Art, history, culture and belly dancing

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

As she prepares for Tamarind’s next public event, founder Super Beth reflects on her contribution to the Milwaukee dance scene and how her classes can contribute to her students’ impression of them- same.

How can a Midwesterner like you get involved in belly dancing, let alone turn a passion for the art into a business? And how long have you been in business with Tamarind?

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

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

There are very few belly dancing studios these days. If you can find one, they tend to specialize in one style of belly dancing. The Tamarind studio offers several dance styles and is more like a cooperative.

What does Tamarind’s layout or floor plan look like and how many students do you accommodate at any given time?

The studio is 1200 square feet with a small kitchen and walk-in closet and can accommodate approximately 20 students per class. Our studio shows tend to be around 30 people.


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How does belly dancing figure into the Milwaukee arts and culture scene in general?

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

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

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

What changes have you been able to undertake since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, and how close are operations in Tamarind to pre-pandemic normality?

We are back to normal. Teachers can impose their own restrictions. In my classes, there are no requirements. People can choose to do what makes them feel comfortable.

How about explaining what a hafla is and what happens in one of your studios?

A 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 classes you offer differ depending on the age of a given dancer?

Students range from six to over 60 years old. We have a course for the little ones on Saturday. The rest of the classes are all ages, including teenagers.

What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

Seeing people who lack confidence grow in their 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 6:30 p.m. on Friday, August 12. Super Beth 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. His wide range of tastes and studies in music and food puts him in a good position to write about these very things for Shepherd Express.

Read more by Jamie Lee Rake

August 10, 2022

10:14 a.m.

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