|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: http://www.orientdancer.com/
See Maria on Project Belly Dance, Season Two: http://www.topbellydancer.com/season2.html
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: