Scholarship Recipient and Former Student
I began studying dance at age 4, starting with ballet in my birth country of Ukraine/USSR; soon after, my mother and I re-located to the US. At age 12, I was awarded a ‘promising student’ scholarship by the AIRE Foundation, based on my prior dance experience and my single-parent-mother’s endeavors to continue my dance education. I was one of the first scholarship students of the AIRE/ADITI Foundation, enabling me to study Flamenco dance under the tutelage of Alicia Morena Di Palma; in return, I performed at senior residences and various venues throughout Monterey County.
Flamenco was my first introduction to the world of ethnic dance. For me, it was not only a beautiful and powerful form of artistic expression, but also a way to ‘travel the world.’ Flamenco dance expanded my awareness and appreciation of other cultures and traditions, opening my eyes to countries and people that I could not literally travel to at the time, but could ‘visit’ and ‘discover’ through the world of dance. There were no passports or travel documents required… All that was necessary was curiosity, respect, dedication, and a knowledgeable guide/instructor. My intrigue with various cultures and dance forms began with the AIRE Flamenco Scholarship program and led me to a path of later studying Egyptian, Moroccan, Turkish, Persian, and Central Asian dance arts.
I am now a professional Middle Eastern Dance Artist and Instructor, as well as a multi-award winning performer, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I fuse my expansive dance experiences to create a unique style, yet strive to keep cultural relevance and authenticity in my dance performance and instruction.
I believe dance is a way to develop respect, understanding, and appreciation between people of different backgrounds, beliefs and identities. Inspired by the gifts I received from the AIRE/ADITI Foundation scholarship, I hope to also one day be involved in offering a dance scholarship program for youth, sharing the riches of various world cultures and dance forms. For more information, visit: MashaRaqs.com.
(Photo courtesy of Scott Belding.)