Julia Baum radiates belly dancing. She carries herself with the posture you would expect of a professional dancer. When she talks, even her hand movements have a lyrical flow. Since she started teaching belly dancing in Sacramento just over a year ago, she’s been in a state of manic activity. At the time of this interview, she was training for her first belly-dancing tournament. She’s also studying journalism at Sacramento State University and preparing to teach a large dance workshop on October 8, in the historic Firehouse 5 dance studio. To learn more about Baum’s classes and to read her belly-dancing blog, visit www.bellydancerjulia.com.
What first got you into belly dancing?
I always try to think of a concise answer for that, and I wish I had some really interesting stories—some kind of interesting background for that—but I don’t. I guess you could just say that I developed an interest in it years ago. But it wasn’t until about four or five years ago that I met my mentor, my friend Mychelle Crown. She became my main inspiration and my main influence in my dancing and how I started to approach my career professionally vs. how I had started out originally.
You have a competition on September 3 and 4. How do you prepare for something like that?
This is actually my first dancing competition. I did some horse showing when I was about 12 and 13. I actually did really good in them, but it was a very long and grueling process. But by comparison, so far, this is my first dance competition, and preparing for it compared to a horse show is a lot easier. So, considering there are dancers I know personally are going to be in this competition who I will readily admit are leaps and bounds beyond me in terms of talent, I’m not expecting to win or place second or third. I’m going more for the experience.
I heard you have an interest in journalism. What got you interested in that?
Mainly, I’ve just been told that I am a good writer my entire life. Honestly, I want to go more into public affairs with that than news reporting. I realized that I love dancing so much, and with the way my dancing career is taking off right now, I couldn’t see myself taking this on as well as a journalism career. I definitely know from my three years doing graphic design and reporting and whatnot that it is a very, very stressful job.
But you do maintain a belly-dancing blog on your website.
Being a writer, I needed to do something to keep myself writing. I have two ideas for novels that I want to do eventually, but I don’t have the time to sit down and give them the patience and attention that they really deserve and that you need to make a novel really good in my opinion. And I feel like my blog is my way of being more involved in my community. And also, a lot of it is self-promotion, too.
A lot of belly dancing attire is kind of skimpy. Are there any special techniques you employ to avoid wardrobe malfunctions onstage?
Well, the only thing I guess people would say is skimpy on my personal costumes is just the bra tops. But it’s funny you should ask that, because several months ago, I narrowly avoided a wardrobe malfunction at one of the restaurants I dance at, Marrakech [Moroccan Restaurant]. I was not even halfway through my first song and the back of my top busted. Fortunately I had my veil behind me, so I was able to bring it in front of me. If anyone saw anything at all, it was just my back. Everything else was concealed. Being the pro I am, I had an extra costume in the back, so I just rushed back there, threw that one on and restarted the music and carried on. I had a great show that night, actually, after that.
Where do you want your dancing career to take you?
I’m not saying my main goal is to become a member of the Bellydance Superstars, but going into something like that. There are plenty of other dancers who have never been in Bellydance Superstars who have also managed to start their own thing and become very successful. There’s a dancer in the Bay Area, Michelle Joyce—she started her own belly-dance oriented production company called Cheeky Girls. She basically specializes in selling really high quality, instructional DVDs for people who want to learn belly dance from the most basic level to advanced. You know, there are a lot of different paths that belly dancers have taken and can take, and I don’t know what mine is going to be.