It's much more than exercise ... front page of The Daily Herald

Before I learned that belly dance is beautiful, has its history, huge wonderful community, culture and an art form, I was a normal hard working person looking for exercise to balance life and work. Thanks so much for Jenny O'Brien for capturing my thoughts and the background of my journey. I hope some of you can related! ♥ to all my teachers and the amazing belly dance community that I was lucky enough to have met in my dance journey! ♥ ♥ ♥

Honor to have a photo on front page of The Daily Herald with title "It's much more than exercise to Mukilteo belly dancer" on March 24, 2015.


Read full story on website

Thanks to the Herald staff and the Herald for the honor. I'm thankful for my family, friends and all that always be there and supports me in life.

Thanks Atlantis & Tonya for hosting and providing such amazing opportunity for many every year at Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition.

Short version of the story in "Good Living" section as well as in "Dance" section of the newspaper for the day.


-- Below is content as written from The Daily Herald March 24, 2015

Mukilteo belly dancer finds peace in competition

By J.C. O'Brien, Special to The Herald

Shrapnel from the bomb sank so deeply into the toddler's arm that the doctors wanted to amputate. Fortunately, the girl's grandmother knew something about herbs and salves, and she announced that no one was going to take her granddaughter's arm and took her home to heal.

That was 40 years ago in Vietnam, and as time passed, at least one piece of shrapnel fell out. The other piece might still be in Roxy Stimpson's arm, but it doesn't give her any trouble, especially not when she stretches that arm while she belly dances.Last month, the 43-year-old Mulkiteo resident and owner of Zamani World Dance in Bothell took home four trophies at the Belly Dancer of the Universe Competition (BDUC), edging out dancers from more than 11 countries as well as competitors from across the United States.Stimpson didn't start belly dancing until her late 30s when she'd found out the hard way that pulling 36-hour shifts as an IT consultant was bad for her health.After one particularly long stint of checking code, she felt a sharp pain in her back. A trip to the chiropractor was followed by a trip to the ER, which provided Stimpson's wake-up call: Sitting for all those hours had lead to a kidney stone. She needed to find some form of exercise.She tried yoga, Zumba and Pilates before settling on belly dance because she was looking for something that she could do without having to rely on a partner so she could do it any time.When she started in 2009, she had no thoughts of competing or making a career out of dancing. “It was just a sport,” she says. “People go to the gym five hours a week. I go to class three hours a week.”But while she found wonderful teachers in Seattle's Delilah Flynn and Bellevue's Zulaika, the economy made it a rough time to be a dance instructor. People weren't spending money on classes.As a business owner, Stimpson started thinking of ways to help her teachers. Coming from the tech world where proving yourself and acquiring certifications is a necessity, she decided if she competed and did well it would help her instructors.Her first competition win was a solo in the novice category at the 2011 La Danse, a competition held in March each year in Fife. She also competed in the Belly Dance of the Universe the same year, but went home without a win, although by June of that year, she won the apprentice category for Bellydance USA Competition and took a third place in non-pro alternative music.Used to breaking down large-scale projects into smaller bites, Stimpson sets clear goals for each competition, but for that first competition, she said, “my goal was just to get up and do my dance and not freak out.”Many dancers get overwhelmed by the prospect of competing, said international belly dance master and former dance competitor Delilah Flynn. She said she's ended up with dancers crying on her shoulders when they lose, but not Stimpson.Stimpson and her family left Vietnam in 1993 because there was “no food to eat.” Her father had been a prisoner of war for 13 years. The family of six shared a one-bedroom apartment their first year in Seattle, but each child went to college and graduated. These experiences, Stimpson says, give her perspective.