Amara - Co-Executive Producer and Creative Director
Amara PhD, is a professional Middle Eastern dancer and teacher whose specialties include belly dance, Middle Eastern folk dance, and theatrical/experimental dance. Her performance background includes solo and company concerts across the United States, long-term performing engagements at many nightclubs and restaurants in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Austin, and being featured in over 15 commercial videos. In addition, in Los Angeles Amara was the Director of Ya Helewa! Dance Company. She regularly teaches studio classes in Middle Eastern dance, fitness, and flexibility to children and adults and has taught accredited courses at UCLA, UCR, and Cal Poly Pomona. Amara directs Training4DanceTeachers, a teaching certification program for dance teachers.
In addition to teaching and performing, she has produced numerous concerts and workshops, such as the “Austin Belly Dance Convention,” “An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance (EEMED),” "X–MED," a workshop series presenting tools and methods for creating experimental Middle Eastern dances; “Tarab,” a live music and belly dance showcase and workshops; and “Improvisational Dance Series.” She holds a PhD in Dance History and Theory (UC Riverside), a BA in Music History and Literature with a certificate in Ethnomusicology (Florida State University), and worked towards an MA and MFA in Dance (UC Los Angeles). She has published articles in numerous Middle Eastern dance magazines and has presented papers at leading international dance conferences including, Congress on Research and Dance (CORD), Society for Dance History Scholars (SDHS), and Oral History Association (OHA).
Tatianna Smith - Co-Executive Producer
Tatianna has held a passion for dance and community for over 20 years. She combines her professional and artistic background in order to bring Middle Eastern dance to others. Tatianna’s dance training includes Persian folkloric, ballet, tap, ballroom, Middle Eastern styles, jazz and modern. She participates in the Middle Eastern dance community by being a performer, stage manager, producer, director, and creative designer in Austin and worldwide. In fact, Tatianna spent two years working with world known performer Jillian and her dance company Belly Dance Evolution (BDE) as a tour manager and technical director visiting six countries.
Tatianna’s professional career is an IT Project Manager specializing in software design and implementation for Cirrus Logic Inc., which is located in downtown Austin. She has organized a wider variety of events as a professional, including conventions, workshop weekends and public training seminars. During her employment with National Notary Association, Tatianna served as the Convention Administration Manager for the annual member’s convention, which hosted over 2000 from various locations from around the United States. Tatianna holds a BS and MFA in Business Management. Additionally, she is a part of the Big Brother/Big Sister program as a Mentor and also volunteers with several organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and at the Ronald McDonald House.
Nephri - Assistant Producer
Born in San Antonio, Nephri has had a life-long love of folkloric dance. She began studying traditional Irish folk dance at four. Ten years later, when the group disbanded, she began developing an interest in industrial music and alternative forms of artistic expression. Shortly after moving to New Orleans, she first began exploring the world of belly dance. After years of tutelage in Cabaret, Egyptian, and Turkish styles, she discovered Tribal and Fusion belly dance. She currently teaches American Tribal Style® as a registered sister studio of FatChanceBellyDance®. She is also the director and lead choreographer of Totem, an ATS® and Tribal Fusion performance group.
Nephri was a regular DJ in New Orleans for four years and, upon returning Texas, has continued to DJ and hosted events at Austin's premiere alternative nightclub, Elysium. She has performed several times with the band, Stoneburner. Consequently, she has partnered with Distortion Productions to produce a CD of alternative music for belly dancers to be released Summer of 2016. She regularly volunteers with The Austin Belly Dance Convention, Cabaret Dance Camp, The New York Theatrical Belly Dance Convention, as well as local belly dance productions and events throughout Central Texas. No stranger to working with large conventions, she has volunteered with DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the largest pop-culture and science fiction conventions in the country, for the past eight years. She is now one of the Senior Managers of Operations for their technical department.
Valerie Aguirre - Show Coordinator
Valerie has been attending the ABDC since 2008. In 2015, she took on the role of Show Coordinator. Her job included sending emails to performers regarding requested materials and schedules and updating the Show Masterlist recording when performers sent in items. She also prepared participant registration packets and assisted at the ABDC front desk on-site with registration and sales. In addition to volunteering at the ABDC, Valerie is currently the Assistant Manager for Kick Butt Live Drumming and Improvisation Belly Dance show. From 2011 to 2012, she was also the Producer of the Market Place Belly Dance Show and in 2014 Show and Production Coordinator for Z-Helenes’s “Ode to the Elements” at the Vortex Theater. During these events, Valerie scheduled dancers, collected performance music, ran rehearsals, coordinated costumes, setup show lineups, setup the venue for performances, ran sound systems, and emceed shows.
