Currently, she is a professional belly dancer working under the stage name of Badia, in Sacramento, California. Let’s find out more of what inspired her to become a belly dancer, and how you can see more of her!
- What/when was your first experience with belly dancing and what influenced you to study belly dancing?
A Prince video believe it or not! In his music video “7,” there was a belly dancer, named Mayte Garcia. I knew I had to learn this art form one day, even though I didn't end up taking my first class until much later.
After graduating from college, I needed an activity, and by chance I saw a flier at a local community center in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
- What were the steps you took to becoming a professional belly dancer?
Honestly, it seemed like a very natural progression. After I moved to Sacramento, I wandered around on second Saturday one weekend and saw Jodette’s Belly Dance Academy. I was so thrilled. I attended classes on a very regular basis, and one day when I was dancing she mentioned that I should do it professionally - that I could make money. That was the start. I continued do research, took more classes and some workshops by some accomplished dancers and masters teachers in California. I later started to compete and perform as a special guest dancer in different showcases.
Everyone’s step to becoming a professional might be a little different. But in my opinion, it all starts with your teacher (studio). She/he usually provides the information and resources. However, you must do your own research and train to be great and educated in the art of Middle Eastern dance. It can be quite complex.
- What does a normal day look like for you?
Ah, it varies! I am usually always dancing, to be honest. In the shower, doing the dishes, ironing, snake arms on the treadmill, and chest pops, LOL.
I try to always keep my body in motion. Largely because I have a naturally athletic build and I don’t want to become stiff. I try to dedicate at least 30 minutes to an hour of rehearsing (no real structure) at least 4 times a week. But again, it can come on at any time when I feel I want to try something, or practice fluidity and sharp movements. I often play Arabic music so, you can’t help but dance if it’s on in the background!
- In addition to being a belly dancer, you are also an actress and singer. Can you tell us what you enjoy doing most, and why?
I enjoy acting the most. Character work is the foundation to both my singing and dancing. In belly dance/Raqs Sharki, because my specialty is Egyptian, it is important for me to portray that character truthfully and thoroughly, if that makes sense. If I wasn't an actor, I am not quite sure my approach would be the same.
- If you could perform with anyone you wanted, anywhere in the world, with whom would it be?
Gosh, that is a tough question. I have two artists, and for different reasons.
As an actor, I would choose to work with Adrian Brody, in Italy. I have always longed to go back to Italy. I have flashes of memories from my childhood and a lot of feelings that remind me of being there. I don’t know why. Working with an actor with as much depth as Adrian Brody in that location would be epic!
The other artist I would like to work with musically would be Natacha Atlas (also a belly dancer) on a Massive Attack track – possibly in London!
- You have competed in competitions around the U.S. Can you tell us the process of entering to performing in a belly dancing competition, and what it is like to compete in them?
The process is actually pretty direct and to the point. I just do a search online for belly dance competition and pay the registration fee. There are usually quite a few different categories that the belly dancer can choose from. I select the category that my performance style and experience level is the best fit for. Then, I get to work!! Practice, practice, brainstorm, drill, and GO!
Oh goodness, I love competing. It makes my heart beat and pushes me to my personal best. Honestly, if it weren't so expensive to compete often, I would do it all of the time! I love putting on my headphones and zoning out before show time! It can be challenging to focus from all of the eye candy back stage! It’s like being a kid in a candy store. Talk about gorgeous costumes!
It’s really inspiring to compete. There are so many fantastic dancers worldwide bringing their "A" game! As a belly dance competitor your dancing will always improve because it forces you to grow. It always makes me want to be better than my last performance.
- What is your favorite part of belly dancing? What is the worst?
My favorite part of belly dancing stems from co existing with the music. I also love that it inspires me to be aware of my body. The rhythms and melodies in Arabic music are magical. No words; only the body can express the feeling. In belly dance, there are no rules, just understanding/learning the authentic technique and music, in my humble opinion. You then let your body do what it feels. I love that. It’s very liberating.
The worst part is the cattiness among each other due to limited opportunities (i.e. performance venues and income). However, on other side of that lies a very beautiful opportunity to connect with a group of women that share the love of the art of belly dance. I have met some very special people that I have formed relationships with. I would have never met them had I not been a part of the belly dance community.
- What was the most memorable experience you have had while performing?
Bellydancer of the Universe Competition in Long Beach when I entered the “Taxim” Category. It was purely improv. The anticipation and longing to completely shut off my brain and let my body walk with the music during a competition (where the stakes were high) was exhilarating!
I placed first runner up, and after receiving my trophy, an Egyptian lady approached me and gave me feedback that made my heart smile. It felt good to know that my interpretation of the music was not contrived through choreography…and to have someone of the culture feel moved by my performance was so humbling. The victory was a shock!
- Who are your inspirations in life?
My inspirations are my family because of the values that were ingrained throughout childhood and even now.
My other inspiration is Prince. Since I was a kid, Prince has inspired my artistry. There are others, but I can really go on forever. Eartha Kitt, for sure, is on the list!
- Where do you hope to be in 5 years, and what are the steps you plan to take to accomplish your goals?
In five years I see myself continuing to tell stories via television, film, and theater.
There is no formula really, other than to map out my goals and take it day by day. I've realized while on my journey that the steps rewrite themselves over and over. I wish I could map it out in plain English. God knows I try, and things always change. So for now, I pray, and pay attention to the signs.
- What would your advice be to someone who would like to start belly dancing or dance professionally?
Ask yourself why you want to do this, and be honest. Research, search within your soul, and pursue it from there. If you are in it specifically for the money and sparkly costumes, find another profession.
This art form is something that you must truly connect with, have a passion for, and be objective and realistic about what your goals are.
It IS possible to have a professional career as a belly dancer. I have seen many successful women do it full time! It takes a lot of work and dedication. As with anything, the sky is the limit. Just try to keep a pure heart and maintain integrity. Seek out positive relationships and opportunities to grow.
Thank you so much Bridggett, for allowing us to enter the mind of such a talented young woman. We hope to see much more of Bridggett Bess/Badia in the future!
You can see Badia performing at Kasbah Lounge in downtown Sacramento, CA. For additional information on Bridggett, or to see where she’s performing next, check out: www.raqsharki.com, www.Bridggettbess.com, or her Facebook page.