“Competition is tough. Even though winning is amazing, but if you come in thinking you will win, it can be stressful. Come in thinking here's what I want to do and here's my goal. It's like my final exam for the year,” said Stimpson.Stimpson finds competition's feedback process particularly helpful, “it's like a private lesson with however many judges are there. One teacher would cost me so much money. For competition, you can have five to 10 teachers, plus the audience giving you feedback. “Like any great athlete, Stimpson continues to hone her skills through studies with local masters like Maria Morca and Tamalyn Dallal while taking advantage of a range of visiting instructors such as Turkey's Gigi Dilsah, Washington D.C.'s Artemis Mourat and Denver's Sadie Marquardt. Stimpson also continues intensive training with Portland-based Ruby Beh following a year of mentorship that culminated in the “Crescendo” showcase.One master teacher at BDUC always gives her something to work on for the next year. Last year, Stimpson said her fusion piece was all power, but was missing pause and sass.” Mashuqa wasn't judging her category, but took the time to give her advice: Slow down. Let people breathe. Show that you have the power to hold people. Other teachers had given Stimpson the same advice, she said, but sometimes “one voice comes in and stays.” She went home and continued to work. “Even six months ago,” she said, “at Belly Dancer USA, I was not quite getting that stillness,” but even after rough personal news, she achieved it at BDUC.Shortly before competing in the fusion category at this year's BDUC, Stimpson learned that her beloved mother-in-law, Renee Salmon, had lost her fight with cancer. Also an artist, a painter, her mother-in-law had already asked Stimpson to dance at her wake.Stimpson was in the habit of taking stress to the dance floor, so she honored her mother-in-law the best way she knew how — she took her grief to the stage. Dancing out her sadness helped prepare her for the roughest part of the competition, the universal.“Emotions are strange,” Stimpson said, “when you have something pass, you go through waves. Having something that helps you manage that feeling, to let it out in a very short burst is really amazing.”Another dancer she'd befriended that day took the category.The universal classic cabaret category is the toughest part of the competition, says Atlantis Rivera, BDUC producer. For the preliminary round, all competitors must demonstrate mastery of four rhythms (2/4, 4/4, 6/8 and 9/8), using veil and finger cymbals (zils) and dancing to the same song. Four finalists move on to improvise to an unknown song played by a live band, which includes the same four rhythms and the addition of dancing to a drum solo that will spontaneously happen at some point during the performance.Stimpson took the stage. Hair flying, finger cymbals catching the rhythms she danced in the moment, allowing both the audience and herself time to breathe. At the end of the weekend, she took home the Universal Champion and the People's choice, Specialty Prop (Fan Veil) and first runner up in Egyptian. BDUC producers Tonya Chianis and Atlantis Rivera are looking forward to her return next year — with one more champion win, she'll enter their hall of fame.Check out a performanceYou can see Roxy Stimpson perform at various community events and at the Seattle restaurant Harissa. Stimpson also produces various belly dance events throughout the year through her company Oriental Bliss Productions. In June, Stimpson will present Dr. Samy Farag's “Cairo Nights” CD release show in Bothell. Dr. Farag, an award-winning Egyptian composer, is travelling with Jayna and Stefanya of the Belly Dance Superstars. They will both be teaching workshops during the day. The “Cairo Nights” CD Release Show is 6:30 p.m. June 27 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 22600 Bothell-Everett Hwy, Bothell. Tickets for the show are $45 to $85, or $135 for the workshop and show. The workshop is $95. A VIP package, including workshops, dinner and a table near the stage, is $165. For more information, visit to danceRoxy Stimpson recently took over Zamani Culture House from belly dance master Tamalyn Dallal, renaming it Zamani World Dance. The studio offers flamenco, yoga, Bollywood, belly dance, Persian Dance and Asian Fusion (Vietnamese fan veil) for people of all shapes, sizes and ages. Stimpson hopes to add African dance and continue to make the studio a community meeting place. Teachers: Roxy Stimpson, Dahlia Moon (another BDUC champion), Janelle Bel Isle, Maria Morca, Mariana, Samarah and Shimmy Sister Kate. Zamani World Dance is located in Bothell Country Village, 23718 Bothell Everett Hwy, Suite C, Bothell. For more information, go to or call 650-898-7699.

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#zamaniworlddance #roxybellydancer #bellydanceroftheuniverse #bduc

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