Dance group brings a taste of the Middle East to the Covey Center


The Covey Center for the Arts’ Tapestry of Dance show celebrates Middle Eastern movement and musicality that has been passed down from generation to generation. The performance will be held Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Show director Odessa Menasian said she hopes this event will pull in audience members of different ethnicities and cultures.

“We celebrate the opportunity to share the stage with each other and share a Tapestry of Dance with our community,” Menasian said.

The Tapestry of Dance event is unique as most of the dances have been passed down generation to generation.

“The Tapestry tells a story,” she said.

Menasian confirmed that there will be three songs from the live-action “Aladdin” movie, along with sword dances at the show.

Menasian started dancing at a young age when her mother taught her the art and dance traditions of her Armenian ancestors.

Odessa Menasian practices a duet for the Covey Center for the Arts’ show Tapestry of Dance. (Sydnee Gonzalez)

Although Armenian folk dancing is in Menasian’s heart, she has expanded her dance skills to fuse many cultures’ traditional dances, including Egyptian, Lebanese, Spanish, Persian, Indian, Odissi and Argentinian. Today she works at the Covey Center as a belly dance instructor.

“We are translators of something that you can’t see,” Menasian said. “We make music visual.” 

After 10 weeks of classes, her students perform at the Tapestry of Dance and another event in spring called the Hafla. The Tapestry of Dance event unites other dance studios throughout Utah Valley and spotlights the Desert Gypsy Dance Company of which Menasian is a member.

Halima Jeanette is the director and owner of Desert Gypsy Dance Company and good friends with Menasian. Jeanette grew up dancing and is self-taught in Middle Eastern dancing. She has been dancing this genre for 33 years. 

“I’ll be dancing with my daughter, daughter-in-law and hopefully my granddaughter,” Jeanette said. The show usually features girls and women 14 years or older, but with the inclusion of a mommy-and-me dance class, there are eight kids in the show. 

Nadira Ekenstam, a Desert Gypsy Dance Company performer and instructor, fell in love with belly dancing 15 years ago. She said this type of dance gets her out of the house and gives her an escape.

Ekenstam also teaches dance at UVU.

“I just enjoy putting on a show, it’s like forgetting everything else going on and you can just be in that moment and just enjoy the stage and entertain people,” Ekenstam said.

Odessa Menasian, left, and Nadira Ekenstam, right, practice a duet. (Sydnee Gonzalez)

The Tapestry of Dance event includes many dance styles, one being American belly dancing — something she said is meaningful to Middle Eastern cultures.

“Unfortunately belly dancing gets associated with a lot of like pole dancing kind of stuff and that’s just not the case,” Ekenstam said.

She said the Tapestry of Dance performance is a family-friendly show that is about culture and love of dance.

Many of the performers love having fun and expressing the culture through dance.

“I’ve been dancing with some of these ladies for 10 years now and they are some of my best friends,” Ekenstam said.

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