While many young women her age enjoy dancing, most of her contemporaries generally do so in clubs on Saturday nights. But Andreana Maroon dances professionally all over the country.

Born and raised in Peoria, there seemed no doubt Maroon would excel in the arts. "Dance and music are in my blood due to my strong Serbian and Lebanese heritage," she said. "Both my parents and maternal grandparents have strong musical and dance backgrounds. I’ve studied all forms of dance since the age of four and have been belly dancing for the past 15 years. My first professional performance was at the age of seven with my mother, Pava. Besides being trained by my mother, I’ve studied with internationally known teachers such as Cassandra, Suhaila Salimpour, Momo Kadous, Nourhan Sharif, Yousry Sharif, Dahlal, and Jillina."

Although most Americans use the term "belly dancing," Maroon said she incorporates a range of styles. "My dance consists of all types of Middle Eastern dance and music-from classical Egyptian to folkloric and modern Middle Eastern pop. ’Belly dance’ is a broad term that refers to so many forms of the dance. I also have incorporated other forms of dance such as ballet, jazz, and gypsy to enhance my own personal style. My specialties are the scimitar (sword) dance, Egyptian cane dance, and dynamic drum solos. I’m constantly embellishing and enhancing my performance to captivate my audience. My goal is to take them on a magical journey and to challenge myself by always keeping my performances fresh and entertaining." 

Making a career out of any art form is typically a difficult undertaking, but Maroon said it’s more than her career-it’s her passion. "I decided after high school and attending ICC that I wanted to make belly dance my life’s goal through performing and teaching. I can’t imagine my life without dancing, since it’s my way to bring joy to others and express my true love of this ancient art form of dance. It expands my mind, body, and soul and is a constant learning process," she said.

Maroon has spent time traveling and making a name for herself in the dance world recently, though she’s chosen to keep Peoria as her home base. "In May I was invited to perform in Hollywood for an internally known belly dance producer for her latest video, ’Belly Dance Rocks!’ It was truly a memorable and rewarding experience that allowed my dance to be seen at an international level. Performing as the guest artist for The Bellydance Superstars USA Tour produced by Miles Copeland was also an honor and an enlightening experience. The intent of this tour was to bring belly dance to the mainstream in the musical entertainment business," she said.

Currently, she performs on the weekends at Juliana Restaurant in Chicago. "Juliana’s is the largest Arabic fine dining restaurant in the Midwest, with a clientele that appreciates and respects the art of belly dance. I’m truly blessed to have such a fantastic job," she said.

In addition to performing, Maroon has taught and been co-director of Pava Productions, her mother’s company, for the past seven years. "Besides belly dance, my mother and I are the instructors for The All Saints Greek Orthodox Folk Dancers, teaching folk dances from the Balkans and Middle East," she said. "I enjoy teaching private classes to ladies, giving them individual attention and instruction. I also hold mini-workshops on a monthly basis in Chicago at Juliana’s. This past year I’ve taught seminars in belly dance in St. Louis and Chicago. Teaching allows me to share my dance techniques with others, and it’s rewarding to see my choreographies performed by my troupe and students. Belly dance relieves stress and helps my students gain stamina-but most of all, the goal is to have fun."

Maroon also has other artistic irons in the fire. "I teach piano in my home, and I’m the spokesmodel for Arnold & Brown Photography and model for other local photographers and agencies in the central Illinois area."

Her career is coinciding with a surge in Middle Eastern dance popularity that’s taken place over the last few years, Maroon said. "Shakira has presented the dance through her music videos and made it popular with young women. Many American videos have used Middle Eastern dance and instruments with traditional American rock and fusion music. I believe American women are discovering that Middle Eastern dancing is a safe and healthy form of exercise that appeals to them with the mystical music."

She said the best part of her dancing career is doing something she loves and is passionate about. "Seeing my mother dance professionally for more than 30 years, I feel that my career has only started. I have the advantage that I started my dance career at an earlier age than most professional belly dancers. The challenge is to always keep my dance exciting and find a balance between my personal and professional life."

The biggest misperception she runs into is a preconceived idea of what belly dancing is, she said. "This is due to a lack of education about the dance or seeing a bad B movie with a so-called belly dancer performing in it. When people see my dance, they understand and comment on the beauty of the art form I’m presenting. When I demonstrate the intricacies and various isolations of the movements, they have a new appreciation of the dance."

Maroon credits her success to date with an inborn talent and a mother who set an example and allowed her to pursue dance. "I can’t remember a time when I didn’t express myself through dance. I feel that everyone has the potential to learn if they have the desire; the key is to be guided by an instructor who’s able to make dancing fun yet challenging-and never boring. Through the years at my mother’s dance studio, I’ve seen and taught numerous women the art of belly dance and have observed their own personal growth and confidence that belly dance provides them. Eventually, I’d like to travel the world and produce my own series of belly dance videos." AA!