Sara Jo Slate, known in the Middle Eastern dance community as "Zweena bint Asya," began belly dancing in 1990 and has been teaching since 1997. Zweena has studied with instructors in both the US and Morocco and has been inspired most by two teachers: Leila Gamal, of South Bend, Indiana and Lucianne Estes (Asya) of Ashland, Oregon. Recognized for her unique lyrical style and creative approach to teaching, Zweena performs and teaches "old style" belly dance with a modern twist.
Zweena is a former member of Troupe Shalimar (Oregon), and is founder of the celebrated Troupe Taleeba (Indiana). In addition to nightclub, festival, and educational performances throughout the US, Zweena has soloed on several notable stages such as the Embassy Theater (Indiana), the Fort Wayne Performing Arts Center, the Tower Theater (Oregon), Les Schwab Amphitheatre (Oregon), and the Chicago Civic Opera House. In 2003, Zweena choreographed the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of Thais and performed in the production as a principal soloist. Zweena also choreographed Thais for the Metropolitan Opera's 2008/2009 season. The New York Times called the the opera a "star vehicle for the invaluable Ms. (Renee) Fleming" and the Huffington Post described it as a "totally absorbing confection." The production was broadcast live in movie theaters worldwide as part of the Met Live in HD series and aired on PBS's Great Performances.
Zweena holds a BA in American studies from Wellesley College and a masters in education from Harvard University. She is a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists and is a founding member of the High Desert Bellydance Guild. Currently raising her family in Sunriver, Oregon, Zweena teaches bellydance and youth ballet at the Sunriver Dance Academy and directs the South County Hipsters.
"Intricate isolations, dynamic veilwork and fresh creative expression...they have just witnessed something special as Zweena leaves the stage." - Ruby Jazayre
"Zweena's dancing is the embodiment of grace and femininity. Her in-depth knowledge of Middle Eastern music and culture, coupled with excellent technique and artistic expression, captivate an audience. Watching her dance, I am transported to another place, where history, culture, and human emotion are revealed to me as a story passed on through movement... and I am always enthralled" - Kamini
It's such a joy to collaborate with Zweena. Her choreographies are beautiful and captivating, and she has an easygoing teaching style that makes it easy to learn each step...Everything she does has style, grace and whimsy. - Dave Goodman, Imzadi Tribal Music & Silk Road Caravan