A little about Debbie Despina Cartsos
Innovative instructor and virtuoso performer Despina is obsessed with belly dance. The rich sounds of music from her Greek childhood and the tantalizing movements of belly dancers in the Greek night clubs awakened a passion within her to study the dance. Despina’s belly dance adventure started in 2005 in Fat Chance Belly Dance Style, a form of fusion belly dance. She later on discovered the Salimpour institute (AKA the *University of Belly Dance*) through her teacher Irina Bellyrina Wen. Her connection to the dance fueled her to continue her training and exploration by joining world renowned choreographer's Dalia Carella’s classes.
Despina's unique dance style seamlessly blends modern and vintage belly dance influenced by her Greek heritage, Dalia Carella and the Salimpour format. You can find her performing and teaching in NYC and at various belly dance festival's within the US. Despina is also a proud member of the Dalia Carella Dance Collective.
Teaching in Astoria, Queens, Despina creates a dynamic and enjoyable learning environment for her students, who attest to her ability to challenge them to dance safely with ease, grace, and power.
Innovative instructor and virtuoso performer Debbie Despina Cartsos is obsessed with belly dance. The rich sounds of her childhood and the tantalizing movements of dancers in Greek night clubs awakened a passion within her to study the dance. Her connection to the dance fuels her deep dedication to both education and exploration throughout the art.
Despina’s official belly dance training adventure started in 2005 when she began studying fusion belly dance (Fat Chance Belly Dance Style) with Mimi Fontana and became a founding member of Manhattan Tribal. Under the mentorship of Irina Bellyrina, she gained an appreciation for the legacy of the Salimpour family and the formats taught through the Salimpour™ School. The certification program has been an important tool in her growth as dancer: she is Jamila Level 1 and Suhaila 1 certified and plans to continue studying both formats. She also studies under renowned world fusion artist, choreographer, and master teacher Dalia Carella. Dalia is also Despina’s mentor, design muse, and co-producer for Menagerie d'Arte, "a surreal and immersive dance experience".
Despina started teaching in 2016 in Astoria, NY. She has also taught classes and workshops Manhattan, NY. She has also taught under Dalia Carella, Belly Queen and at the belly dance festival Art of the Belly in Ocean City, Maryland. She loves creating group choreographies and helping her students strive for the best. "Debbie takes a hands on approach with her teaching and ensures each and every student gets the personal attention and feedback they need, even during warm up. Her focus on drills and technique helps dancers achieve those beautiful lines, grace and power. Not only do her classes allow you to become a better dancer, Debbie creates a fun and dynamic environment! Classes are always filled with laughter and humor. You’ll always look forward to going to class! No matter what your dance goals are, whether you want to learn about Belly Dance for the first time, or if you’re looking to become a better performer, Debbie’s class is for you."
Despina’s choreographies are deeply influenced by the teachings of Dalia Carella and the Salimpour format. Her authentic love for music and movements is contagious. She has a weakness for finger cymbals, swords and pushing boundaries on stage. What kind of journey will she take you on next?
Debbie Despina Cartsos discovered her passion for belly dancing in the vibrant Greek nightclubs known as Bouzoukia, where she was captivated by the mesmerizing belly dancers performing to live music. Even as a child, she received a handmade mini Bedlah from a belly dancer who performed at OPA, her parents' favorite Greek spot. Her infatuation with the art form was so strong that her mom had to hide the costume, as she refused to take it off despite outgrowing it. Despina vividly remembers the rush, joy, and admiration she felt when the belly dancers took the stage. In her family, she was the designated tipper, always eager to support the performers. As soon as the dancers signaled the open floor for everyone to join in, Despina would be the first to showcase her moves, radiating her passion for the art.
Over the years, Despina witnessed the incredible cultural exchange that took place within the bouzoukia, not only in Greece but also on an international scale. The live music bands consisted of talented musicians from all corners of the world, and the dancers hailed from diverse backgrounds. It was a melting pot of creativity and talent. This isn't only what Despina witnessed but she has had lengthy conversations with her teachers about their experiences dancing in Greek nightclubs. (More on this coming soon in a separate article.)
While teaching in Astoria, Despina's expertise caught the attention of a Greek woman who sought private lessons specifically for dancing in club and party settings. This inspired Despina to start teaching online belly dance classes during the pandemic. Her classes covered both old-school and modern belly dance songs, with a focus on providing students with translations of the music. The classes became a tremendous success as students not only enjoyed learning the meaning behind each song but also felt uplifted, as if they had just experienced the energy of the bouzoukia firsthand.
In Greece, belly dance, particularly the Greek style known as Tsifteteli, is not considered the official traditional dance, unlike line dances. Despina draws strong influence from her mother's side of the family, originating from Fwkea, the offshore areas of Turkey from where her family was evacuated and eventually settled in Mytilini, Lesvos. Her uncle and cousin are skilled bouzouki players and songwriters, while her aunt and uncle excel in singing Rembetika and Smyrneika songs. This rich family heritage deeply shapes Despina's approach to choreography and teaching.
When Despina choreographs to Greek music and instructs her students, she takes them on an immersive journey to feel and experience the music on a profound level. Her goal is to empower her students to dance freely, enabling them to incorporate what they learn from her into their own unique dance journeys.
At the Bouzoukia with Despina
May 2020 - Boho Blade Apprentice with Belladona Boheme (Level 1 Certified)
November 2018 - L1 Suhaila Format Intensive with Angelique Hanesworth in New York City, NY (Level 1 Certified)
August-September 2018 - Certification of completion Natalie Nazzario's 8 week Mahraganat Course New York City, NY
June 2018- L1 Suhaila Salimpour Intensive in New York City, NY
January 2015 - ATS® Teacher Training ATS Homecoming in SF (Teacher Training Certified)
June 2014 - L1 Jamila Format Intensive with Suhaila in New York City, NY (Level 1 Certified)
June 2013 - L1 Suhaila Salimpour Intensive in New York City, NY
October 3rd and 4th: Suhaila Salimpour 2 Day Intensive in New York City, NY
October 2014 - Rajasthani Gypsy Caravan, workshop taught by Suva Devi & the Ustad Arba Music Group
May 2013 - Rachel Brice "Vintage Stylizations with Spins, Levels & Zils"
May 2013 - Kami Liddle "Gettin' Hyphy with Saidi"
May 2012 - Kami Liddle "ATS inspired Fusion"
April 2012 - Rachel Brice: "The Balancing Act"
July 2011 - Tribal Pura Workshop with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman director of FatChanceBellyDance® and Megha Gavin
September 2009 - Tribal Pura Workshop with Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman director of FatChanceBellyDance® and Megha Gavin
February 2009 - ATS® General Skills at the FatChanceBellyDance® Studio in SF (GS Certified) taught by Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman