Shimmy Shakti Troupe Members


Karla Marie
Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Instructor, Belly Dance by Karla Marie
Choreographer/Troupe Director, Shimmy Shakti Troupe
Owner, Karla Marie Fine Art Photography
Director Institutional Development, International School of Louisiana

Karla Marie began her belly dance studies in 2005 at MidEastern Dance Exchange in South Beach- Miami under the studio direction of Tamalyn Dallal and Bozenka. Most recently, she has received training from World Renowned Belly Dance instructors like Suhaila Salimpour, Amani of Lebanon, Amar Gamal, Isaam Houshan, Zoe Jakes, Valerick Molinary, and Aziza Nawal.

Describe your first belly dance class:
I felt awkward and like I had never even danced before. I felt like I almost didn’t even know how to move my body. I remember we practiced zills (finger cymbals) and I thought my head would explode. I felt lost. Yet, somehow… I loved it. I could not believe I had never experienced this dance before. The feeling of being grounded and lifting my arms and feeling free and happy. It was all very confusing.

Why do you belly dance?
Because I have to, it is my instant connection to me, to my heart and spirit. I belly dance because I love the people I have met through the dance and the incredibly support goddess circle and protection it creates around me. I belly dance because I get to share with different women from all walks of life and share a positive space and time with them. I belly dance because my body likes it, it’s gentle on my ankles, sweet to my hands and arms, and it holds me in a safe, warm place. I belly dance because it’s challenging. I have been dancing for so long and there is so much more to learn… so many cultures and styles, it’s endless. I belly dance because it is joyful and freeing!

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
Come to class!!!! Make it through the 4th class and you are hooked for life!
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Adelle Lynn Bergman
Place of birth: Arizona, USA
Director of a non-profit, the Crescent City Cafe

Why do you belly dance?
I belly dance because there's always been a dancer in me and this dance fits. I dance to exercise, I dance to get out of my head, and I dance to surround myself with the wonderful women that make up our troupe!

When did you start belly dancing?
February 2015 (1 year ago)

Describe your first belly dance class:
It was such a great experience that I kept coming back! I attended because Karla kept asking me to come, so I showed up one morning to be nice. I enjoyed myself immensely. That one hour class included aerobics, focusing on body movements, energizing music, and a group of encouraging women enjoying that time together. Not to mention ending the class stretched out on a yoga mat listening to calming music in the dark.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
Come dance with us!
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Rickey Lee Wingo
Newport, RI
Director of Sales, Carl Mack Productions
Member of the Organ Grinders

When did you begin belly dancing?
Taking it seriously, August, 2015 (7 months ago)

Describe your first belly dance class:
It was something MAGICAL walking into the studio meeting my teacher for the first time. Her smile and aura were so captivating, that I knew I would be in for the rest of my natural born life. I already had previous dance experience, from ballet to hip-hop, as well as being an ice skater and a gymnast; so, therefore, it felt natural. Well, until the leg squats began. Just kidding. I'm in it to win it, but also, to keep my ethos alive and share my love for dance and music.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
I would tell the world that unless you try it, don't knock it. You only live once and you will be amazed of what your body can do once you put your heart and soul into it!
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Komal Brown
Place of birth: New Orleans
Profession: public health study coordinator

When did you begin belly dancing?

Describe your first belly dance class:
I had seen Bellydancing before and was excited to try. it was a point in my life when my health was not the best and I was out of shape and feeling not in my body, and being able to jump in from where I was, and enjoy the gentleness of the movements but at the same time start to get back in touch with my core and major muscle groups was great, and motivated me to heal and strengthen.

Why do you belly dance?
The dance feels very organic and wholesome to me in my body, but leaves so much room for improvement and refinement. As I continue to practice and see myself improve, it is very satisfying and motivating.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
It is a beautiful, anatomically compatible, and very accessible form of body movement. Wherever you are in fitness, age, or movement experience, you can start at your level and learn how to make the dance your own.
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Jess DeBold
Born in New York City raised in Greenwich, Connecticut
Traffic Coordinator at Renaissance Publishing

When did you begin belly dancing?

My first class ever was in Cairo, Egypt in June of 2013. I started taking classes on a consistent basis in August 2015 at Nola Spaces

Describe your first belly dance class:
My first belly dancing class in Egypt left me with a whole new appreciation for belly dancers. I was confident in my ability to move and dance, especially because I am a 4th degree blackbelt and I am just always dancing. However, by the end of my first class I knee that I would never be able to move like the instructor could without some serious dedication and practice. My first class with Karla was very similar, but the difference was that by the end of my class, I couldn't wait to come back - I knew that I was only going to get better from there (Karla's class really gave me the hope and confidence that I can get there one day)!

Why do you belly dance?
I really miss the Egyptian culture I experienced abroad, and I am just obsessed with Arabic traditions. In addition, I wanted a weekly workout that I would have fun doing!

