Art, history, culture and belly dance

Tamarind Tribal Belly Dance (900 S. Fifth St., Suite 203) is a performance group and studio that has been providing entertainment, cultural education and instruction in Asian and Middle Eastern dance arts for nearly a decade and a half.

As she prepares for Tamarind’s next public event, founder Super Beth reflects on her contributions to the Milwaukee dance scene and how her lessons can help her students make an impression for themselves.

How does a Midwesterner like yourself get into belly dancing, much less transform a passion for art into a business? And how long have you been working at Tamarind?

I started belly dancing on a whim looking for an opportunity to meet new people when I moved to Milwaukee. Tamarind Dance Group is celebrating 14 years and the studio has been open for seven years.

How does what you offer at Tamarind differ from what other belly dance studios present to the public?

Nowadays, there are very few belly dance studios. If you can find one, they tend to specialize in one style of belly dance. Tamarind Studio offers multiple styles of dance and is more of a co-op.

What does the layout or floor plan of Tamarind look like and how many students are you accepting at any given time?

The studio is 1,200 square feet with a small kitchen and changing room and can accommodate about 20 students per class. Our studio shows are usually around 30 or more audience members.


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How does belly dance figure into Milwaukee’s arts and culture scene as a whole?

Tamarind Belly Dance has been a local staple since its inception. We have performed at several local events including Bastille Days, Wisconsin State Fair, Summerfest and the South Shore Farmers Market to name a few events. At each Tamarind event, I strive to educate about the art form, history, and cultural context of belly dance.

What are some common misconceptions about belly dancing that you may have come across and how do you dispel them?

The biggest problem we face is whether we are cultural appropriation or appreciation. I acknowledge our cultural and historical roots through education.

What changes may you have made since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the US, and how close to pre-pandemic normalcy are operations at Tamarind now?

We’re back to normal. Teachers can set their own limits. There are no requirements in my classes. People can choose to do what makes them feel comfortable.

How about explaining what hafla is and what goes on in your studio?

Hafla is an Indian word for what Americans would call a party – dancing, socializing and fun.

What is the age range of your students and how might the lessons you offer differ depending on the age of a particular dancer?

Students range in age from six to over 60 years old. We have one class for the youngest on Saturdays. The remaining classes are for all ages, including teenagers.

What is the most satisfying aspect of your job?

Watching people who lack confidence grow in self-acceptance.

What do you see in the future for you and Tamarind?

Unknown; the paths are endless.

Tamarind’s next hafla will be a zodiac-themed 14th anniversary celebration at 6.30pm on Friday 12 August. Super Bet and other dancers are scheduled to perform. More information about the event and Tamarind can be found at tamarindbellydance.com.

Jamie Lee Rake

Jamie Lee Rake is a freelance writer based in Waupun, Wisconsin, whose wide range of tastes and study of music and food puts him in a good position to write about these things for the Shepherd Express.

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August 10, 2022

10:14 am

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