What’s in a Stage Name?

Fact: Many belly dancers put as much thought – or sometimes even more – into choosing their own stage names than naming their first-born children.

For many dancers, a stage name offers mystique, glamour, and in essence, the phone booth through which we emerge superheroes. Not to mention, a protective buffer of anonymity from creeps, whackos, prospective employers, PTA busybodies…you get the picture.

I “became” Carrara Nour a little over a year after I’d started dancing professionally. I picked the name somewhat arbitrarily, feeling that it was edgy, glamorous and fitting of my dance style. At the time, I couldn’t picture myself performing without a nom du danse. As a twiggy, blue-eyed American girl of mixed European blood and eclectic cabaret fusion dance tendencies, I needed all the help I could get from my stage name and my entire stage persona. My Personal Mount Everest was to win Connecticut over with a glossy, Hollywood look – and thumb my nose at the misguided sterotype that only those who have olive skin, dark eyes and an “ethnic” look can be marketable.

Yes, it worked. I built it and they came. But a few years later, looking down from the summit of my Personal Everest, I’m beginning to wonder why I packed all that extra baggage.

I’m afraid to say it, but I’m starting to believe that a healthy dose of authenticity can be even more glamorous than a fantasy that no longer fits. Don’t get me wrong. My stage name still feels relevant. But lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of merging my real name with my current stage name, as Lisa Carrara. Dancing under my legal name is not an option, as I don’t like the idea of recruiters, prospective employers and future colleagues disqualifying me on the grounds of my “dark seductive dances from the Terrorist Land.” (We’ll save those rants for a later blog!) However, after dancing as Carrara for 2 years, I still feel like I only answer to Lisa. I think that’s a sign in and of itself.

I’m not the only belly dancer who feels more comfortable without a fancy stage name. Suzanna Del Vecchio, Ava Fleming, Rachel Brice and Michelle Joyce are all examples of beautiful dancers who don’t use a pseudonym – and nobody would ever say that any of them are lacking in elegance. If anything, I’m starting to see a trend of Middle Eastern dancers using their real name or a variation. And I find it very refreshing.

That being said, it’s interesting how we devise these elaborate personas when the magic really comes from within. Of course, we all need a little help in the form of Bellas, MAC, fire, swords and swagger. When I first started dancing, I used to look at myself in the mirror and giggle at myself in my sparkle-bra. Now, I pretty much have the same reason when I put on a tailored BCBG suit. The fantasy becomes real and the boundaries break down. My “real” life informs my creativity, and I often see mundane situations through dance-colored glasses. What I put out onstage now comes from inside me, rather than from Plato’s Realm of Ideal Belly Dancers. And I’m thinking I should address myself accordingly.

This transformation is all in its beginning stages and I’m sure you’ll hear more about it. Has anyone else here gone through a similar shift in identity?



Comments · 2

  1. Because I do discuss my non-dance activities, I use a dance name. Since my field doesn’t have a lot of women, I figure I’d better be safe than sorry. When I initially wanted a dance name, I was going to use Anisa Meera. It just never clicked. I think I used it for one performance before I went by my real name. Then I decided having a dance name was smart but wanted something close to my real name. Hence Aleksie. The spelling I thought just looked good.

    Lisa Carrara sounds Italian. I don’t know if that affects your decision but just saying.

  2. This is kind of how I feel. My line of work is marketing, and you just never know what your colleagues will think. When I was a project coordinator for a high-end home construction/design firm, my co-workers were completely impressed with my extracurricular interests. When I moved on to my last job, advertising sales for a huge corporate media conglomerate, people inevitably found out about my dancing. Not everybody was so appreciative.

    I’m playing with variations on Lisa, but none of them quite look cool enough to be a viable stage name. Lisa Carrara DOES sound Italian, which isn’t such a bad thing in the Northeast, with such a huge Italian population.

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