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Star Local News - Frisco Enterprise - "Hips don't lie: Frisco resident discusses life as professional belly dancer"
BDUC 2012
Submitted photo: Sa’diyya performs during the Bellydancer of the Universe®Competition.

By Elizabeth Knighten,

Published: Friday, January 27, 2012 2:32 PM CST
Her stage name, Sa'diyya, in Egyptian Arabic, means good luck or good fortune. For Frisco resident Elizabeth Parr, the name has brought her all of that and more.

Sa'diyya, who has lived in Frisco since she got married in 2005, was initially put-off by belly dancing when she first experienced it.

"When I was a teenager, I saw a belly dancer at a restaurant and it's kind of funny because I was actually a little uncomfortable," Sa'diyya said. "It wasn't until the second time that I went and saw her that I was more intrigued rather than uncomfortable, and I ended up asking her about classes."

A few weeks after speaking with the belly dancer and realizing that the instructor taught too far away, Sa'diyya said a studio opened down the street from her home.

"It was just belly dancing, that's it and I was super excited. I was 16-years-old and I convinced my parents to let me do it," Sa'diyya said. "They were a little hesitant because it's belly dancing, they didn't know what to think about it either, but it's very family oriented and it's kind of a cultural type dance. That's the way it was presented at the studio -- so they were okay with it."

Sa'diyya, who said she was always interested in dancing, initially took the classes for fun and slowly began teaching and performing.

"I didn't expect it to become my job, but it did," she said. In 2003 Sa'diyya began competing with international belly dancers during the Bellydancer of the Universe®Competition. She competed in 2003 and 2005, and always "placed" she said, but never won. However, in 2011, she won The Universal Champion title.

"This is an international competition. I was competing with dancers from Russia, from of course all over the United States, from Europe, [and] South America, and I competed in several categories and I won first place in two categories," Sa'diyya said. "Their main category is called 'Universal' and we have to dance to three different time measures, three different rhythms of Middle Eastern dance."

Winning "The Universal Champion" title has helped Sa'diyya gain more notoriety in the performance realm of her career; she also added that it has encouraged her to improve as a belly dancer.

"I think that it definitely helped my career as far as gaining more opportunities to teach around the United States because whenever you win a title like that people pay attention, and they become interested in what you have to offer as an instructor and performer," she said. "I have received more bookings because of it and I've also kind of played it up in my performances at restaurants ... and it's kind fun to brag about because it's an achievement and I feel good about it."

Sa'diyya said she feels that she is at a "crossroads" as to whether she will continue competing or focus on instructing others."

There is a point where, in the world of belly dance, that dancers have to retire from competing if they want to become sort of an authority figure," Sa'diyya said, "and move on to being looked at as more of a teacher versus somebody that is still climbing through in their career and trying to get to a certain point."

Sa'diyya, who teaches classes for beginning to advanced students out of her home studio, said she used to work with a company, but after getting married, decided she wanted to teach on her own. She has also taught workshops in several cities around the United States including Boston, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Dallas.

One of her goals, she added is to travel around teaching students and performing.

"I'd like to keep learning more, that's the interesting thing about belly dancing is that there's not a point where you've learned everything that you need to know," Sa'diyya said.

For information, go to

Interviews with Tonya and Atlantis

Atlantis, Co Producer of the Bellydancer of the Universe®Competition in Long Beach

Atlantis, Interviewed by Ana Goebel - Sameda, May 2009

1) Teacher & inspiration for BD = You will never guess ... Tonya, my mother. She is truly my mentor. I watched her on stage and she was, and is so beautiful in the articulation of the art. Her costumes were always of her own unique design. I immediately wanted to emulate her. he and Bobby Farah of New York before his passing . They were both great motivators and inspirations to me personally.

2) 1st teacher: My one and ONLY teacher and mentor was, and is, Tonya.

3) Decide to be a BD? -- I decided to become a professional dancer, not just a belly dancer. My grandmother was a professional ballet dancer and toured the world with the Albertina Rash Dance Company from New York where Tonya also hails from. She had her studio down the hall from Martha Graham on 57th ave by the Winter Gardens. She taught Ballet, Tap, Spanish, Jazz,,...AAAAAAAAAAll of it....! and played and taught piano.

Tonya of course is well versed in all the above. She also was blessed with an operatic voice and and acting ability. Therefore, I was blessed with the best of both! What better way to celebrate that, than Musical Theater.! I then branched out to television and film. Musical theater is where my roots are.

4) 1st performance -- Gosh , I think I was like 5!.... and where I really don't remember. I just remember that I did forward and backward, and sideways belly rolls like Tonya, who did them in her show... the house came down!

