The Salimpour Legacy
The Suhaila Salimpour School of Belly Dance can be traced back to 1949. Pioneer Dancer and Instructor Jamila Salimpour began teaching her unique method which included detailed breakdowns and standard terminology for her movements. Every dancer knowingly or not has been exposed to the indelible mark Jamila Salimpour made in the world of Middle Eastern dance. Jamila’s original phrases and names for dance movements such as Turkish Drop, Maya, and Basic Egyptian were the beginning of a long process to add structure and definition to the art. Jamila’s daughter, the incomparable Suhaila Salimpour, began her dance training at the young age of 2. In addition to training with her mother, Suhaila studied ballet, jazz, and tap from an early age, and soon added modern and hip-hop to her repertoire. She began teaching at the age of 14 and has worked as a professional performer and master instructor ever since.
Through years of performing and training, Suhaila realized the necessity to create an organized system for teaching and training. Rather than trying to integrate Middle Eastern Dance with Ballet or Jazz, she wanted to create the respect, knowledge, mentorship and training methodology she experienced in her studies to preserve the quality and longevity of the dance form.
Suhaila’s unique vision began to take shape when she embarked on rewriting her mother’s book “Jamila Salimpour’s Dance Manual”, the first ever text which systematically categorizes Middle Eastern Dance movement. The result is an evolution which maintains the purity of her mother’s original work and adds the systematic and progressive teaching methods found in the classical dance forms.
Now, the Suhaila Salimpour Format and School of Belly Dance enjoy worldwide success. Dancers who train with The Salimpours quickly realize Suhaila’s method of teaching allows them to excel in their art beyond any other training they have received.
The Salimpour Effect on Belly Dance
Jamila Salimpour and Suhaila Salimpour are a family dynasty in American belly dance. Jamila (born 1926) is the Matriarch of Belly Dance in the United States and the Mother of Tribal Belly dance. Inspired by the great dancers of Egypt’s Golden Era, she was a cabaret dancer in the early West Coast clubs of the United States. She applied the same technique to her Bal Anat troupe (a gathering of many tribes) but with different stylization and costuming to different music to achieve a different sentiment. She was the first to develop and codify a belly dance format, and she created a finger cymbal method including over 44 patterns.
Suhaila Salimpour (born 1966) grew up with her mother’s format and Bal Anat while learning Western dance; she spent a decade performing in prestigious night clubs with live bands in the Middle East and Los Angeles. In 1996, she began the Suhaila Dance Company. In 1999, she took over direction of Bal Anat and launched the Suhaila Salimpour Belly Dance certification program, the most extensive and thorough belly dance curriculum available. She launched the Jamila Salimpour Belly dance certification program in 2007 to further augment and expand the Salimpour School. Her own format, first developed in 1978 has revolutionized the way that belly dance is understood and taught today.
Suhaila’s format would not exist without Jamila’s. Jamila’s format is belly dance history, giving an outline of the basic step families with classic Egyptian stylization. Although a full and solid format on its own, Jamila’s format was expanded and enriched by the introduction of elements from Suhaila. Then, as she taught her mother’s format, Suhaila wanted options to expand beyond the basic steps and stylization. She created her own format that encompassed her mother’s step families but allowed for limitless options, layers, and stylizations. Both Jamila’s format and Suhaila’s format have transformed how belly dance is analyzed and taught today.