Aubre Hill (Artistic Director)
Aubre Hill is an international dance artist, choreographer, master teacher, and event producer. Aubre has been a professional dance artist for over twenty years including touring and assistant directing large ensembles across the United States, Europe, China, Taiwan, and Japan. She has directed numerous dance companies in full theatre productions as well as nightclub, weddings, and cultural context environments, and has trained and taught a generation of dancers some of whom have moved into full professional careers within dance. She was on faculty at California State University, Los Angeles department of Kinesiology teaching acredited courses in pilates, fitness, and dance for over 10 years. She owned and directed Movement Art Space, a dance and fitness studio in Los Angeles offering education for all ages and levels for three successful years. She can be seen as a featured artist in numerous films and videos as well as was the bellydance hit sensation of FitTV with her “All Stars Workouts”.
Aubre has choreographed full dance theatrical productions including “The Nutcracker~ a bellydance tale,” “Sketches of Arabia,” “Nights of Arabe,” and more as well as is the artistic director and choreographer for the Lumina Dance Company (now in it’s 13th year), the Qabila Folkdance Company (a company focused solely on Arabic folk dance and celebrating it’s seventh year), and the Beyajja Dance Theatre (a Raqs Sharqi dance company with a focus on developing individual artistic expression).
Over her career Aubre have been apart of various collaboratives to bring creativity, culture, and community together in new ways. This included Belly Fusion Los Angeles (a collective focusing on the experimental side of bellydance fusion), LA Raqs (an online service offering calendars and listings connecting the greatly Los Angeles and Southern California community), and Creative Underground Los Angeles (a multi-genre art collective blurring the lines of inspiration and expectation across music, dance, film, writing, and more~ Idiosyncratic Expression from the Artistic Fringe of the City of Angels). Additionally she has produced a wide range of events and performances bringing the community together in celebration of Middle Eastern Dance including monthly haflas, dance festivals, long running showcases, workshops, intensives, lectures, and more.
When not traveling, she can be found enjoying time with her husband, playing with her cats, sipping coffee, exploring photography, and creating new dance work in her home of Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES CHAPTER
Stefanie Mari (COMMUNITY MANAGER & Dancer)
Stefanie Mari, a Los Angeles native, began her dance training at an early age with a variety of western dance forms, including ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance. This love of dance eventually continued into her academic studies when she earned a dual degree from the University of San Francisco in Performing Arts & Social Justice (Dance), and African History. Stefanie also took this opportunity to begin expanding her dance horizons by exploring the San Francisco modern dance scene and studying with many of the local teachers that were available outside of her academic experience.
Upon returning to Southern California in 2007, she was accidentally introduced to Modern Egyptian Bellydance through her roommate. She began apprenticing with a commercial company and went on to start performing professionally with them shortly after. The more she learned about bellydance, the more she started to feel like she had finally found the dance form that she was meant to call “home.” Stefanie’s new found love of Middle Eastern dance also inspired her to start to study the folk dances of the region and seek more professional opportunities with local dance companies.
More than 10 years later, Stefanie has continued to dedicate herself to growing as a dancer. Most notably, she completed Aubre Hill’s Raqs Artist Project in 2015 and has attended programs such as the Arab Dance Festival, Journey Through Egypt and Middle East Music and Dance Camp to help further her artistic and cultural work.
She is proud to have worked closely with Aubre Hill on many projects: as a former Contemporary Dance teacher at Movement Art Space in Los Angeles, an assistant director & producer for stage shows such as “The Nutcracker~ a bellydance tale”, the co-director of Los Angeles Raqs, and as a dancer in duet performances and with both Lumina Dance Co. and Qabila Folkdance Co. As one of the original members of Qabila, Stefanie continues to be dedicated to the company both onstage and behind the scenes, and currently is serving on the Executive Board as the Community Manager.
Stefanie’s solo career has continued to bloom as well and she currently performs professionally as both a Raqs Sharqi and Contemporary Bellydance Fusion/Transnational Dance soloist. She enjoys the duality of these experiences and is endlessly inspired by both learning more about the deep cultural roots of Middle Eastern dance and by the creation of unique movement ideas. A recent transplant from Los Angeles to Seattle, Stefanie is looking forward to the next phase of her dance career and is excited to continue growing the artistic expression of her dance, as well as deepening her understanding of its cultural context and roots.