5) Memorable performance -- I feel very blessed to have accomplished many ground breaking performances in this dance, but it is hard to narrow down. There are many, but, i am most proud of my international accomplishments. One, is the ACADEMY AWARDS, viewed by millions across the globe. I was a choreographer and premier dancer for "Alladin" the Disney movie. It was broadcast on every continent on the globe. Every notable dancer in the business auditioned for that production. choreographed by Debbie Allen................ close to 1,000!

Nationally , I performed for the opening season of NFL PROFESSIONAL MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. I was not 1/2 time entertainment, I was a prelude to the game in the opening commercial " ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL????!!!" I still get residuals from my work on soap operas and TV appearances. I hold the record for being on Entertainment Tonight TV show more than any other dancer in the business. I have also had the privilege of having a featured episode on " TO TELL THE TRUTH," celebrating my contributions to this art by being proclaimed "The Girl with the Golden Gut."

Though I was very young, I was very knowledgeable and well known in the dance field. My choreography has been performed by may main stream stars, as well as established dancers in the field today. They studied with Tonya,and became members of her performance group "OF VEILS AND INCENSE" such as Fahtiem, who was with the troupe for 12 years and Kamaal to name a few. The group has since dis- banned and changed its name to the "Bellydancer of the Universe®DANCE COMPANY." Everyone is still in touch and very good friends!

6) Another profession? -- I consider myself an entrepreneur in the field rather than a professional. Everything I do has music and dance associated with it. From planning an animal rescue fund raiser or co-producing the "Bellydancer of the Universe®COMPETITION with Tonya, to teaching underprivileged kids the art of dance (all dance, not just belly dance) or singing in a band, life is just a creative world to me. I embrace all challenges in my life from a creative standpoint. There is no life without music and dance in my heart!

7) Challenges -- YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! People seem to think you do not have a brain because you are attractive, and a dancer. It is VERY disheartening!!! They think all you are a sex object! (Many a man has barely missed castration proclaiming the love of my body, but not my mind and soul!)

8) Advice -- DO SOMETHING ORIGINAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do not be a carbon copy of your teacher. Educate yourself in dance fundamentals. You can always fall back on fundamentals. Know the dance from the ground floor up, that way you have something solid you can build and create with on stage.

9) BDUC -- THANK YOU FOR THE COMPLIMENT!!! "Bellydancer of the Universe®COMPETITION "started in 1991. It will celebrate it's 20th year February 13 & 14, 2010, President's Day and Valentine's Day Weekend! I grew up with BDUC. We started with one category UNIVERSAL, and grew. We pride ourselves in offering and catering to all styles and components of the dance. We were the 1st to offer an Egyptian category especially for the Egyptian stylist, and the first to offer a Fusion category as I am a FUSIONISTA at heart! Also we were the 1st to have a Veil category, Taxsim category, & Drum Solo category and our latest creation the" CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS" category deigned by Tonya. The UNIVERSAL category with LIVE music, was the basis of all however. The rest just came about. We also started JR and Little categories in the field. It is produced by working professional dancers, for dancers! "Innovation not Imitation "is our motto. There are many other competitions that have the same categories, but imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery............

10) More Advice; Come with a smile on your face and a song in your heart, embrace the experience, learn what you can, celebrate the dance and yourself, and play nice with others. Most importantly, take in the experience with a constructive mindset. You are already a winner just by wanting to better yourself by being open to new experiences in your life! Do NOT get discouraged if you do not win! It is ONE day One performance in your life. Define it!

11) Secrets for good competitors --
OHHHHHHHH YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It all comes from 20 years of our own experiences from auditions for TV, stage and film, to judging competitions and event promotion. As a restaurateur and event promoter-coordinator, Tonya has auditioned hundreds of dancers and entertainers. We can all benefit from her knowledge and vast experience. I will relate my knowledge in the field from another view. It will be interactive as well as fun! WE don't do anything without the F-word.......... FUN!!!!!!!

Thank you for asking me to do this interview! Congratulations to all our San Diego Champions and participants! It was a pleasure to have you! If you are in town come to "Tonya's Original Bellydancer of the Universe®Showcase" every Wednesday night in Long Beach, with the finest in LIVE music and dance. Don't forget our "BDUC MEGA STARS of the UNIVERSE and Spirit of Christmas Show" featuring our 09 champs and judges in performance WEDNESDAY December 2nd 2009. I invite you all to celebrate Tonya's birthday and the 20th Anniversary of the Bellydancer of the Universe®COMPETITION

FEBRUARY 13 &14th 2010 - Presidents Day and Valentines Day Weekend in Long Beach California. SO look forward to seeing you all in class in July!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Until then, cherish those and what you love! Be kind to animals! Be kind to others! Peace Out! XO

Tonya and Atlantis are also available for competition
judging, local and global seminars, private coaching, mentoring & instruction.

Hi Sepi, thanks for the opportunity! xo Atlantis

You'll never guess who my teacher was! That"s right-- TONYA! I just wanted to be as beautiful as my mom was on and off stage! So I took up the art as well. What most people don't know about her is, as well as being GORGEOUS outside, her "INNER BEAUTY"" comes though in everything she does.  It was also a cultural enhancement for me, as my dad, ,Andreas Chianis, is a famous Greek clarinetist.

Tonya and my dad, Andreas, owned a Greek night club called the "Trojan Horse" restaurant in Long Beach. They owned / managed it with FULL entertainment! They employed a 4 to 5 piece LIVE band from Greece, BELLY DANCING SHOWS NIGHTLY and AUTHENTIC GREEK FOOD (I put that in caps because most restaurants homogenize the menu for Americanized tastes) open 7 days and nights a week!! A couple of nights a week at their restaurant, Tonya taught class before the show in our banquet room. She then produced her 'Bellydancer of the Universe®Showcase' in the restaurant. (This was only ONE of the MANY places she taught, but it had a direct effect on me.) I watched  from the kitchen,and learned from class and from being on the stage. This gave me a great example of the professional and student level of dancer. This is why she so strongly feels you should start with practical application in the field, because you learn so much that way. I  was dance educated, and grew up in a working environment. I know how a restaurant and entertainment SHOULD be handled, proper protocol (that is so missing in most events today), and the hard work --  and I do mean hard work that goes into having a quality product. It has held me in good stead with my current business practices within my own entertainment and event coordination company "Bellydancer of the Universe®" here in Long Beach, California.

2)When did I decide to become a Belly Dancer?
When I saw TONYA perform professionally at a club. I was LITTLE so I don't remember which one, just that she was FANTASTIC and unique in look and presentation!! Tonya stresses that A LOT in class -- be who "YOU" are, not a "COPY" of me.  That and "IT'S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, IT'S HOW GOOD YOU LOOK DOING WHAT YOU KNOW." There are a lot of well trained, highly educated dancers out there. BUT I have seen students that blow them away, just because of that fact.

3)What other professions have I had?
Well,...I make my living by being "Bellydancer of the Universe®." This is not a fly by night thing or an opportunity to make $$$$. This IS my career. I came out dancing! ALL KINDS of dancing! Some of this is due to the fact that my grandmother was a professional ballet dancer and teacher with her studio next to the Winter Gardens, on 57th in New York, (down the hall from Martha Graham's studio). I am currently an actress, writer, producer, choreographer and promoter. I have also been in the past a baby sitter, fitness  trainer,  and professional dishwasher, (you don't have parents in the restaurant  business without doing a few dishes and clean up -- keeps ya grounded.) and my favorite -- pet sitter.  I, as is Tonya, am an animal rescue advocate -- and we do what we can.

3) How I started out?
I went to work with Tonya, and she told me one of her bosses came to see her dance, and he was in the audience. She said he wanted to see ME dance! -- After I wet my pants, Tonya told me that he hated dancers that did not play ZILS!  Well, I had not had the courage to play them before, but, if you know me, (I am affectionately called "LITTLE MISS NO FEAR" by my true friends) I rallied! On went the zils, out went the little girl, and back came Bellydancer of the Universe®! (ha- ha- ha!!)

4) What prompted or inspired the 'Bellydancer of the Universe®COMPETITION?"
Tonya's Originality, Integrity, Knowledge of the dance itself, Cultural Heritage, and a desire to have the art respected and recognized in the main stream of dance and entertainment, thus disassociating and dispelling negative myths that can sometimes surround this cultural art form.

5) Obstacles in career?
 I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree  with Tonya on this! The lack of professional ethics is rampant in this business!! I cannot at times believe the lengths to which someone will go to obtain a job. To have no class and get up DURING someone else's show at a club and dance through their performance WHILE they are trying to entertain is unthinkable. They pass their business card directly to the boss as the show is going on and say "I do that too! Call me!" instead of talking to another dancer re: the job situation. (for example: Are they looking for any substitute dancers to fill in for them? or "Do you know who is hiring in the area? I am new here.) If they invite you to get up and display your personal talents, be gracious enough, and  do not copy another dancer's style or act. Wait for an invite, do not jump up and dance through the other person's show and give an unsolicited audition on someone else's time! That is just above and beyond tacky! I also cannot condone going in and offering the same show that someone else is doing, especially for less money. Whether it's a showcase or just a show. Know your own realm and capabilities.The strangest thing that has happened to us is someone doing a show or competition just like what we offer, even in the same place!. And  they are not able to make it work for them. They  then called us and asked for our help. Don't  make the mistake and assume that if it works for someone else, you can do  it too! Or that it must be easy! It's NOT!Think of something you know how to do, or something different you can offer and do it in a different place and time, please!

