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Sascha the magic dancer

Belly dancing performer, Sascha Olivier-Sampson, knows that the real way to reap the reward when following her passion is to work hard. (Photograph by Ruby Red Photography)

“Wow, she’s magic!” exclaimed a little boy after one of her performances. Having been the first African belly dancer to win the Confederación Interamericana de la Danza competition, held in Cape Town last year, Sascha Olivier-Sampson attests that hard work is the real magic potion of her many achievements.
“Success is not a secret; it’s putting in the hours when others don’t, its continuing when others might give up. It’s refusing to settle for mediocre and also passing on what you know to others so that the quality of work continues,” she said.

Olivier-Sampson is also a studio owner, instructor and lecturer at UNAM’s Performing Arts Department. Being a shy girl growing up, she felt mostly herself when she was dancing.
“Now I’m not shy anymore,” she said, “but I still say; if you want to really see who I am you have to see me on stage”.
Participating in theatre since the age of five, she moved to Windhoek from Cape Town at twelve years old and continued dancing at the College of the Arts, doing ballet and contemporary. She eventually began belly dancing in 2006 under the instruction of Michelle Kleinschmidt. She said that through her stage performances, she has tried to introduce audiences to the truth of belly dance … its grace, poise, femininity, strength and elegance.
According to Olivier-Sampson, the interest in belly dance has grown in Namibia over the years. Both her and the studio owner of Bohemian Magic Dance Company have been working hard to elevate the status of belly dance in Namibia, to disprove inaccuracies that she finds are harmful to the industry. Olivier-Sampson expresses that a misconception amongst many Namibians about belly dancing is that it is merely a sexy dance meant purely for the entertainment of men.
“Not myself, or any dancer I have every come across, will ever dance for the sole entertainment of men. […] The movements work with the natural structure and movement of a woman’s body and as such, accentuate the hip and upper body,” said Sampson, adding that the dance costume has changed over the years, as fashion does, from covering up more to being more revealing. But for her that is not her only challenge. The professional dance industry in Namibia is not fully established, according to Olivier-Sampson. She said that many dancers in Namibia must have another form of income to fulfill their responsibilities because it is not financially viable to work solely as a dancer. She is, however, trying to change that. “Through my studio I have tried to give the opportunity to more people to learn the art of dance and through the shows, I give a platform for dancers to perform. Working in the Performing Arts Department at UNAM also ensures that well trained, knowledgeable artists enter the industry and hopefully that will allow it to grow and develop in the correct way.”Olivier-Sampson also considers dance as a contributing factor to the well-being of the country and community. Her sixth annual charity campaign to aid animal shelters in need, ‘Shimmy for Shelter’, will take place this year in May. She will also be the first Namibian to judge the Miss Belly Dance South Africa competition in April. In August she will be running ‘Helping Hips’, a campaign in aid of the Cancer Association in Namibia. She added that people should acknowledge and utilise their skills in order to help society develop, saying that those who are artistically inclined are not a special breed to be singled out. “Placing more value on sciences, for example, than on the arts, tells those who are not scientifically inclined that they are inadequate and not valued. Every culture in the world has in its history a form of storytelling. […] Dance is also an art form that speaks of the various cultures in the world, each one unique and each one beautiful with something valuable to share,” said Olivier-Sampson.
She added that being involved in theatre for so long has also taught her discipline, dedication, hard work and team work. Through dance she has learned to not be afraid to make mistakes, and of course that the show must go on. “I love seeing something come to life that has up until then only existed in my head,” she said. She strives to create what no-one else has done and said it’s a very special feeling when her choreography is being performed. For Olivier-Sampson, if just one person approaches her after a show and says ‘thank you’ or ‘I will always remember that’, it makes her work worthwhile.

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