Alia (WARDROBE Director & Dancer)
Alia is an ATS, Fusion and Folkloric dancer in the greater Los Angeles Area. She started dancing in 2010 after being inspired by the dancers at the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She began studying American Tribal Style with Sooz Tribal, and was soon performing with her student troupe Azuluna. Being inspired by performing and her love for the Faire, she joined Seraphim Arabesque Ensemble, performing with them each season. Alia also has a love for folk music and folk dance which lead her to audition for Aubre Hill's Qabila Folk Dance Company. Currently, Alia is studying under Aubre Hill's mentor-ship and branching out on her own as a soloist.
IMARI ROSE (TREASURER & Dancer)
Imari Rose developed a love and passion for dance in high school with a background primarily in jazz. She later joined a hip-hop troupe in college and continued to perform with a professional group for 8 years. She enjoys the ability to express her emotions through dance and the opportunity to share that experience with others. In 2002, Imari coached an award-winning middle school drill team and color guard team for 4 years where she was able to help nourish that same love of dance with students. She later opened and co-owned a dance studio in order to allow others to explore the joys of dance in her community.
Imari was introduced to bellydance in 2013 when she studied and performed with a student troupe under the direction of Tonya Chianis. After 5 years of dancing in American Cabaret style, Imari began training with Aubre Hill in 2018 and discovered a new passion for Transnational Dance. Her interest in Arabic dance was sparked after taking multiple workshops with Aubre and Qabila. She is excited to continue training and developing further understanding of the culture and dance.
Alice Dee (Dancer)
Alice Dee started taking traditional and fusion belly dance lessons in 2009. Since then, she has been performing in student recitals, haflas, and other events. She has danced in groups, duets and solos and has choreographed all of her solos and some duets. About 5 years ago, she had the pleasure to volunteer and teach basic belly dance techniques to female teenagers in a youth at risk program in Northeast Los Angeles.
In January of 2017, she joined the Qabila Folkdance Co. This is the first dance company she's been in and is very excited to be a part of it. There she has learned, and continues to learn about, Arabic Folkloric dance and music. She loves dancing, performing, and especially growing and bonding with her Qabila family, a wish come true for her.
Now after taking the first two courses of Journey Through Egypt here in Los Angeles, her new wish is to be able to travel to Egypt someday to study Egyptian Folkloric dance in person.
Chloe Carrera (Dancer)
Chloe Carrera first fell in love with belly dance and folk dance at a very young age. After 10 years of ballet training, she dove into her official belly dance studies at 15. Her teachers and mentors have included the fabulous Z-Helene and Sonya Taft, among others. She is very happy to now be studying and dancing with Aubre Hill and the rest of the Qabila family.
Her other dance experience has also included two years as a member of a Ballet Folclórico troop, ten years in the Ballet Austin Academy, and years of Latin dance studies and social dancing.
When not dancing Chloe also pursues acting opportunities, writing, sewing, and any other creative pursuits she can get her hands on.
Deborah Albin (Dancer)
Deborah Albin, a perpetual scholar and a California native, began dancing while working on her doctoral studies in education. While in the throws of research she learned the power of the arts in building intercultural understanding. During that time, she also recognized that through the expression of creativity, human bonds are built. Through the convergence of these two ideas, Deborah sought to bring more creativity and the arts into her own life. She began with an introduction to Middle Eastern dance through American Tribal Style (ATS). She then, through the tutelage of Heather Shoopman and Susan Frankovitch, trained in tribal fusion styles. Although tribal remains close to her heart, she has since then, focused on both transnational and folkloric styles dance under the directorship of Aubre Hill.
In 2018 she became a member of the Qabila Foundation. With Qabila, she performed in a number of Southern California events and recently in the northern California Bay Area. Deborah’s interest in folkloric dance extends beyond performance and into audience education. Her goal is to support the preservation of rich Middle Eastern cultural traditions through study and dance with the Qabila Foundation. She is excited to support opportunities that expand Qabila’s educational outreach.
Although Eemah had been fascinated by belly dance when she was a teenager, it was not until her mid twenties that she was finally able to start learning the art of belly dance. Like many, she started off with videos and DVDs but decided a live class was the better way to learn. Initially, her studies began with Egyptian and American Cabaret; however, after falling in love with Tribal Fusion, she decided to first ground her knowledge by learning American Tribal Style and joined a troupe for four years. Upon completing Phase I of Rachel Brice’s 8-Elements program in 2017, Eemah developed a thirst and desire to learn more pertaining to not just different styles of belly dance, but most importantly, the histories behind them. In 2018, she joined Seraphim Arabesque Ensemble, the dominant belly dance troupe at the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Southern California. In addition to studying Tribal Fusion, Eemah has also returned to studying Egyptian Raqs Sharqi and seeks to get more involved in the belly dance community.