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
What do you have to lose when you have everything to gain from trying something so new and unique!
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Maria Leon
Place of birth: Guatemala City, Guatemala
Profession: Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Kenner

When did you begin belly dancing?
I began belly dancing about 3 years ago but had taken a class prior to that

Describe your first belly dance class:
The best part was putting on a shimmy scarf for the first time. After that, youre hooked for life.

Why do you belly dance?
It's an absolutely beautiful dance. I fell in love with it and its costumes, but more importantly I feel incredibly confident and empowered when I am dancing.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
You'll have a blast and you'll love yourself for doing it. I would also say that anyone can bellydance.
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Abigail
Place of birth: New Orleans
Profession: I am a full-time high school student at St Mary’s Dominican High School.
Affiliations with any other New Orleans dance/Marching group or organizations: Jefferson Ballet Theatre/ Myra Mier School of Ballet

When did you begin belly dancing?
I began in February 2015

Describe your first belly dance class:
I was lost and felt awkward but loved it anyways

Why do you belly dance?
Because it makes me feel beautiful and allows me to express myself in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. There is lots of positive energy

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
Do it, it is one of the best things to try! It helps gain confidence and move in ways you didn’t know your body could.
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Mara Lattanzi
Wichita Falls, Texas
Costume Designer

When did you begin belly dancing?
About 3 years ago

Describe your first belly dance class:
It was really challenging, but in a way that made me want to work at getting better.

Why do you belly dance?
I belly dance because it's not only a very body positive form of exercise, it's celebrates my form, celebrates feminine energy and community, and it just feels good to dance that way.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
It's fun and freeing. It's the way women are supposed to dance.
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Melanie Powers
New Orleans, Louisiana
Public Health Program Manager

When did you begin belly dancing?
I took a few classes in 2010. I began taking classes more regularly in 2014.

Describe your first belly dance class:
I don't recall many specific details, but I do remember that there were women of all shapes, sizes and ages. I felt safe, joyful and free.

Why do you belly dance?

When I belly dance I feel whole. I am more compassionate with myself and others. When I belly dance I am in love with my body and when I watch other women, I am captivated by every movement, curve and imperfection; I marvel at our beauty and power. Belly dance, whether I practice in solitude or in vibrant company, meets me where I am each day and reminds me that I'm connected to all beings. I belly dance to feel beautiful and peaceful.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
See Karla.
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Jennifer Charbonnet
Place of birth: Seattle WA
Profession: Medical Coder

Affiliations with any other New Orleans dance/Marching group or organizations: Highland (Scottish) Dancer & Zumba enthusiast at my Gym, Relay for Life of Westbank committee member

When did you begin belly dancing?
This past year

Describe your first belly dance class:

Very welcoming & accepting of all skill levels, by the end of class I felt empowered and proud of my womanly curves ( and what having babies has done to my body) I felt totally accepted as I was and the next day i had sore abs- so thats good

Why do you belly dance?

Originally as mother/daughter bonding time, but now it makes me feel in-tune with myself & my feminism

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?

I tell everyone I meet they should take up belly dancing & how it works your abs and helps you "shake what your mama gave you" and its very empowering and freeing for us girls. I Love it!
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Liz Turner
Place of birth: Jefferson, La
Profession: personal trainer by day, bartender by night

When did you begin belly dancing? August 2015

Describe your first belly dance class:

Empowering, challenging (both physically and mentally), and reviving

Why do you belly dance?
I belly dance to challenge myself, both physically and mentally. And to explore what sassy moves these magnificent bodies we have are capable of!

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?

DO IT! Don't be intimidated, don't give up because you start thinking you're not good or talented enough! Let yourself embrace the imperfect, the curious, and the fearless goddess we all have within us!
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Lesli Renee Richard
Place of birth: Southern Baptist Hospital, New Orleans, LA
rofession: Administrative Coordinator with Tectus Security (thanks to legislation ruining the film business last year)

Affiliations with any other New Orleans dance/Marching group or organizations: The Organ Grinders, Thrilla Guerrillas

When did you begin belly dancing?

September 2015

Describe your first belly dance class:
Exciting and challenging - the more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn!

Why do you belly dance?
I've always been interested in learning but the love keeps me going. It's literally bringing me back to myself and I'm letting go of things that no longer nourish me. ;-) And my body is really changing for the better!

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
Don't wait! Do it now!
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Heather Lee Searles
Place of birth: Lewiston, Maine
Profession: Non-profit management with agency working to end homelessness
When did you begin belly dancing?

2012
Describe your first belly dance class:
Fun and bewildering. Took it as a challenge upon turning 40 because I wanted to do things that scared and challenged me.

Why do you belly dance?
Love the community of women and making my brain work in ways that are foreign to it (like knowing right and left!).

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
Do it! A wonderful community of women and you can bedazzle your bra!
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Yulia P. Quintero
Place of birth: San Francisco, CA
Profession: Assistant Head of School, Laureate Academy Charter School, Harvey, LA

When did you begin belly dancing?
2013 When I was a teacher at ISL with Karla. I moved away and reconnected with Karla in January!

Describe your first belly dance class:

FUN!! Everyone was welcoming and friendly!
Why do you belly dance?

