Tamalyn Dallal has danced and taught in 43 countries, was crowned “Miss America of the Bellydance in 1995, the Giza Video Award (1998), and given both the Ya Halla Ya’aal and the MBC’s lifetime achievement awards (2010).
At the age of 17, she saw a notice for bellydance lessons at the University of Washington Experimental College in 1976. She continued to practice in Flagstaff, Arizona.
In 1977, she went to college in New Orleans. Habiba, who was a famous dancer, took Tamalyn under her wing.
In subsequent years, she studied with Mish Mish and Zaphara of Seattle and Evelyn “Aziza” Hamsey of Miami.
In 1979, Tamalyn joined Volunteers in Service to America and was assigned to Miami.
A wave of 125,000 Cuban refugees arrived, so Tamalyn was sent to refugee camps. She then got a full time job in refugee resettlement Miami Beach.
Many refugees from this period were to become Tamalyn’s friends, neighbors, landlords, and dance students.
In Miami Beach she met an opera singer named Kaaren Mils who told Tamalyn that she should be traveling the world, not sitting in an office. She taught her the ropes of show business.
After two years pounding the pavement, Tamalyn started doing “bellygrams” and quit her day job.
Her first international gig was in Bogota, Colombia. Tamalyn’s sister, Bev, compiled her letters and travel journals into a book entitled “They Told Me I Couldn’t.”
She traveled to Brazil, then Buenos Aires, Argentina dancing along the way.
After returning to Miami Beach, Tamalyn rubbed elbows with famous and infamous people, which inspired Bev to produce a book about bellydancers, celebrities and bloopers called “Belly Laughs”.
In 1990, Tamalyn took her first trip to Egypt and was delighted to see Nagwa Fouad, Souhair Zaki, Azza Sherif and Fifi Abdo perform live.
In Egypt, star dancers were respected, rich, household names. Tamalyn came up with the name “Mid Eastern Dance Exchange”, rented a ramshackle storefront on a boarded up street in South Beach... And a studio was born. She registered it as a non profit organization and started applying for grants.
Through the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, she spawned many dancers who now have thriving careers. Some recognizable names are Amar Gamal and Bozenka. Students of her students, and their students have successful careers.
Tamalyn produced a festival called “Orientalia” for 14 years in Miami Beach then internationally in Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Zanzibar.
She was the first to create full scale theatrical productions of Middle Eastern dance in South Florida.
In 2001, she took her first trip to Asia. While in Hong Kong, she heard that you could take a train to mainland China. She knew she had to teach there, but wondered how to begin.
Amar Gamal had come to Miami as a refugee during the boat lift that Tamalyn had been involved with, and been her neighbor who would come upstairs for classes. Amar’s family, along with other neighbors, helped Tamalyn start the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange. Amar studied at the studio every day and Tamalyn became her mentor. Years later, Amar became part of the new troupe “Bellydance Superstars”. She told the director, Miles Copeland that Tamalyn should also be in the group. That was 2002. Tamalyn was on the first CD cover and in the first DVD. These went global and she was offered to teach workshops around the world.
In 2004, she was commissioned by Ulysses Press to write a book entitled “Belly Dancing for Fitness.”
Meanwhile, her parents in Washington State were turning 80 and Islamaphobia was raging throughout America. She made a drastic decision to leave Miami, live closer to her family and travel to five Muslim countries, stay for 40 days each and write a book called “40 Days and 1001 Nights.” She chose Indonesia, Egypt’s Siwa Oasis, Zanzibar, Jordan, and the Xinjiang (China), and film an accompanying DVD.
“40 Days and 1001 Nights” may not have eradicated Islamaphobia, but it altered Tamalyn’s perspective of the dance. She bonded with women, dancing together in their homes and produced two music CD’s by Zanzibar’s oldest orchestra, the “Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club”. Tamalyn learned about music history and structure from these elder, treasured musicians.
Tamalyn began exploring the connections between cultures of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. She learned how musical styles evolved because of empires and trade routes. Vestiges of women’s dance, hidden from view and not written about by the women themselves, was inspired by these layers of musical history, living on through the movements in women’s bodies. She felt common threads between far flung places from the Indian Ocean to the Takalamakan Desert.
She made two more documentary films in Africa: “Zanzibar Dance, Trance and Devotion” and “Ethiopia Dances for Joy”.
Meanwhile, back in the increasingly global bellydance world, Tamalyn taught at the Ahlan Wasahlan Festival in Cairo, Egypt. A Chinese woman named Estelle Shao introduced herself and asked why Tamalyn’s music was different from other people’s. She told her she had produced it in Zanzibar and it had a long history. Estelle said “It’s related to Chinese. I can feel it.” She invited Tamalyn to teach in China, and has continued to do so every Autumn since 2007.
Tamalyn’s parents have passed on, and she is glad she lived in Seattle and could spend quality time with them for their last ten years.
Now she lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. She spends several months a year teaching in China and other parts of Asia, teaches workshops nationally and internationally, and organizes educational events about Middle Eastern music, dance and culture, as well as exploring the rich local cultures of Louisiana. Tamalyn Dallal is known for her hands and arms, unique veil work, and her “Six Point” teaching method, using key points of the body, gathered through her travels, to create organic movements.