Loliana has always found joy in movement, music, dance, and performance. She studied piano, voice, and acting throughout her younger years, but it was not until college that she took her first dance class. She studied musical theatre at several different colleges taking classes in jazz, tap, ballet, modern, and choreography. While attending school, she worked as a dance aerobics instructor and stage performer and won Best of the Fest for her performance in the stage play, Oleanna, in the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She later became a Certified Massage Therapist and ERYT-200 Yoga Instructor and graduated from CSULA with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts and Dance in 2005. In 2009, she took her first class in bellydance and truly fell in love with the music, culture, and community of Middle Eastern style dance. She has studied with many instructors in Los Angeles, primarily in Egyptian Raqs Sharqi. Her background as a Shotokan Karate instructor has given her special appreciation for Raqs Assaya. Loliana has performed with Oceana and the Waves, Mesmera’s Seven Jewels of Dance and Zahra Zuhair’s Jawahare Performance Class and primarily performs as a solo dancer in the Los Angeles area. She is excited to join the Qabila Folkdance Company not only to learn and to grow but to continue to share her love and joy for dance with others.
Sandee Ramirez (Dancer)
Sandee Ramirez is a designer by day, and performer by night. She started her dance journey after witnessing a belly dance troupe performance at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire 12 years ago, and has since expanded her dance repertoire. Along with Belly Dance, she is also an Aerial, Burlesque, Pole, and Fire performer. After becoming a member of the Seraphim Arabesque Ensemble, she attained certifications of completion for Journey Through Egypt 1 & 2 with Sahra Saeeda, as well as Rachel Brice’s 8 Elements Phase 2: Cultivation. Furthermore, Sandee is a certified 200hr RYT and formerly taught Aerial Yoga, Pole Dance, Floorwork Choreography, and Flexibility.
Yuliya Lunessia (Dancer)
Yuliya Lunessia started out her dance journey in Los Angeles at the J. Erglis Smaltzoff's School of Ballet and Dance Art in 2002 and continued with the Santa Monica College dance program up to 2010. Between that time, Yuliya discovered a love for American Cabaret style of bellydance through various teachers in the vast dance community of Southern California, including Stefanya of Los Angeles Bellydance Academy in 2011-2013, and Movement Art Space in 2014-2017. Upon meeting Aubre Hill at Movement Art Space, Yuliya has had the fortunate opportunity to study choreographic and artistic development through the Raqs Artist Mentorship program, which has helped her develop her own unique balletic approach to her Middle Eastern dance training background.
Joining Qabila Foldance Company in 2015, under the direction of Aubre Hill, has further broadened her knowledge of various Arab cultural dances as she continues to study and perform with the company today, feeding her love of cultural dances even more.
It is Yuliya's personal belief that dance of any style is the connection between our own humanity with one another, and she strives to show this love of humanity with each performance.
Bay Area Chapter
(bay area chapter director)
Shanti Bardot (director) is a Bay Area bellydancer who specializes in Arabic Folk Dance, Turkish Roman, and collecting tiny instruments. Story telling through movement, cultural context, and musical expression are distinctive components of Shanti’s dancing. Dancing has been a lifelong passion for Shanti, having started bellydance at age 11 and pursuing opportunities for intensive training since age 17.
Shanti performs as a soloist throughout the West Coast and is currently a performing director with Arcana Music & Dance and Qabila Folkdance Company BA.
laura elisabeth (bay area chapter assistant director & dancer)
Laura Elisabeth is a Bay Area based fusion dancer who is enchanted with movement and music and enthusiastic about her community. She took her first classes in Middle Eastern dance and tribal style belly dance in 2007 and has been studying dance intensively ever since with world-renowned dancers from the Bay Area and beyond. She has had the immense honor to work and perform with groups such as Deshret Dance Company, Ego Umbra, MotherLode, SpinOff Tribal, Standfire Collective and Forlasi. Currently, Laura can be found taking as many dance and music classes as she can, expressing her unique solo style at local dance events, and performing with companies including Arcana Music & Dance. Her studies have guided her to folkdance - the roots of belly dance - and she is ecstatic to continue her journey and spread her love of the art with her new Qabila family.
Aryn is a fusion dancer making her way into the Folk Dance Revolution that is Qabilia! While she still considers herself a baby of belly dance with 5 years of experience, she has learned a lot of her pervious instructors. Aryn has been given the opportunity to train with Sarah Adams, the women of Allegory Tribal Belly Dance, and Jo Chavez. As a new member of Qabilia, this is the first time Aryn has focused solely on folk dance.
In her short time as a dancer, she has tried to learn as much about the history around Belly Dance and the many hats that it wears through its global reach. Her instructors sought to teach historical elements of the art form and how it's a truly expressive style movement that far surpasses the stage productions which the general populace sees today.
