Born in San Francisco, California in the early 70s, Rachel Brice may very well be today's most well-known belly dancer in the world. However, her main training comes from yoga, which she studied and taught while also working as a chiropractor. She fell in love with belly dance in 1998 after watching a group perform in California. From then on, she started learning some steps on her own, watching movies by the mythical ballerina Suhaila Salimpour. She would film herself dancing to see her progress and she even enrolled in an university programme of Ethnic Dance. Yet, fate led her into a therapeutic career, which kept her away from her inborn talent for four years.
Brice was discovered in 2003 by the polemic mogul Miles Copeland - who has been constantly accused of having transformed his company of belly dancing into a more lucrative business, molded as a travelling Las Vegas with its own reality show DVD, even. Brice was later to join Copeland's mega company Belly Dance Superstars and, on the same year formed her own Indigo Belly Dance Company - which had its first full-length show and tour - Le Serpent Rouge, produced in 2007, under the direction of Copeland.
The profusion of adornments she carries is enough to show that Rachel Brice doesn't fit into the dancer with flowing skirts and golden jewellery stereotype; also, she very rarely smiles. This kind of deconstruction is a tribal dance trademark. It might also be a way out of the clichés that consagrated the Egyptian dance, which the Arabs dominated for centuries, in the western world. Rachel's garments are composed of countless tarnished coins, entangled fabric, dreadlock hair, flowers and bone intertwined with leather... An apparently unlikely combo that is surprisingly harmonious. The attempts at acting come close to the music, it's a combination of elements that point towards a primitive nomad past, where the embelishments are adaptations of things found in nature and of the contact with other "more advanced" communities, for example, the coins and the mirrors.
Through her precise, serpent-like movements, Rachel Brice emerges an atmosphere of mystery, where the woman is portrayed as mysterious, drenched in personal secrets, a dominant power that is slowly revealed in a seduction of force, rythm and elasticity. They're secrets daily life almost forces to fortget, but that are safe in the memory of women from every culture.
You can watch an impressive video of Rachel Brice's live performance in Paris, from the Belly Dance Superstars tour in 2005, here: