Wearing stunning designer costumes handmade by Bella or Eman Zaki, Melisa’s beautiful dances are packed full of emotion and drama aided by her expert use of the cane, Isis wings, shamadan (candelabra), silk fans, veil and her most famous prop, the sword. Her dancing is steeped in the Oriental and Romany traditions of Egypt and Turkey, blended with contemporary styles to form unique interpretations that she adapts to suit different environments and artist collaborations.
Her ability to draw audiences in to her performances, whether they are families, children, corporate types, celebrities or socialites, makes her a highly sought-after dancer. She has performed solo at concerts, festivals, fashion shows and fundraising events, as well as for private functions across the UK and internationally. Her private bookings cover special occasions such as weddings, hen nights and birthday parties, having performed for the likes of supermodel Naomi Campbell, entertainer Julian Clary, and female royalty from the Middle East.
In 2013, Melisa launched the Kush Project, an innovative experience to empower women and help them ‘find their natural rhythm’ through bellydancing and complementary activities such as yoga and sound therapy. Her first series of workshops took place at Sadler’s Wells in London.
Originally from Izmir, on the Aegean coast of Turkey, Melisa’s earliest memory of dance is performing Turkish folklore at school. As a child, she loved to watch good dancers, admiring their ability to move and express themselves.
Melisa took up bellydancing when she moved to the UK in 1999. With Oriental dancing part of her ethnic culture, she was quickly able to develop the skills and confidence needed to make a leap from hobby to professional dancing.
Between 2006 and 2008, Melisa hosted bellydance classes at David Lloyd gyms in High Wycombe and Staines. She had to stop these due to a significant increase in her evening performances. However, she continues to promote bellydance as a means of healthy living where she can. She has teamed up with well-known consumer brands such as Activia and Nivea to engage women living in London.
Melisa has shared the stage with a variety of international Jazz, World Music and Dance artists and performed solos for events staged by dance companies, including:
- Contemporary Jazz musician Ilhan Ersahin, Istanbul Sessions concert in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2012 and London Jazz Festival in 2011
- U-Cef & The Arab League, Nour Festival 2012
- Top drummer Enzo Zirilli, Ronnie Scott’s (various dates)
- In 2009, Melisa joined the Bollydance Superstars for their Indian-Egyptian dance spectacle, performing a sword solo and other Oriental dances for their Dublin show
- Algeria’s king of Rock’n’Rai Abdelkader Saadoun during his three UK tours from 2006 to 2008 including twice at the Royal Albert Hall
- Turkish Dance fusion star Oojami at London’s Cargo
- DanceEast Academy, part of the UK’s national ballet and contemporary dance network serving the East of England
CULTURAL & CLUB EVENTS
Bringing a touch of the exotic, Melisa is regularly included on eclectic line-ups at club events and music festivals, and increasingly for fashion shows and pop videos:
- London Fashion Week – Angels of Fashion (October 2013)
- Kaoska fashion launch with renowned designer Malcolm Hall (August 2013)
- Gnaoua Music Festival, Morocco (June 2013)
- Stranger Than Paradise¸ London club night (various nights, 2009-2013)
- Burlesque or Bust (June 2013)
- Massari after-party following the Canadian superstar’s London concert (March 2013)
- The Hanging Gardens of Brighton (Babylon Festival, May 2012)
- Istambul Agora Festival, Brazil (April 2012)
- Acoustic Jazz Lounge, Ronnie Scott’s (various, 2012)
CHARITY, COMMUNITY & OTHER EVENTS
One of the hardest working and most sought-after performers, Melisa also regularly dances:
- In leading restaurants and live music venues across London that specialise in Middle Eastern, Turkish, Persian, Indian and Greek cuisine.
- At charity events, such as for Great Ormond Street, the Commonwealth Countries League Education Fund, Save the Children, and Cancer Research.
- For community events and organisations such as for the British Community Honours Awards, Turkish Fest, the Thamesmead Trust (annual festival and Heritage month) and the Rotary Club of London.
A warm and charming personality on and off the stage, Melisa continues to be the focus of much media interest. Her media appearances include:
- Two-page feature in Dance Today – the UK’s leading dance publication. Melisa was the first Turkish dancer to have such a prominent write-up.
- Various features in Turkey’s biggest daily newspaper Hurriyet.
- Several appearances on national TV in Turkey including ATV and Fox TV.
- Filmed interviews by UK correspondents from two of Turkey’s leading news agencies DHA and IHA.
- Radio interviews: Hot Asia Jamz, London Turkish Radio and Shoreditch Radio.
- A French documentary about night life in London broadcast on ARTE TV.
- The Pulse of London, a short film by Mustafa Boga.
- Front cover of T-VINE magazine, a high quality publication for British Turks.
- Extensive coverage in the UK’s Turkish newspapers and her local South London press.
The wider benefits of bellydancing have become more visible to Melisa through her academic and social work. She studied psychotherapy and counselling for two years, learning how the emotional and physical wellbeing of people are linked. It enabled her to harness bellydancing as a means of therapy, first when working in social services to support those with dementia and later at a further education college working with adolescents with autism, Down’s syndrome and learning difficulties. She incorporated bellydancing into classes with her clients enabling them to have fun, keep fit and express themselves.
In 2010, she was asked to perform at Cavendish primary school in Camden, where she demonstrated Oriental dance to pupils as part of their lessons into Egyptian culture, with children aged between 6 and 11 years old taking part in a two hour class. In 2011, Melisa was invited by female students at Westminster University to give regular classes, which continued until the end of the academic year in 2012. She also works with a variety of charitable organisations, such as the Thamesmead Trust, taking part in their community-led activities.
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