Aryn is incredibly passionate about learning more about the dance community and the folk styles that allow us to embrace fusion belly dance now. Her goals are to allow herself an avenue which she can be more grounded in her dance, but most importantly, more educated about the art forms within folk dance
caitlin mcneely (dancer)
Caitlin McNeely has had a long and fulfilling career dancing in her bedroom, at friends’ houses and in the crowd at live music shows since the tender years of early childhood. Dancing has always been her primary mode of expression and connection to self and joy. In 2016, she began studying belly dance in Houston, TX, and truly fell in love with the dance when she moved to Northern California and attended the Middle East Music and Dance Camp, where she had the opportunity to experience live Middle Eastern music from master musicians in the redwoods of Mendocino.
Since then she has trained in traditional Egyptian dance with Amina Goodyear and Fusion and Turkish Roman with Elizabeth Strong in the Bay Area. She aspires to learn and embody a deep understanding of Middle Eastern music and culture, while cultivating an ability to share her own unique gifts
Janan started learning bellydance in the 1980s in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, where she studied with Simone's Seventh Veil Dance Troupe, of which she was a member for about three years. She continued learning (with Sadia Camille) and performing while living for several years in Tokyo, Japan. She has trained with a number of instructors in the Bay Area including at the Suhaila Salimpour School (where she was Level 2 certified) and has been a student of Monica Berini for several years, concentrating mainly on Egyptian styles. She is a founding member of troupe Khamsa, which also focuses on folkloric dance. She has also been a student of Middle Eastern percussion with Mary Ellen Donald for more than 10 years.
joanna weAd (dancer)
Joanna Wead was fortunate to stumble into her first Belly Dance class in San Francisco in 2009 and hasn't looked back. She immediately fell in love with the art form and has continued to study with top dancers in the Tribal Fusion genre and well as Turkish Roman. She has taught Tribal Fusion Belly Dance classes at The Oberlin Dance Company's prestigious dance school in San Francisco and continues to teach as a substitute. In 2017, she completed the first two of four phases of Rachel Brice's 8 Elements of Belly Dance and, completing testing, received certificates of recognition. Joanna currently performs with international star Jill Parker in her dance company, Little Egypt, as well as with the trio Serpentine Society. She is thrilled to be joining Qabila Folkdance Company’s Bay Area chapter this year.
Karina Castellanos (Dancer)
Karina Castellanos from Mexico moved to SF eight years ago. She has experience in Latin rhythms, contemporary, flamenco, and jazz. When she discovered belly dance in 2002 found her real passion and has been practicing and performing this beautiful art form since then. She has been a troupe member of Foxglove Sweethearts, Little Egypt, Blue Diamonds, and most recently join Qabila Folkdance Company. Karina is also an Expressive Arts Psychotherapist, and she loves to use this dance art form as a way to empower and foster cohesion among women. Karina is also a mother and leads a weekly Baby and Me Belly Dancing class at Natural Resources.
leigh anne shaw (dancer)
A lifelong performer with a degree in drama, Leigh Anne Shaw discovered American Tribal Style® belly dance in 2004, studying at the famous FatChanceBellyDance studio and eventually earning her General Skills certification, teaching certification, and Sister Studio status. Enamored of the many dances that inspired ATS® and those that stemmed from it, Leigh Anne’s dance journey has led her to explore modern fusion with Ariellah and Cera Byer, world fusion improvisation with Wendy Marlatt, North African dance with Amel Tafsout, classic Egyptian with Nanna Candelaria, Malia deFelice, and Asia Arabesque, Salimpour and Jamila format with Andrea Sendek, and forays into ballet, flamenco, Roma dance, and kathak. As the director of her own troupe, Al-hambra Tribal Dance, Leigh Anne enjoys weaving stories into improvisational dance, echoing Martha Graham’s observation that “dance is the hidden language of the soul.”
Mirriam Rafiq Braden (Mims) is a music & dance lover. Born in Pakistan, she relocated to the Bay Area and studied ballet and jazz at an early age. She rediscovered dance as an adult when her love of Middle Eastern music led her to a belly dance class taught by master teacher Jill Parker. Fourteen years later, she still studies with Jill and is a guest dancer with Jill Parker's Little Egypt. She first taught tribal fusion belly dance while living in Vietnam in 2006 and is currently a substitute teacher for ODC's beginner belly dance class in San Francisco. Mims is in love with the Bay Area world dance community and is passionate about using her background, her bicultural heritage and her degree in International Public Health to teach and learn through dance.