts. And in keeping with her motto — it's never good enough — she plans to devote herself to making sure that every IAMED event is the "Best Belly Dance Show in the World."

Bellydance shows at the Ford Amphitheater
IAMED Shows at the Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood

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