An interview with Vasiliki
For those who have not met her, Vasiliki is a lovely, graceful dancer who moved to San Diego in 2009 and has been a supportive member of SAMEDA and active member the San Diego Dance community. Let’s learn more about Vasiliki below!
“I am first generation American. My mother was born in Greece, my father was born in Iran, and I was born in Baltimore! I am very grateful for a multicultural childhood, it influenced my belly dancing immensely. I grew up going to Greek festivals and my grandmother often put the “Greek Music Hour” radio show on, and we danced, expressing the music and true joy in our hearts. I also went to Persian parties, and occasionally, an uncle would bring a tombak drum to family gatherings. We were so moved by the music and danced. To me, dancing has always been about expressing emotion, usually joy.
Middle Eastern dance gives me a connection to my cultural heritage. I am proud of my roots, this dance is a part of me and belly dance provides me that opportunity. I am very comfortable with Middle Eastern/Greek/Turkish music because I grew up with it. I didn’t always appreciate it (especially when my father would put on what I call “cat wailing” music), but those experiences enriched my comprehension of musicality.”
Vasiliki began dancing about 6 yrs ago. She describes herself as “an overworked, overwhelmed, stressed-out mom of 2 small children. My husband was frequently deployed and I worked full time as an Emergency Medicine physician in Chesapeake, Virginia and full time raising our children. One day, I saw a small sign at the side of the road offering belly dance classes. I took that fateful turn, and never looked back.”
Vasiliki recalls the instructor threw a handful of coin hip scarves on the floor for students to borrow. “My eyes grew wide, my mouth dropped open – the scarves were SO sparkly and jingly, and BEAUTIFUL! How sac-religious to let them touch the floor! I went home and immediately bought 5 hip scarves on-line. It took me 4+ hours to decide which styles and colors to choose.”
Vasiliki soon realized that her medical school residency, raising a family and other commitments had limited her artistic creativity side. “I figured-out that I have to use both my right and left brains for me to be fulfilled. I was only half a person without dance in my life. Once I got that back, I felt like I was born again.”
In Virginia, Vasiliki learned from Taaj, (a.k.a. “the belly dance trainer.”). “She was absolutely beautiful with long black hair, with a confident, kind and patient personality. Taaj was knowledgeable and technically proficient, providing direct feedback”. When asked about her first performance, Vasiliki laughed and said “we danced tribal at a mall in the food court in Virginia Beach! I was so ecstatic!! I made my own costume. The turban was hot and itchy. I had so much fun. I just wanted more, more, MORE!”
Vasiliki’s most memorable show was her first competition in Virginia Beach. “I had only been belly dancing a few months, but my instructor encouraged me to enter the beginner’s category. I worked really hard on a choreography, and on contest day, I got lost getting to the venue (before GPS). I literally panicked, which I never do. Not panicking is a hallmark of an ER physician, not even in life and death emergencies! All that work for nothing?! I don’t think so!! Fortunately, I eventually found the venue in time, performed my little heart out, and I won, not only first place, but people’s choice award as well. It was so rewarding. It was like someone giving you a pat on the back saying, “You’re headed in the right direction, girlfriend.” A little encouragement goes a long way. Plus, that was the first trophy I had ever won.”
Vasiliki’s educational accomplishments are very impressive. She graduated Cum Laude from the American University in Washington, DC in biology. Her dance focus was ballet, modern, and jazz. She danced on Baltimore’s version of “Soul Train” called “Shakedown,” and taught aerobics. Vasiliki attended the University of Maryland Medical school and completed residency in Columbia, South Carolina. Eventually, Vasiliki worked as an attending physician/instructor in the Johns Hopkins medical system. She currently is an emergency room physician.
When asked how she juggles a medical practice, family and dancing – Vasiliki responded “That’s a great question. I’m still trying to figure that one out. I’ll let you know when I have an answer to that one! All I know is that I have to dance... I take as many dance classes, in as many possible styles as money and time can afford – belly dance, hip hop, bollywood, flamenco, ballet, jazz, you name it.
Currently, I take belly dance classes with Lucia, and David of Scandinavia. I have enjoyed performing in Lucia’s troupes and dancing in such a wonderful, culturally diverse area as San Diego. Unlike many other cities, we have so many dance opportunities here. I love to perform and wish to be in a regular performing troupe.”
When asked about her passion in dance, Vasiliki said “ dancing is MY passion. Everyone needs a hobby or a passion to keep their heart beating, whatever it may be. Until you figure that out and follow where it goes, it’s hard to be truly fulfilled. You can’t be the best person you can be, or take care of other people at home or work, until you’ve taken care of yourself….it is discovering that passion in life..”