Meet the Graceful and Lovely Rosa Noreen

Meet the Graceful and Lovely Rosa Noreen

Rosa Noreen by Jon Reece

Rosa Noreen founded the Grace Academy in Portland, Maine. Besides teaching weekly at her studio, Rosa travels nationwide teaching workshops and has several instructional DVDs. Rosa’s strong background in ballet helps in creating powerful and graceful belly dance performances. For more information visit

When is the first time you saw dance?

My earliest memory of dance is of my Farmor and Farfar (my Swedish grandparents) doing some kind of upbeat partner dance around their house. The first time I can remember seeing dance on stage is during a Native Alaskan performance in Juneau, AK, where I grew up.

First time you saw belly dance?

The first time I can remember seeing belly dance was during my freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College, outside of New York City, in 1999 or 2000. Bellyqueen (the original trio of Kaeshi Chai, Amar Gamal, and Jenna) was hosted for a show and workshops that were free to students. I remember the shimmering wings, dramatic lighting, and fancy costumes– and the terribly cliched review in the school newspaper that followed, which did not do them justice!

Rosa Noreen by Rebecca Waldron

How did you get started?

Even though I got to see Bellyqueen and live near NYC during my college years, I didn’t get into belly dance until after I moved to Maine. I was a former ballet dancer who quit due to injury. One day I was stopped at a traffic light in Portland, ME, in 2003, and I saw beautiful, happy women in a belly dance class through the window of a tai chi studio. They had long skirts and shimmering hip scarves… I wanted in. It took almost a year for me to set foot in a class, but once I did, I was hooked!

Why did you pick / love bellydance?

I love the combination of tradition and individuality in belly dance. Great belly dancers draw on movements that have been done for perhaps thousands of years– and let their own personalities come through. There is so much to learn about the cultures of origin, the progression of this dance in all different countries, the unique dancers who are remembered for their various influences, the music and the languages.

I also love the fact that belly dance comes out of a solo and improvisational tradition. No dance partner needed, no choreography required. Respond and interpret in the moment! Those elements combine to form a freedom that I had not experienced before. Social dancing was never comfortable for me– until I found belly dance!

Why do you dance?

Without dance, I get grumpy, I have trouble sleeping, and I miss my creative outlet. I love the fact that dance can be both exercise and and art form, together or separately. One can focus only on technique or one can focus only on expression– but when the two are paired, magic happens!

Anything inspiring you lately? It could be a dance style, dancer, anything.

During the last few years, I’ve been looking especially carefully at the connections and differences between belly dance and ballet. These two dance forms are very different– but they can be complimentary. I love the structure and precision of ballet; I love the grounded flow of belly dance. Both challenge me in different ways. I enjoy finding the places where they connect, and the places where they diverge.

Rosa Noreen by Yasmina of CairoBallet is by no means the basis of everything. Ballet and ballroom elements began to be fused with Middle Eastern dance once it started to be set on large stages where the audience was less intimate. Ballet skills are wonderful for creating lines, for projecting energy to the far corners of a room, and for traveling through space with great speed. They are less helpful when it comes to the more rounded and earthy movements, tilted hips, and shimmies that define belly dance. Some ingrained ballet habits have hindered my belly dance learning. It took a year to learn to shimmy with abandon! Other ballet habits have been endlessly helpful. Figuring out the how to shift between body “languages” is a joyful pursuit.

What is up next for you?

I have been developing online learning courses that provide a structure and a schedule, but also allow participants to go at their own pace. “A Dancer’s Hands & Arms”, “Ballet Skills for Belly Dancers”, and “Delicious Pauses” have been popular topics so far!

These are four-week online intensives during which participants receive three emails per week, each containing a how-to technique video, an explanation of the exercise to drill the newly learned technique, a drill video, and a written version of each.

These are self-study courses, but I also offer a few VIP slots for personal feedback during the course to enable dancers through assessment and accountability. Registration is through my website at Dancers can sign up for my email list through my website to get notified just when they can sign up for the new course.

Photo Credit in order from top to bottom:
1.) Picture by Jon Reece
2.) Picture by Rebecca Waldron
3.) Picture by Yasmina of Cairo

Article written by Katie Montella