When professional belly dancer Sascha Olivier-Sampson was told ten years ago that she couldn’t dance because of a heart condition, she hung up her dancing shoes with little hope of ever moving to the beat again, writes Donna Collins from Swakopmund
Sascha had been an active ballet and African contemporary dancer since a young girl, but was told by her doctor that she couldn’t dance again due to a weakened heart. What he didn’t tell her though, was that one day she would dance again but this time from the heart, raising funds for charities and sharing her passion for the art of dance with all the people around her. In fact, a year after her life stood still, she came across an advert for belly dancing lessons in Windhoek, and the rest is history. Today, Sascha has danced on international stages, runs her own ‘Moon Goddess’ belly dancing studio in Windhoek, is director and choreographer of annual belly dancing variety shows which are sweeping the country, and is spreading her kindness by shaking her golden hips.
The popular ‘Shimmy for Shelter’ and ‘Helping Hips’ are two huge productions she puts on annually to raise awareness, with proceeds going towards animal charities, cancer patients and the elderly.
She has also taken her show down to Swakopmund for the second year. She says that it all really started after completing a teachers training belly dance course at the ‘Palace of the Winds’, in Cape Town, who also organise big annual belly dancing festivals in which she has participated. It was this that inspired her on to set up her own studio in 2008 offering classes twice a week, whilst continuing her day job which is a lecturer at the University of Namibia (Unam)’s visual arts department.
Combining two sets of students for her shows, that of her dancing studio as well as her Unam graduates, she has just completed a ‘Night of the Goddesses’, show at the Unam Space Theatre, incorporating all her art students who had the opportunity of putting together stage props, lights, stage construction, effects and so on. The show ran under the popular ‘Shimmy for Shelter’ annual belly dance extravaganza, which she has produced and directed for the past six years every May. Primarily it was to raise money for the SPCA but has spread this to the much needed national sterilisation and feeding programmes for township animals in Windhoek and Swakopmund.
Teaming up with Bohemian Magic Dance Company as well as fire spinners, the show this year ran over two nights in Windhoek with a cast of 20 performers. This was followed by a show in Swakopmund, and raised N$35 000 for these charities between the two towns. Commenting on the success of her shows, and the hard work and dedication that goes into tirelessly putting on these performances every year, Sascha says. “I wanted to bring awareness to belly dancing as an art, while at the same time do something for charity.
“ I grew up in a home where our pets were loved as part of the family, and I saw my dancing as a way to help the plight of those abandoned animals at the SPCA, as well as other non profit organisations who have a huge need. “ She goes on that her shows are for the whole family, illustrating to people that belly dancing is a beautiful form of dance, unlike the provocative stigma that has been created. At the same time she is providing her students and dancers from different genres with an opportunity to be part of big charity driven productions. “’Helping Hips’ was started last August to raise funds for other charity projects such as cancer and the old age, and when you see how much it means to the people that you have helped – it is the best feeling – and it is that which pushes me,” continues Sascha.
Sascha tells you it takes a year of planning, and that as soon as one show is done; she is onto the next one with rehearsals starting up next February. When asked about her doctors advise on “taking it easy”, Sascha replies. “I do not push myself beyond its boundaries, and am a lot more careful and kind to myself these days.”
CAPTION: Beautiful inside and out – ‘Moon Goddess’ belly dancer Sascha Olivier-Sampson has been producing full cast extravaganza shows for the past six years to raise money for charities. (Photo Donna Collins)