Director of Child Nutrition
Crowley Independent School District
Born and raised in Chicago
Lives in: Arlington, Texas
Education: B.S. in dietetics from the
University of Wisconsin in Madison and a
master’s in dietetics from Illinois State
University in Normal
Married to Chris, a chef with Tyson
Sarahbeth Ghozali, director of child nutrition at the 15,000-student Crowley (Texas) Indepen-
dent School District, was looking for a new form of exercise. “I was tired of the treadmill,” Ghozali says. On a shopping trip, Ghozali discovered belly dancing videos. She quickly fell in love with the Middle Eastern dance and the culture behind it.
“I started nine years ago as a new form of exercise. I was self-taught for six months when I was just playing with the videos. Then I started seeking out teachers. I started studying and taking classes with them. It just exploded after that. It was meant to be just a new type of workout, but as I got into it and got better, I started performing with a troupe in local dance shows. That lasted for maybe six years.
It’s a whole lot of fun. It’s not anything that I thought I would ever get into. I’ve done ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance, but belly dance was easy for me to do. It suits my body well and it’s such a great workout. I definitely have a much more feminine camaraderie with the dancers around me than I ever experienced in ballet or jazz. I think it’s because the women who get into belly dance do it more as a hobby as an adult. There is really a fun sisterhood. I get to meet women who have all sorts of jobs and all sorts of backgrounds. We all have the same love for the dance, but we all have such amazing backgrounds that it’s fun to come and do a performance together.
There are a couple of different ways that I perform. One of them is in stage shows, which would be in a theater or some type of community event where our troupe would perform for an audience in a recital or theater-type atmosphere. Those happen about once or twice a month. The other side is that I’ll perform at Middle Eastern restaurants in our area. I do the scheduling for a Lebanese restaurant, so I’m in charge of scheduling 17 different dancers in two locations. We do shows during the weekends and there is a stage there that the dancers perform on. It’s really an engrained part of the Middle Eastern culture to have performances and shows during dinner. It’s really a whole different culture to work with.
I’ve been studying Arabic so I can understand what the songs are that I’m dancing to. I don’t want to make the mistake of choosing a very emotional deep song and then going out and dancing all perky. I really appreciate what my teachers have shown me in terms of learning about the Middle Eastern culture and learning how dance and music is so engrained in the culture.
When I moved to Texas about three years ago, that’s when I started teaching my own classes and started performing locally at restaurants. Statewide I’ve done workshops and stage performances. I would say that 90% of the people I teach have never taken a dance class. I have my own classes at a recreation center and at a dance studio. I love seeing people that are interested in the dance and learning something new that they didn’t think they could do before. Some women do it to find their feminine side. Some women do it to get out of the house and to put aside their “soccer mom” persona.
I really enjoy teaching new students and introducing them to the art and doing away with any misconceptions they might have about what belly dance really is. Some common misconceptions are that belly dance is akin to burlesque or stripping and that’s so far from the truth. It’s a folkloric dance; it’s an appreciation of the music. The performance aspect is no different than ballet. It really shouldn’t be considered like burlesque because that is not the emotion being gifted when a dancer performs.”