Originally from Izmir, on the Aegean south west coast of Turkey, Melisa’s earliest memories of dance was performing Turkish folklore as a child at school. She was drawn from a young age to watch good dancers, admiring their ability to move and express themselves.
She moved to the UK in 1999 and took up belly dancing as a hobby. Oriental dance being one of the national dances of Turkey, Melisa quickly developed the skills and confidence to branch out on her own. She blends both contemporary and traditional Egyptian and Turkish styles of Oriental dance to create her own unique interpretations. 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), sword, veil and silk fans.
Her passionate style of dance has seen Melisa share the stage with a variety of international artists. These include contemporary Jazz musician Ilhan Ersahin during his South Bank concert at the 2011 London Jazz Festival, with 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, and alongside Turkish Dance fusion star Oojami at London’s Cargo.
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. She was one of the regular performers at the legendary Stranger Than Paradise club night, a gypsy cultural extravaganza whose eclectic line-up would see burlesque dancers move to Balkans Romany music. She has also performed with the DanceEast Academy, part of the UK’s national ballet and contemporary dance network serving the East of England.
One of the hardest working and most sought-after performers, Melisa can be seen weekly in leading establishments across London that specialise in Middle Eastern, Turkish, Persian, Indian and Greek cuisine. She prides herself on developing a loyal following through her long-standing relationships with restaurants such as Adiva (Whitechapel), Cappadocia (Kingston Upon Thames), Cirrik (Richmond), Clay Oven (Wembley), Del Aziz (Shepherd’s Bush), Efes, Elysee and Maroush (all central London), Maroush V (Bond Street), Fora (St John’s Wood), Lala (Hammersmith), Ottoman Palace (Camden), Stone Cave (Dalston) and Sugar Lounge (Finsbury Park).
Her ability to draw audiences in to her performances, whether they are families, children, corporate types or socialites, adds to her appeal, receiving offers from a wide variety of organisations to showcase her dancing skills and help spread the take-up of belly dancing.
Melisa regularly does solo performances at private functions across the UK and internationally. Her bookings cover special occasions such as weddings, hen nights and birthday parties, including for supermodel Naomi Campbell and entertainer Julian Clary. She dances at concerts, festivals, and fundraising events for the likes of Save the Children and Cancer Research. Recently 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. Last year, Melisa was invited by female students at Westminster University to give regular classes, which are continuing into 2012.
Between 2006 and 2008, Melisa hosted belly dance classes at David Lloyd gyms in High Wycombe and Staines. Sadly she had to stop these due to the huge increase in her evening performances. However, she continues to promote belly dance as a means of healthy living where she can, recently teaming up with well-known consumer brands such as Activia and Nivea to engage women living in London.
The wider benefits of belly dancing 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 belly dancing 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 belly dancing into classes with her clients enabling them to have fun, keep fit and express themselves.
A warm and charming personality on and off the stage, Melisa continues to be the focus of much media interest. She has appeared in a French documentary about night life in London, and interviewed by Hurriyet, Turkey’s biggest selling daily newspaper, the IHA News Agency, and Fox TV Turkey. She also regularly features in the UK’s ethnic media as part of their round-up of entertainment in the community.