I recently took a trip to Istanbul and had the pleasure of meeting and dancing with Nesrin Topkapi and Sema Yildiz. Two highly regarded and well respected Turkish dancers who began their careers in the 1970s.
It's not everyday that you get to work with and meet, what I regard to be - belly dance legends.
Why do I class these ladies as belly dance legends?
For me, they are my personal idols within belly dance. Both dancers have stood the test of time proving that that they are not a passing trend. Both Nesrin Topkapi and Sema Yildiz started their dancing careers at a time where belly dance was not shown on Turkish television to now inspiring and teaching the stars of today.
I connect with their dance on so many levels. I feel the emotion, beauty and grace within their dance as they effortlessly glide across the wooden floor. No frills belly dance, only clean footwork, hard work over the years, dance patterns and true ladylike personas.
Today we are used to watching belly dancers on YouTube with millions of views. We don't even need to go to class or watch dancers live in person anymore to get to know them or learn from them. Both Nesrin and Sema abla come from an era before YouTube and online classes. A time where dancers were mainly self taught (both of whom are), where you would go to the source to find belly dance music and recordings of your performance were few and far between. It's hard to imagine that now, right?
Listening to their stories and knowledge is so admirable. Many of the moves we do today are inspired by Sema Yildiz and Nesrin Topkapi and we don't even realise it. Floor work, arm patterns and travelling steps have in some way influenced today's belly dance.
I am honoured to have had the chance to indulge in their knowledge and incorporate this into both my teaching and performing.
I truly hope that I get the chance to meet with them again, Insallah.
Watch videos of Nesrin Topkapi
Watch videos of Sema Yildiz
Award-winning Turkish Oriental and Theatrical Fusion performer and teacher.