DAILY MAIL, 5th JULY 1999
BELLY DANCING SHAKER WHO WAS BORN A BRITISH QUAKER
From Claudia Joseph in Cairo
To the rattle of the tambourine, Yasmeena gyrates seductively on the stage of a
holiday hotel beside the Red Sea.
She believes it was her lifes destiny to wiggle her jewel-encrusted hips
for the delectation of Arabs and tourists. After all, its not every
Quaker girl from the Home Counties who becomes Egypts leading belly
Yasmeena, 36, was born Francesca Sullivan. She was brought up in the
Buckinghamshire village of Jordans with her four brothers and sister who are
now a lawyer, road transport consultant, musician carpenter and artist.
Her father Matthew worked for the BBCs World Service for 20 years and was
a highly-respected author and historian when he died in 1997, while her mother
Elizabeth was a social worker in a child guidance clinic. Francesca, who went
to Chesham High School, enjoyed sports and kept a pony in the back garden.
She moved to London after her A-levels and took a degree in photography at the
Central London Polytechnic. While her brother started the band New Model Army
she pursued her career as a fashion photographer. But by the middle of the
eighties she had discovered belly dancing. The very first time I saw it,
it was just like falling in love, she said.
She studied with an Egyptian teacher, adopted the name yasmeena, and began
dancing in Arab clubs. In 1988 she went to Italy to dance for a month, and
never returned. After visiting Morocco, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Syria and
Jordan she settled in Egypt. She is now principal dancer at a festival designed
to promote the tradition. While many of her contemporaries are married with
children or carving high-flying careers Yasmeena spends her nights performing.
She earns £300 a show, appearing at wedding parties and nightclubs, from
which she has to pay her dress designer and a twelve-piece orchestra.
I have never been poorer in my life since I have worked in Egypt,
she said. But I am happy. I am doing what I love to do. I have sacrificed
a normal life, or what people in Britain think of as a normal life. If I lived
in England by now I might be married with children. But there is nothing like
the feeling you get when you go on stage and create something.
At home in Buckinghamshire, her mother said: I think its quite
funny really. Shes always been quite unconventional. I dont think
theres anything wrong with being a belly dancer. Its not immoral.
Its rather interesting really. Im just glad shes doing
something she loves and doing it well. I admire her ambition and admire her for
sticking to it. Shes basically quite a serious person underneath. But she
comes from this big, happy family where everyone is rather an individual.
Shes not exactly the Quaker type. Shes a bit more flamboyant than
that. We were probably not very firm parents.
I have always loved dancing so I think shes got that from me. If I
could choose to do anything in heaven I would choose to dance.
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