Were you always interested in dance?

Surprisingly, I was not interested in any form of dance as a child. I was very shy and so my mother tried to make me learn ballet and jazz while growing up in Lyon, France. I disliked going to these classes but as she persisted, I was enrolled in a rhythmic gymnastics course for about eight years. That helped me to follow choreography and improve my flexibility.

When did you first become interested in belly dancing?

It was during a trip to Morocco when I was 12 years old. I saw a belly dance show and fell in love with Oriental music and the movements of this dance.

How did you learn this dance?

You can call me a belly dance geek, for I’ve literally travelled the world to learn this dance from various teachers. My first formal lesson was in Italy when I was 20 years old. I took classes with several noted teachers for about two years.

Vaina keeps herself fit with her intense daily training and some toning workout in the gym. 'Also, I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.'
Courtesy of Johnson Philip

Then I came back to France and used to travel one weekend every month by train to learn belly dance in Germany from an Egyptian teacher. At the same time I was also taking intensive classes in France with other teachers. As Egypt is the birthplace of this craft I was interested in understanding the cultural nuances behind this dance. So, I’d fly to Cairo to take private classes. I also went to Ukraine to perfect the technique from Ukrainian dancers.

How did your family react to your decision to learn belly dance?

My family never really liked the fact that I was so passionate about belly dance. But I am very stubborn. In fact I wanted to show them that I could succeed in this art form.

Today they’ve accepted my choice and are happy with my accomplishments – I have won competitions internationally, taught students, conducted belly dance workshops in various countries and performed across the Middle East.

What is the most challenging aspect of the dance for you?

This dance needs a lot of training and consistent effort. It’s all about integrating the body movements, and you don’t get these moves in one day. Belly dance is very sensual and can easily look vulgar if the dancer is not well-trained. Tuck your pelvis in and put your chest up, is my secret mantra before starting any belly dance movement. Having that perfect posture makes the dance form look graceful and elegant.

[Grooming on the go: handy beauty travel kits for skin, hair and body]

How do you keep yourself fit?

I train so much every day with belly dance that I do not need any additional exercise, besides some regular toning in the gym. I have two dogs and walking them daily is another form of workout. Also, I eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

How did you come to Dubai?

I came to the UAE in 2016 with a job in the public relations industry. Along with that I started working as a freelance dancer doing corporate events, weddings and shows on the weekend. After three years here I can say that I have finally managed to find my path in Dubai. Today I dance at events, choreograph shows and also teach students. Belly dance has helped me to travel to many countries including Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Egypt, Ukraine, Bahrain, Kuwait and Maldives.

What is a typical day for you?

In the morning I usually prepare steps for my classes and improve my own technique. Then during the day I have my group classes and private classes. In the evening I have my shows. My entire day revolves around dance – whether it is training, fixing my costumes or watching thousands of belly dance videos.

Dancing under the arc lights in eye-catching costumes must bring its share of glamour and fame – how do you deal with it?

I am a very shy person in real life, but on stage I completely transform. There is a lot of glamour in belly dancing especially in the UAE. But for me the biggest fulfilment is when I see people enjoying the show. It is also about how you present yourself. As long as you look elegant in eye-catching revealing costumes people respect you. After a show many people ask me about the dance form and this is proof that they look beyond the costume.

In several parts of Middle East there is a social stigma attached to belly dancing as it is considered a sensual art form – what has been your experience?

Even though it has originated in the Middle East, the respect for belly dancing as an art form is sometimes missing. I choose specific venues and do not accept all event contracts. I particularly dance at corporate events, weddings, birthdays with only women, and early shows in five-star hotel restaurants to avoid unpleasant situations.

Your most memorable moment?

When my troupe El Farashat won the first place in 2017 in one of the most famous belly dance festivals in Egypt called the Ahlan Wa Sahlan. Getting this recognition from the birthplace of belly dance was an amazing reward. The other special moment came when I had the opportunity to be part of a music video aired on Egyptian TV. I had a lot of fun shooting for this shaabi music video clip as it was a true Egyptian experience.