A day in the life of a belly dancer in Dubai

Brazilian dancer in Dubai speaks about the sweat, steps and satisfaction of her job

Dubai: While spectators might be charmed by a belly dancer performing under the arc lights, tapping their feet to the rhythmic sound of the tambourine, it takes a lot more than just a belly jiggle to create an applaud-worthy spectacle.

Meet Silvia Ramos, 32, a professional belly dancer in the UAE for five years, not only known for her scintillating performances at desert safaris and five-star hotels, but also for her twinkling eyes and 100-watt smile. “To me, belly dancing is like meditation. You have to work the entire body, but your focus is so intense that all that the audience sees is the belly moving. The secret to belly dancing is actually in the way you move the knees. We arch the upper thighs and move the knees and move them rhythmically, keeping our core very strong. Then, we learn to move the hips in a linear manner to the beat of the tambourine,” said Ramos, who fell in love with belly dancing a few years. She has since worked to master it.

Passion for dance

A Brazilian national, Ramos took to dancing at age 12 in her hometown of Canela in south Brazil, and has been dancing for over 20 years. Every day, she works out for two hours in the morning to build her core stamina and also watches her nutrition.

Explaining the intricacies of belly dancing, Ramos said: “First, we work on the thigh and knee movements, then we shake our hips and our arms rhythmically and finally the belly. To get the dance technique right, we master the movements of each section of our body separately, but eventually integrate the movements so that all parts move together. The spectators see the belly movement only, as the dancer blends and integrates the movements of all parts,” said Ramos, who says belly dancing is one of the toughest dance forms.

Passionate about dance, Ramos decided to pursue her dream of being a professional belly dancer and moved to the Middle East, performing in Lebanon, Oman, Tunis and then UAE. She first worked in Abu Dhabi and moved to Dubai a few years ago.

”In Brazil, the samba is the all-time favourite dance that you see a lot of people performing, especially during the annual carnival. I too participated in the carnival once, but realised it was not my cup of tea,” Ramos said.

When she first took up belly dancing, Ramos faced opposition as her family took it to be just a very sensual dance and not a classic one. “They eventually accepted it,” she said.

A graduate in Physical Exercises (PE) education, Ramos runs her own dance school in Canela, currently managed by her mother. ‘Belly dancing is big in Brazil, but we teach all genres such as samba, ballet, pole dancing, and jazz. We also have yoga and self-defence classes,” said Ramos.

Regular fitness routine

Besides dancing for evening shows, Ramos works hard on her core muscles, working out in the gym for nearly two hours, five days a week. “My morning begins late, around 10am, as I return from my dance performances by 3am. I wake up and go to the gym every day without fail and do a combination of high intensity exercises including cardio, weight training, and core muscle strengthening.”

After gym time, by 2pm, Ramos takes a light lunch and rest, before her busy evening schedule kicks off. “My meals are oil-free, low carb and protein rich. So I usually have a piece of grilled chicken and a salad. I love fried food, but completely avoid it. In case I am having a burger, I will just have two pieces of French fries and leave the rest. I never consume soft drinks and hydrate by drinking at least 3 litres of water each day.”

Ramos then puts on her make-up and belly dancing attire at the desert safari site. She drives to the highway, is picked up by the team and reaches the site by 7.30pm. “On getting there, I wait in my tent, touching up my make-up and brushing up my steps. My show usually begins by 8.15 and ends by 8.45, after which I drive to the hotel for two performances. So in a day, I do at least 1 hour and 45 minutes of dancing.”

Ramos feels she is fortunate and blessed to enjoy this lifestyle. “I really love the UAE. It is very different from our culture in Brazil, but the country is very organised, clean and safe. I am able to earn over Dh10,000 a month, depending on the contract I sign. In Brazil, one cannot survive as an artiste alone and that is why I had to teach dance and open a dance school.”

Possessing a cheerful disposition, Ramos shares her philosophy in life: “I am determined that happiness is my goal and I try to do everything to be happy in life. It is important to keep things simple and uncomplicated. I am so blessed that I am getting an opportunity to earn a living by doing what I am passionate about. I never feel that I am working. I think more people can feel happy and relaxed by focusing on doing what they like or love and by following their dreams,” Ramos advises.

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