Monday, June 2, 2014


RRRRRRROAR! Maria Sokolova by Michael Baxter

 Maria Sokolova is a rising star in the world of belly dance. Every time I watch her perform, she takes my breath away with her precise technique, which is powerful, showy and full of pizazz, yet still extremely Oriental,  soft and subtle. Not only that, she’s  gorgeous, has terrific stage presence  and costumes that any belly dancer would give their right hip for! It’s no wonder she  won Belly Dancer of The Universe, Belly Dancer Of The Year and was a finalist  on  Michelle Joyce's  “Project Belly Dance: Season Two”- cause  she’s got it all!  She’s also one of the sweetest and most humble dancers I’ve ever met, truly a joy to hang out with backstage!

 Born in Moscow, Russia, Maria first became enthralled with belly dancing while travelling in North Africa.  She  now lives in Santa Clara, California and was trained in belly dance  by  her mentor, Sandra, as well as  international stars like Randa Kamel, Raqia Hassan, Tito and many others, including the  Russian  greats when   she visits her homeland. Currently, she  performs and teaches  throughout the San Francisco Bay area, directs her student troupe  Almaz, and travels internationally for workshops and shows.

Many of us dancers  get nervous and flustered before we go onstage, so I  love to find out about backstage rituals  from dancers I admire, and  have them share their secrets here for inspiration!

 Here’s  how Maria preps for shows, in her own words:

“ Waiting is the thing that can make anyone nervous, so most of the time I try to arrive late enough that I only have time to jump into the costume and run on stage right when music starts. Many dancers dislike that, saying it makes them feel unprepared, while for me it's much better than to get dressed, get ready and wait, cause waiting makes me doubt if my makeup is in place, if my skirt slit in the right place, if extra pins are needed…or wondering if I have to step on stage with right foot first or left?

I like to spy on the audience I am about to perform for, so when I’m done with fixing my eye make up  and hair a hundred times,  I go take a look at the  performance area while staying unnoticed.

If there are hundreds of people in the audience I'll tell myself to get relaxed - "It's easy, just like dancing for two tables at a restaurant!”

But if I’m really a restaurant, if it's only two tables then I pretend it's a stadium of people to make myself work harder. Thus, my best shows are often the ones for half empty restaurants!

Sometimes to add more confidence before stepping on stage I try to imagine who I want to be today….depending on what skill I need to access at the moment. I close my eyes make a deep breath and think "I'm Tito!" and run on stage pouring all possible stage presence; or I can think "I'm Sandra!" and flow out on a dance floor with all sensuality; on special occasions "I'm Randa!" when feeling ambitious, or "I'm Dina!" when  I  feel  daring… It helps, I swear!”

 Maria’s website:

  See  Maria  on Project Belly Dance, Season Two:

 View her instructional mini-workshop on RaqsTV, “Refining The Dance”

 Maria will be  teaching and performing  at “From Russia With Love” in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada  on June 14  & 15, for details, contact:


 Get your  autographed copy of  “The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer” here:

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