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Olga Theodore, Belly Dancer

Olga Theodore started belly dancing in 2001 after she moved from Sydney to Brisbane.  She had to give up her first love,  horse riding, because she could not afford to continue this activity after her move.  So instead, she turned to belly dancing.   “I took on a six week class for belly dancing at one of the Community Centres where they offer short courses on a variety of subjects and I haven’t looked back since then.  I love it so much,” she says.

The belly dancing troupe to which Olga belongs is called ‘Zills and Zaghareets’.  There are about fourteen people in this troupe, which consist of Beginners One and Beginners Two, an Intermediate Class, and the performing troupe. Olga is a part of Maria Masselos' troupe and Maria (their teacher) is part of the Academy of Middle Eastern Dance.


Olga Theodore Australian Belly Dancer.


The Academy of Middle Eastern Dance has professional dancers who are accredited.  They continue with their self improvement by attending university courses and going to Workshops all around the world so that they can learn from Master teachers.  “This is what a teacher should do, because you should not allow your mind or muscles to stagnant,” says Olga.  “I enjoy being part of that group because the variety of people there.  You don’t need to have a particular body type or be a certain age.  This is good for everybody because you have a good mix of people.  I believe that the oldest person there is seventy something!”

Olga went on to explain how 'Zills and Zaghareets' got its name.  "Zills represent the little finger symbols that belly dancers use,  and the world Zaghareets refers to the sound made by Middle Eastern women and used by them in celebration.”  Olga made the ‘la,la,la,la,lee’  sound for me, and I found it was similar to the call that Xena, Warrior Princess,  uses when performing a surprise attack on her enemy.  Maybe this is where the writers of that show got that idea from!

“It (zaghareeting) is very loud and it sounds quite magnificent," Olga continued.  "When I was in Egypt earlier this year we became caught up in the middle of a religious festival and it was really quite amazing because all the women were zaghareeting!  When it was done in a mass like that it sounded quite incredible.  It had an enormous impact on the senses because we are not use to hearing so many people making that sound together,” Olga said.

Olga informed me that the Egyptians were very pleased with the belly dancing that she and her colleagues did while visiting Egypt.  When people were asked to join in with dancing after a show many people would come over and ask, “Where did you learn to dance like that?” Olga and her friends always happily replied, “Australia.”  The Egyptians would often comment, “You are very good.” 

One speciality that Olga is very well known for is her skill with sword dancing.  Sword dancing is an interesting concept.  Legend states that the reason sword dancing started was due to the fact that female members of a tribe were often kidnapped by an opposing side.  To gain the trust of their captors the ladies would dance using the swords as props or decoration in their dance.  They would dance with the sword balanced on their heads and arms. “When the opportunity arose, the women would use the swords as their weapons and make their escape. Then they would run back to their own tribe.” 

The time it takes to acquire skills for sword dancing depends on the dancer's natural balance.  Olga feels that she had a strong start because of her early involvement with horse riding which included dressage, jumping and riding side-saddle.  “You need to be very sensitive to the horse when you are involved with that level of riding, so my sense of balance was always finely tuned.  I really do think I had an advantage even though other people do it quite successfully without that background.  I just think I had a head start,” she said.  “I found it (belly dancing) really does a lot for me in many different ways.   I’ve always danced anyway, starting with classical ballet as a child.   Belly dancing is exercise and fun, and you get your fair share of glitz and glamour as well.” 


Olga Theodore Australian Belly Dancer.   Olga Theodore Australian Belly Dancer.


Channel 9 has a children’s programme called ‘Hot Source’ which is on at 4pm Monday to Friday and they have chosen 'Turkey' as one of their topics. "Not the gobble gobble Turkey,” Olga says jokingly, “But the country Turkey.  They decided to feature belly dancing and they picked our group.  We performed some samples of Turkish dancing and our teacher Maria related some facts on the history of belly dancing.”  The programme will be shown in February, 2006.

‘Zills and Zaghareets’ have had other media coverage, including articles in the Courier Mail when they performed at the Zillmere Multicultural Festival.  Another recent article in the Northside Chronical advertised the charity event in which they performed to raise money for an orphanage in Iraq. 

After seeing them dance, Sana Mammo (Queensland Australian of the Year for ‘Local Hero – Metropolitan 2006’)  asked them to perform at her Kidz 2 Kidz Charity Concert which was held on Thursday, November 24th, 2005, at Brisbane City Hall.  “This event was to raise money for an orphanage for the kids in Iraq who have got no parents, no family and sometimes not even each other, as family and relatives have been killed, injured or displaced by the conflict.  So little kids are left wandering the streets with no one to help them,” says Olga about the cause. 

Olga realises that some people may wonder why we are raising money for an orphanage in Iraq when we need money at home for our own problems.  But she feels that Australia has more resources for the provision of assistance compared to countries like Iraq.   “There you have children roaming around in the dirt with no one looking after them.  Their parents have been killed.  They are on their own, starving on the street, so you can’t in all conscious turn your back and not want to contribute in some way to help out." 


'Zills and Zaghareets’ are always doing a variety of charity work.  To illustrate, they have danced at school fetes, the Lions Club Utes and Brutes Rodeo and Zillmere Multicultural Festival.  Olga also does drumming which is part of the Middle Eastern culture and she has performed at the Medieval Tournament at the Abbey Museum on Bribie Island and also at Bli Bli Castle.

Even though Olga and her fellow troupe members have a lot of fun dancing, they all take their performances seriously.  “It is a lot of fun, but it is also hard work.  It takes time to get ready, and we like to be what the public would expect from a belly dancer.  Lots of shine and jewellery, sequins and makeup is what the people expect, and we don’t like to let the public down," says Olga.   

Being composed of professionals the troupe can deal with dancing in most situations.  “We have danced on backs of table-top trucks at fetes, on stages that have dipped in the middle, and stages so hot that our feet burn,” she informs me while laughing.  At one venue where her colleagues danced there were only six people in the audience.  And two dogs that started fighting!  At another recent venue, in a country area, the cows came over to have a look.  “I’ve had various exciting experiences!  It’s all been quite interesting,” she says. 


  Olga Theodore Belly Dancer. <meta name="robots" content=
                                                                                     Article written by Chrissy Layton, AusNotebook Music & Creative 28/11/05
                                                                                                                                           Photos courtesy of Olga Theodore 
Editor's Update: Olga Theodore passed away on 02/01/2016, she will be greatly missed by all her knew her. 
Helpline associated websites for depression or dealing with terminal illness
Associated articles :-
Kidz 2 Kidz Peace Concert
Sana Mammo
Dancing Tiger's World of Belly Dance


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