Turkish-American Michelle Deniz Drouse Woodhouse is an award-winning Middle Eastern dancer and social entrepreneur dedicated to empowering women through the beauty of Middle Eastern belly dance. As Co-Founder of Dunya Bellydance, Operations Director of Arabian Dance Theatre, and Instructor at Dancebuzz, she performs internationally and currently teaches belly dance in London where she has been living since 2009. She has been featured on BBC Arabic and Al Alamina TV with Arabian Dance Theatre, and she produces and hosts Hafla on the Hill, a bi-monthly dance showcase with Dunya Bellydance benefiting a variety of education and empowerment causes.
Growing up in a multicultural home and representing the Turkish, American, and secular Jewish/Islamic communities instilled my core values of being open to understanding people of different cultures, ethnicities and religions. Music and dance are a common language with the ability to create a bridge of understanding.
I discovered my love for Turkish “Oriental” belly dance at the age of 3. My progressive Turkish American family encouraged me to learn belly dance moves and perform them in addition to my jazz, ballet, gymnastics, and tap dance classes taught by professional Las Vegas showgirls. My Turkish belly dance performances were often featured at school talent shows and international festivals during my youth growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada and Orange County, California in the USA.
At 15, I made a decision to take a break from dancing to pursue volleyball, track and field and musical theater as my primary extracurricular hobbies. When I realized that I wouln’t become a star volleyball player at university, I decided to focus on the many leadership, social, intellectual, athletic, dance and theater opportunities at the University of California, Irvine. I studied Environmental Analysis and Design with an emphasis on cultural ecology and designing communities and spaces to be sensitive to diverse cultures, ethnicities, and religious needs. I decided to continue my studies and earned a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of California, Irvine while working for Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Irvine and serving as President of the Associated Graduate Students.
During this very busy time studying and working, I renewed my passion for belly dance when I took a belly dance class with Tina “Enheduanna” Elkins of Orange County, California. Her energetic classes and unparalleled mentorship re-instilled my passion for belly dance and exposed me to a beautiful world of diverse belly dance/folkloric choreographies, research, and music taught by her talented percussionist partner, George Medlock.
Under Enheduanna’s artistic direction, I joined the dance troupe Raksat Al Zamaan (Dances of the Ages) in 2002 and performed in a variety of community festivals, celebrations, weddings, galas, benefits, competitions, and the annual Oriental Nights dance showcase. I also worked full-time as an urban planner, project manager, community organization leader in Orange County while enjoying learning, creating, and performing in a very positive dance troupe environment.
Since 2002, I’ve also been fortunate to take workshops and courses from international master instructors and choreographers in California, Turkey and United Kingdom including Mahmoud Reda, Nourhan Sharif,Yousry Sharif, Lee Ali, Rana Miras, Melissa Pina, Mia Serra, Kay of Love the Beat, Shafeek Ibrahim,Tara Lee Oakley, Isa, Ozgen, Elena Lentini, Reyhan Tuzuz, Sonïa of Belly Dance Superstars, and Guy Schalom.
In addition to learning from outstanding dancers and choreographers, as a dance instructor/trainer, I have been inspired by teaching dance and percussion to women ages 12+ since 2004. I have professional experience teaching beginner, intermediate, advanced and master belly dance and folkloric classes through Belly Dance By Deniz.
In 2009, I moved to London with my partner, founded DUNYA dance duo with Rosy Summerbell, joined the Arabian Dance Theatre company and managed on social and economic renewal projects at the UK’s Design Council until March 2012.
Below are additional links to my dance and music pursuits:
- Principal of Belly Dance By Deniz (including my biography and videos)
- Co-Founder/Artistic Director of Dunya Belly Dance including classestaught and performances
- Co-Producer of Hafla on the Hill
- Company Performer/Producer’s assistant of Arabian Dance Theatre