6) On entering  B.D.U.C. ( Bellydancer of the Universe®COMPETITION).
Thank-you for the compliments on the event!  Your only competition should be with yourself! You are your best and worst critic. The competition was created to promote good will among dancers,to further knowledge of the dance and give practical application in the field, while challenging yourself to go above your usual peak of perfection. Come  in with good spirit, self awareness of what you exactly wish to accomplish, and most of all, humility. Everyone is putting  out their best up there and behind the scenes to make a great event. Everyone is equal as a person and deserves the same consideration as you do, even the coordinators of the event. However, know yourself -- how do you react to "rejection" or not winning. If you don't win, do NOT blame the producer, or a certain judge, or the # you went on, or bad mouth the event, etc. and if you hear that from a  current OR prior competitor dismiss it and know where they are coming from.  Bad sportsmanship! Make it your own personal growth experience. Be a logical person -- this was the choice you personally made. You chose the costume, you chose the music, you choreographed your routine. All your personal choices, and it's one performance. NOW, enjoy the other benefits this event provides. Go take a class in something you feel you could use improvement on from an expert in the field. Network with other dancers and  celebrity judges you admire, shop for a new costume, enjoy the shows, and eat, drink and be merry, and most of all, don't let it stop you from entering next year!

7) Mother /Daughter relationship:
It is at times, (not often though) VERY  hard to work with someone that is close to you. You must at times divorce yourself from the fact that you are related, and dismiss the warm and fuzzy views or opinions concerning work. Tonya is TOO NICE  at times, and at times I am not!  This however creates a balance between us. Tonya's assets and contributions to this business are completely different than mine, and I learn a lot from her. Tonya's non aggressive, passionate and compassionate views on life and  work and how they intertwine reflect in her  business style.  Doing the " HONORABLE " or "RIGHT" thing is a very important creed in my upbringing. I am so fortunate to have had parents that implemented that thought process throughout their daily lives. It's truly something they live by and strive to uphold in whatever they do! I admire, love, and commend them to the highest degree!

8) Favorite dancers or Idols:
 Well, this interview ends as it began -- " TONYA." That says it all for me!

I thank you for this opportunity to share part of my life with you, and taking the time out of your busy day to read this interview. Time is one of the biggest commodities one can give -- that and the gift of ones' self.  I  thank my parents for giving me both, time and themselves! They also gave me life and something they both dearly love -- this dance!!

ATLANTIS: "Brightest Star in the Universe" by Cari Marten Trimper

Atlantis is the true embodiment of the Universal Dancer.  She was called to do an overnight Egyptian Spectacular at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas only to return in time to jump on a plane to work in Florida at the request of Kahreen and Kira, another wonderful mother/daughter duo. 

Atlantis has all the necessary requirements that make a star a Star.  She is a terrific vocalist, outstanding actress and her dance (all kinds) is unbeatable.  Her international video credits alone have brought her world fame, along with her television and stage work. 

More important than that, she is an extremely honest and dignified person with no heavy ego problems.  She knows her power, yet is kind and sharing.  Whenever she has a special job such as one with famous people, she will always do her best to get as many dancers involved as possible, and they always get full credit. 

She choreographs the numbers for her company so that everyone has equal time and she never uses her company just as a back-up for herself.  She needs no adoration yet receives it from all who know her and watch her perform.

AtlantisAtlantis has most recently captured the International Academy Award for Best Cabaret Dancer and just prior to that she received the part of the Greek dancer in the great soap opera "The Young and the Restless" with wonderful acclaim from the cast itself.

When I asked her about it, she was completely down to earth (with the exception of still floating on the cloud cause Mr. Soap himself (Eric Braydon) was such a dream.  She always loves working with Guy Chookoorian and son Arshak who are great musician/friends and said the whole experience was he best!

Most recently Atlantis has completed a docudrama in which she depicted "Hakfet Famey" the famous belly dancer girlfriend of WWII's General Romel, which will also be aired internationally.  This young lady has never had to butter up her credits.  They are for real.

Respect is most meaningful to Atlantis.  Her respect for her mother and the dance serve as a wonderful guide for us all.  Her choreography and teaching skills are the finest and her performances are pure energy and strength. 

When I asked Atlantis how she manages to keep everything going, she calmly answers, "There is life after belly dancing.  I must  have equal time for my personal life as well as for belly dancing and entertaining.  That way I am always in a balanced state, and I am very grateful for my wonderful life."

Tonya and Atlantis
PMB 343, 5318 East Second St.
Long Beach, CA 90803-5354

Phone/FAX: 562 433 6615 -- Email

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