MLK brought guilt to Bellydance.
Posted on today's date because:
"I was once told ' they only agreed to work with you because they felt guilty when you asked....it was Martin Luther King's birthday'. My answer was (after I laughed out loud) #1: 'No I didn't, I never asked for the help, it was offered. #2: Martin Luther King's birthday is in January, um...it's November and no thank you'. I couldn't accept a benefit that had no investment other than guilt. At that point, I knew what I had to do, and I started taking receipts. I am no longer beholden to any one source of power, dance or otherwise to tell my story. I have persevered and I'm no longer dependent on privilege to dance."
Lotus Niraja pulls no punches and offers a blunt, humorous recount of her career as a Belly Dancer of Color. In her memoirs, Raks SHARK-I, she navigates through the murky waters of the Business of Belly Dance in a narrative, historical timeline with interviews from dancers featuring dynamic successes to devastating discrimination. Proud to showcase amazing Belly Dancers of Color of all ethnicities that have worked tirelessly to gain acceptance in a Brown-People's-dance, that struggles to accept... Brown People.
Raks SHARK-I presents the stories of individuals from different cultures, races, ages, and generations who fell in love with belly dance. Though many successes were had while pursuing their dreams, Lotus and others tell stories of how they confronted racism, exclusion and unequal opportunity in a dance that's a culture of color. Witness not only the breakthroughs, but the overwhelming challenges belly dancers of color face when confronted with ingrained perceptions of what a belly dancer should look like. Belly Dancers of Color are shattering stereotypes and scaling the ranks of Raks Sharki that were once closed off due to venues that excluded them, event organizers who refused to book them, restaurants who ignored them, other dancers taking advantage of them, outright racism, and even in recent history, more subtle forms of exclusion that force dancers of color to "stay quiet and play nice to fit in".
"What surprised me were the number of dancers that wanted to share their stories. What shocked me more? The numerous amounts of dancers afraid of telling their stories out of fear. Fear of rocking the boat, fear of non-acceptance, fear of not getting a workshop booking, fear of having others know of the discrimination, but feeling powerless to speak up. The fear of being "too black" in belly dance." -Lotus Niraja
Lotus presents a break-though of tough, working, struggling yet succeeding dancers that either had to leave the USA to establish belly dance careers or continue to scale back their talent and voice to find placement in America.
Unapologetically passionate. Award winning dancer. Teacher and choreographer. Educating and empowering women in movement, strength, and dance therapy. Her approach is dynamic and interactive. An elegant hustler, who won't tell you she was lucky. She'll tell you"I worked damned hard for this!" She'll tell you the T! Lotus is a loving, blunt, arts business front-line expert with a heart of gold.
Aside from her work onstage and the classroom, Lotus travels the globe sharing her love of dance and through her Business and Mentorship program. She works with the next generation of belly dancers through involvement that empowers leadership and investment strategies in Raks Sharki and encourages diversity in our beloved dance form.