Rachel Kay Brookmire
Rachel Kay Brookmire is the founder and director of Sahara Dance. Since 2000, she has taught belly dance to thousands of students throughout the Washington DC area. She is also the creator of Sahara Dance Foundations, an intensive program for training belly dance teachers.
Rachel specializes in Egyptian raqs sharqi for stage. She has performed extensively at theaters, embassies, weddings, and with live bands as a headliner in Arabic nightclubs. Her playful performance style is shimmy-rich and lyrical. She directs Raqs Sahara, Sahara Dance’s professional performance ensemble, and Raqs Caravan East, a student company in residence at Sahara Dance. Seeking to elevate and develop belly dance as a theater performance art, Rachel produces and directs several annual theater productions highlighting both traditional and experimental belly dance.
Recognized for her detailed, structured teaching approach, Rachel’s classes focus on community, quality movement execution, musicality, and individual expression. As a student of mindfulness practices, she seeks to integrate relaxation, body awareness and the cultivation of joyfulness into her dance offerings. Her teaching style emphasizes postural alignment, contextual awareness of Arabic music and culture and a celebration of femininity.
Before launching a full time dance career, Rachel completed a two-year course of intensive training with Autumn Ward. She has also studied extensively with Yousry Sharif, Sahra Saeeda, Yasmina Ramzy, Hadia, Faten Salama, Aida Nour, Jillina and many other Egyptian dance masters. Shawkat Sayyed, Karim Nagi, George Sawa and Hicham El Anmari have each deeply influenced her understanding of Arab music. Rachel continues training and has traveled several times to Egypt and other Mediterranean and Arab countries. During her apprenticeship with Autumn Ward she was also a member of the Silk Road Dance Company. Prior to discovering Middle Eastern dance, Rachel practiced yoga and trained in modern and West African dance. She received her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Boston University and was a member of the Dance Theatre Group.
Gretchen has been belly dancing at Sahara Dance since 2010, where she studies and performs multiple styles including Egyptian cabaret, folkloric, ATS, and tribal fusion. She has also studied with master teachers such as Rachel Brice, Donna Mejia, and Yasmina Ramzy, and has completed all four levels of Sahra Saeeda’s Journey Through Egypt program. She appears on stage regularly as a soloist and with Raqs Caravan East and Sahara Tribal. As a choreographer she draws on all these experiences to do everything from very traditional balady to modern tribal fusion. When not dancing she is a librarian by training, and is fascinated by studying the history and culture of belly dance and of Egypt.