By: LESLIE LESTINSKY
Tell our readers how you landed on the stage name, Ruby Jazayre: Rubin is my maiden name; from that name I have been called Ruby since middle school. At the time I was choosing a stage name, our troupe was called “Semi-precious Stones.” Ruby worked well with that but I wanted my name to be exotic as well. I found the word “Jazayre” and thought it sounded good with Ruby. Jazayre is Arabic.
How and when did you discover Middle Eastern Dance: I was the youth program director at the YWCA in South Bend. I enjoyed the programming aspect of the job but I did not like being at a desk. Around the corner from my office, in the ballroom, there was a belly dance class and I watched from my office thinking, “I would never do that.” I befriended the instructor and began taking classes with her. I was hooked from the very first class. The movement and the music wrapped me up. That same woman took me to a seminar in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I met the man that would become my mentor.
Where did you pursue your degree: I have a degree in health physical recreation education (HPER) from IU Bloomington.
You have traveled the globe extensively in pursuit of your passions. What has been your most memorable experience: Egypt and Morocco. That is where I really got a feel for this. There I learned that I wanted my style to be Egyptian. I got a good sense of the culture and how the people there perceive the dance. I did a six city tour in Germany, met a lot of dancers, saw a lot of resources they use for costuming. That was a lot of fun as well.
When and how did you begin teaching dance at IU South Bend: In 2001, a door opened for me here. I went to Dr. David Bartlett, the director of music, and said, “They are doing belly dancing in the HPER department down at IU Bloomington. I would like to bring it here to the South Bend campus.” He said to pull together a plan. The department accepted it, and here I am. This class embraces all ages, body types, men and women. I have found the dance is very empowering to women. I encourage everyone to try it.
Tell our readers about a time a dance number went all wrong in front of the crowd: My mentor taught me you’re not a star until you fall on the stage. I missed some steps and landed on my foot one time. I have gone out on stage with my socks still on. One time, one of my straps broke, I held on to it during the dance, improvising the dance and then signaled my stage manager to go to black, we fixed it while the lights were off.
Have you entertained anyone famous? Dignitaries from South Bend, a Notre Dame coach, South Bend Police Department for roll call, IU South Bend’s chancellor Lester Wolfson. Ernestine Raclin hired me to dance for her husband long before I taught here at IU South Bend.
What advice do you have for students: If you are looking for a fun way to get your health and wellness general education credit, try this course. I cannot tell you how many students have come to me to get their general education credit and ended up joining the troupe. If you want to do this for more than just the fun of it, the opportunity is there. If you want to get some exercise and stress relief during the semester, all the dance classes are great, but come try Middle Eastern dance.
Ruby also offers lessons in Mishawaka at the Battell Center and South Bend at the O’Brien Center. Anyone that takes classes can also audition for the belly dance troupe. You can learn more about Ruby by visiting her website at /rubyjazayre.com.