I started belly dancing because I needed to do something positive for myself. I was under a lot of stress at work, and I started feeling like I was continuously putting out fires daily. I wanted a time that I dedicated to something that made me smile. Belly dancing 100% did this for me! I look forward to it every week and it has MADE me carve out time for myself.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
Just come! Experience the energy! The troupe is made up of a wonderful and diverse group of women that only bring positive contributions to the group. Words can't really explain how you feel when you're in class.
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Wanda A. Romain
Place of birth:New Orleans, Louisiana
Profession: High School Teacher

When did you begin belly dancing?
1st Class: July 2013

Describe your first belly dance class:
Reaction: Petrified--felt awkward and out-of-place

Why do you belly dance?
Why?: To liberate another dance persona within me so that she can connect with something new and life-affirming
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Ciara Allemand
Place of birth:New Orleans

When did you begin belly dancing?

Began belly dancing This year
Describe your first belly dance class:
My first belly dancing class was something new and honestly kinda awkward lol

I belly dance to have fun during my stressful days

Why do you belly dance?

I would tell someone who's interested in belly dancing that it's fun and just about anyone can do it no matter what.
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Jess Tregle
Place of birth: New Orleans
Profession: Natural Healing Specialist & Empowerment Coach

When did you begin belly dancing?
Began in July 2015

Describe your first belly dance class:
First class: The first belly dancing class with Karla was so fun! I remember being tired after only the warm-ups lol

Why do you belly dance?
I belly dance because it lets my soul dance in new and intriguing ways, and I love expressing myself within this style of dance.

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing?
Belly dancing is so fun! You'll learn so much, have fun, and exercise at the same time! Come to Karla's class! 💁🏻 lalalala
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Diana Marie Mateo Hernandez
New Orleans, LAMarketing & PR RTA
Affiliations with any other New Orleans dance/Marching group or organizations: nada nada....but I'd love to try out one of these days! (I'm lookin atchu Gris Gris, Organ Grinders and Sirens! Someday I'll woman up!

When did you begin belly dancing? 2006 or 2007, soon after I met my beautiful soul-sista Amae Amani-- but she moved to Austin before I could learn my first full song!I remember we'd started learning a choreography to "Drama Queen". I also still have Dolphina's "Goddess Workout" on VHS from like y2k if that counts as "beginning belly dancing"! Haha! I love that hippie chick.Describe your first belly dance class: It was just my friend and I in a new intro class taught by my good friend Amae Amani, and she knew that neither of us had a dance background, so we just took our time stretching, feeling out the music and goofing off, frankly. The goal of that class was to instill the proper "chest-lifted, hips tucked" stance and to begin teaching us about what a rich history these movements connect us to when we dance them.

Why do you belly dance? I Bellydance because it makes my soul feel beautiful.What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing? Bellydance is a great way to learn your body and express yourself. Being in Karla Marie's class is one of the most joyous parts of my week because
I'm with a group of empowered people who want nothing more than to build each other up, help each other grow, and learn new forms of art and creative expression-- and this happens every single time the Shimmy Shakti Troupe gets together. This positive energy is a reflection of our amazing teacher, Karla Marie, who has such a brilliant inner light that she casts upon us every class, allowing each of us to shine and sparkle in our own ways when we share in this dance form.(Even though my clunky feet and my chunky arms are not making me feel so bright right now as I'm practicing my pistons and matadors....)
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Tammy Marie Gilbert
Born in New Orleans
Physical therapist specializing in outpatient orthopedics.

Belly dancing 2 years

Why do you belly dance? It gives me peace, serenity, stillness and reminds me of the breathe of life. Dancing makes my soul alive for without it I would only exist in this chaos of a world. Dancing makes life worth living.

Describe your first belly dance class: my thoughts entire class are my hips may be fused together and there is no way they are going to move like that. But I must come back for more!!!

What would you say to someone interested in belly dancing? You will feel the power of true sisterhood and the positive healing energy is so captivating.
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Catherine Golden
Oakland, California
Kindergarten Teacher
Former Big Easy Roller Girl

When did you begin?
Danced for a few 10 week classes in 2007-2008 but have been with Karla since the Fall of 2015

Describe your first class:
I dance because it is a unique way to bond with other women and it is unbelievably beautiful to watch.

What would you tell someone interested?
Belly Dancing will inspire you as you allow yourself to feel the moves and enjoy this art of dance.
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Lauren Soboul Villegas
Shreveport, Louisiana
Bartender & Artist
Leijorette and former Big Easy Rollergirl

When did you begin?
I took a series of beginner belly dance classes a few years ago but didn’t do it again until recently finding my way to Karla’s group
Describe your first class:
My first class was fun! I belly dance because it feels like having a conversation with no words. Dance is a language that needs no translation. I love this primal form of expression and the bond I feel with my troupe.

What would you tell someone interested?

Anyone interested in belly dance should give it a try because you have fun while tapping into something special. Karla’s class is such a positive, supportive, uplifting environment! It makes me happy and it’s important to take time out of busy days and create beauty in your world.
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