Desert Veils Tribal Belly Dancers have been gracing Moab
and the surounding area with their performances since 1999.
Founded by their director, Jamilla, they continue to amaze
audiences with their graceful, undulating moves and fast,
breath taking shimmies. And they do it all with swords
on their heads! Twice a year they host an “Evening
at the Casbah” where they serve homemade middle Eastern
food and do lots of dancing. They decorate their studio
to make it a surreal experience which takes the entire
“We really have a lot of fun doing these shows, they
are a lot of work, but the reaction from the audience makes
it worth while.” Jamilla said. “Decorating
the float for the Light Parade was a real challenge, we
used over 50 strings of light along with many veils and
beads. We attached lights to our arms to emphasize the
snakey movements and it was beautiful.”
Desert Veils started with three members and has grown to
eleven accomplished dancers. Most dancers have been in
the troupe for three or more years, a commitment that is
both physically challenging and can be costly. The costumes
are the biggest expense..but luckily Jamilla makes most
of them. They adorn themselves with authentic tribal jewelery
form the middle east, much of it quite heavy. “ I
figure I gain ten pounds every time I get dressed.” Mandy,
the assistant director said. “We have lots of coins,
heavy hip tassel belts, coins on our tops, heavy necklaces,
ankel bracelets and loads of arm bracelets. It all adds
Jamilla began belly dancing in 1976 when her sister introduced
her to the art. She was hooked. Since then she has taught
and performed all over the western United States and in Hawaii.
In 2001 she and her two members danced for King Abdullah
11bin Al Hussein of Jordon, along with two crown princes. “They
got up and came on stage and danced with us. It was the experience
of a lifetime” Jamilla said. The troupe has done over
150 performances in the last seven years, each one with new
dances and costumes. Most of them have been benefits for
the local area and they can bring in the dollars.
Desert Veils dancers have a range of ages, from Molly who
is two years, to three grandmothers and three girls under
10. Jana Knowles, a principal dancer, has been with the troupe
since 1999 and has danced through two pregnancies and brings
both children to class now. It is a challenge for her, but
she just loves to dance. She even brought Molly to a three
day wedding for Alysa and Jeff, rangers from Island in the
“That was the funnest performance we have done” Melissa
said. We presented the bride in a flurry of veils as a complete
surprise to her husband. Four women carried her in on a decorated
The troupe made belly dancing history when they did dualing
shimmies to dualing banjos with the bluegrass band Cowgrass.
It was a hoot! These dances can be seen on their website.
Jana was very pregnant at the time, but stayed with the program.
One month later she gave birth to Liam.
Desert Veils members attend one sometimes two classes each
week in Studio Elite. This keeps these women in superb shape.
Their deep backbends and isolating moves take years to perfect.
Jamilla, Lorelie and Mary are grandmothers..Mary is Jana’s
mom! Dancing in their 50’s presents some new challenges.
Under their ornate head turbons and hot lights it can get
pretty warm which makes the makeup run and a fresh red blush
cover the face...a real laughing point for them.
Jamilla’s dream for the last seven years has been
to have a belly dance and drum festival here in Moab. She
has made it a reality. Desert Veils will be hosting a Tribal
Belly Dance and Drum Festival May 12th - 14th. It will include
dancing and dining in the desert to live music, five different
workshops and many perfomances from troupes from all over
the U.S. and a river trip down the Colorado River on Sunday.
They plan to decorate the boats like Cleopatra’s barges
and float among the zills,viels and zagareeths. They will
be known as Queens of De Nile. “We are really excited
to have such excellent teachers and performers in our first
Hopefully we can make it a yearly event. Who wouldn’t
want to come to Moab and dance?” Mandy said.
Currently they are looking for donations to help with expenses
and have a page on their website where you can donate. Thanks
to Don and Mary Ecsedy of Circuit Riders for putting together
a website that they are really proud of. There is a lot of
information on the site, including an amazing history of
the dance, information about the festival and much more.
“We are also very greatful to Theresa King at Moab
Happenings, who has given us great support here in town and
is helping us advertise the festival” Jamilla said.
Desert Veils includes Jamilla, Mandy, Jana, Lorelei, Melissa,
Mary, Becky, Samatha, Meera, Anna and Molly. They can be
contacted at www.desertveils.org.