Since 2009, Valerie volunteers on the Board of Directors for the Austin Belly Dance Association (ABA). As the Scrapbook Editor, her job is to preserve the history of the association by collecting and archiving newsletters. She also takes pictures at their events and posts them to a flickr account shared with members. As an Events Team member, she works with the committee to create themes for two annual shows at the Dougherty Arts Center. For the past ten years, Valerie has been belly dancing in and round the Austin area. In addition, Valerie has worked as a medical office manager for a solo practitioner for the past 20 years.
Sahhira - Vendor Coordinator
Jeanie is the owner and operator of Sahhira's Souk, specializing in ethnic and cabaret belly dance costumes and accessories in Austin, TX. She sells at Middle Eastern dance conventions and seminars in Austin and around the country. Jeanie not only vends but also has been Vending Coordinator for several events such as Desert Passion Middle Eastern Dance Theatre shows in Pflugerville, TX, and the Unmata Show at the Washington Carver Center in Austin, TX. Her first time vending at the ABDC was in 2005 and became the Vendor Coordinator in 2015. Her duties included requesting from vendor on-site needs, materials for promotion, and copies of Texas Sales State Permits. She also maintained the Vendors’ Masterlist, keeping record of requested items. On-site, Jeanie mapped out vendor spaces and assisted vendors with load-ins and load-outs.
Jeanie owns Gypsy Witch Productions and over the last two decades has produced shows at the Vortex, Butterfly Bar, Tailgatorz, Jax’s, and Spider House in Austin. Since 2010, Jeanie has been the Contract Manager for The Hands of Fatima, a Gypsy bellydance and musical troupe at Sherwood Forest Faire Renaissance Festival in Paige, TX. For three years, she was the Contract Manager for The Typsy Gypsys at the Central Texas Renaissance Faire. As a long-standing member of the Austin Bellydance Association, she has served on the Board of Officers and as the Librarian and Vendor Coordinator. Previously, she was the Assistant Editor for the ABA's newsletter, “OPA!.”
In addition to vending and producing, Jeanie is an assistant instructor for American Tribal Style classes. She is also a regular performer at belly dance shows at Kickbutt Coffee, Carousel Lounge, Sahara Lounge, Desert Passion Middle Eastern Dance Theatre, and the Moose Lodge. At the Sherwood Forest Faire, she performs approximately 60 shows in 17 days each season. Jeanie has been studying and performing Middle Eastern dance for almost three decades and has studied classic and modern Egyptian, Turkish, Gypsy, Tunisian, Improvisational Tribal Style, and American Tribal Style. Jeanie holds a BBA and an MBA in Marketing/Management. She has worked for numerous Texas state agencies and held positions including Assistant Human Resources Director and Classification Director at the Attorney General's Office.
Sherrie Shaw - Event Program Coordinator
Sherrie first attended the Austin Belly Dance Convention in 2007 where she had her first belly dance performance. Since then, Sherrie has danced in numerous ABDC Open Stage shows and studied with many amazing ABDC instructors, building her dance style. Since the ABDC had given her so much over the years, Sherrie decided three years ago to give back. She began by volunteering for on-site vendor set- up and running errands. The following year, Sherrie worked at the ABDC’s front desk helping with registration and sales as well as aiding vendors with load-out. In 2015, Sherrie worked behind the scenes as Event Program Coordinator. In this roll, she assisted with locating and contacting businesses in order to sell advertisement in the ABDC event program. She also promoted workshop discounts on social media. On-site, Sherrie worked at the ABDC front desk and as a room monitor, assisting instructors during their workshops.
In addition to volunteering at the ABDC, Sherrie has been the treasurer of the non-profit Austin Bellydance Association for four years. She found her love of belly dance when she saw Melissa Amira teaching at Diva Dance Studio. Since then, Sherrie has danced with Melissa Amira's Troupe Amar, Bahaia's Kan Zaman Dancers, and Najla's Raqs al Sarab troupe. Currently, she performs with her duet partner, Valerie Aguirre, as VASH and as part of the trio, SASS. Sherrie dances as a regular perfomers at Jamie Lynn's Mediterranean Night at the EuroCafe Show and Melissa Amir's RaqSars Show.