We had the good fortune of connecting with Karina and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karina, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
My siblings and I are fortunate because our mom, even with limited resources and multiple responsibilities, always ensured we had an opportunity to explore our interests. She finished her degree in education when all three of us were in Elementary School, so she was aware of the intellectual, emotional, and social benefits of attending art classes. We were continuously enrolled in dance, music, or acting lessons; sometimes in sports as well. The ones I could never stop attending were the dance classes, especially those that let me learn about new cultures and world views: Polynesian, Middle Eastern & Spanish Dance.

I grew up in Mexico and I noticed that my country, my city, and even my family had deep issues of corruption, drug use, and violence stemming many times, of course, from the lack of economic resources, but also because of the lack of emotional connections and healthy relationships within the community. I realized that promoting and teaching those Socio-Emotional skills I learned in my dance classes could help solve these critical issues in our societies in Mexico and beyond.

I moved to the United States and kept looking for a career where I could create a change, but also keep my passion for ethnic dances alive. At the end, I double majored in Anthropology, the study of human beings, and in dance. My calling was completed when I attended the UCLarts & Healing certification in Socio-Emotional Arts. I confirmed what I had learned from my mother years before.

Here in Los Angeles, I’ve found a multicultural community thriving with individuals and organizations as passionate as I for this kind of projects. So, after years of wondering and exploring, I can say that I took the right decision to pursue a creative career with an impact and that I also enjoy 100% either when I am on stage or in the dance studio.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

Although I am also trained in Polynesian dance and Flamenco, most of my work right now is in Arab and Middle Eastern dances, performing at family celebrations, restaurants, and cultural events both for the Arab communities here in California, but also for non-Arab audiences that are just experiencing these dances for the first time. Since I do not belong to these cultures myself, I have to be especially careful and respectful in the way I present my art. I have been lucky enough to study under generous instructors who share their cultures with me, but also as an anthropologist, I can take better decisions and see how cultural dances (that can be all of them), have so much more power and value than what we give them credit for.

Either by performing or witnessing them, ethnic dances preserve and help pass on traditions and values from each generation to the next one within a culture, creating and strengthening the identity of its members. These dance styles can also initiate and foster connections between individuals with different backgrounds in a way that not only feels safe but also enjoyable even when there is a language barrier. And finally, they teach each of us socio-emotional skills that are helpful in daily life: how to understand and share our feelings, how to work as a team, how to keep our bodies healthy, and how to have a growth mentality. Knowing about this also gives us options. As a teenager, for example, I realized that there are so many beauty ideals around the world, so I could feel beautiful in my own way without having to conform strictly to the latest trends my classmates were following that year.

So when I perform or teach, we are there to have a great time AND ALSO, even if there is no time to explain it, we end up contributing to this web of interpersonal connections, leaving meaningful memories for all present, and inspiring everyone to live their best life possible. I believe many of our societies’ challenges can be greatly relieved if we give more importance to these skills and dialogues.

It has been hard to balance what the market asks of me as a dancer with my passion to incorporate culture and socio-emotional skills in my classes and performances. However, I have to say that here in Los Angeles I’ve found support that I hope expands soon through the country and beyond where it is also needed. For now, I’ve had the opportunity to perform at beautiful multicultural weddings and baby showers where I get to introduce each side of the family to their new cultures and my groups of students are growing as well. On one side, I have my regular Bellydance students who every Saturday show up ready to learn not only steps but the cultural meaning behind each dance and who embrace my agreements of support and respect. On the other, I have my dance club which is part of an after-school program. There, my kids are learning creative dance while also practicing their social skills. I even got to share a little of my own culture with them, of course, through dance and music.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Here in Southern California there are so many places to visit! I always describe it as a World’s Flavors Sampler Plate. We have a large multicultural community and plenty of opportunities to experience the sounds, dances, and traditions of each culture.

Little Arabia has just been designated in Anaheim and over there there are plenty of restaurants and stores to visit. Close by I also recommend Golden Rose and Samara for a night out in Egypt or Lebanon without leaving the US.

For Persian food, I love Darya with two locations, one in Santa Monica and one in Orange. I perform each Saturday at around 7;00pm in the Orange location. Beverly Hills also has restaurants and many interesting Persian rugs and art stores.

For Asian food, Little Tokyo is worth exploring for a whole day, and Quarters has delicious Korean BBQ.

For a fast lunch, Matikis has amazing Polynesian food.

El Floridita and Cafe Sevilla are great for dancing to Latin rhythms while Placita Olvera, Grand Market, and El Mariachi are also great places to eat. The last one has mariachi and Mexican Folklor shows a couple of days a week.

Lastly, I recommend looking for cultural events. There are multiple happening each weekend: religious festivities, music performances, dance classes in every possible style, and everything in between.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
1.- My Mother 2.- All my dance and art instructors. Just to name a couple: Karmina L. Fanjúl, Nayeli Chavez, Alejandra Salinas, Lucilene de Geus, Frank Gilpin, Tiana N. Liufau.
3.-Organizations that have believed, and supported me: New Mexico State University, UCLarts & Healing, Nonosina Polynesia, Sahlala Dancers, Parent Institute for Quality Education & Woodcraft Rangers
4.-So many dancers and students who have shared the stage and studio with me

Website: https://fonsecat3.wixsite.com/karinabellydancehula

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karinabellydancerla/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karina-fonseca-96b5ab16b

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karina.bellydancerla

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/BellydancebyKari

Other: https://linktr.ee/karinabellydancerla

Image Credits
Julian Monarrez Scott Lim Everett Woo

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.