Spotlight Sunday: Irina Akulenko

Photo from the Chanaya wordpress blog

Photo from the Chanaya wordpress blog

My tribal idol, Irina Akulenko. Musical, sensual, and great taste in costumes. According to her website,, “she holds a Bachelors degree in Political Science, and has a strong interest in women’s issues and visual arts.” Not too shabby!

Irina performs mostly in New York, but I believe she’s Russian. Don’t quote me on that! I haven’t been able to find any particularly detailed bios, just good videos of her performances. (Actually, every single bio I’ve found is the same, word for word. Someone’s been using copy/paste…)

As you’ll see in the following, she’s known to do some sword and veil work. She also, of course, teaches classes on belly dance, as many of these performers do. Does every belly dancer end up teaching it? Or is this just an American trend?

Video #1: Sword

Fluid, graceful movements. She weaves undulations and shimmies together seamlessly. She’s a pro, and she’s magnificent to watch.

This music is fantastic, and I adore what she does with her hands right at the start. This song is almost a bit creepy, very mystical, but upbeat at the same time. She’s blindfolded the whole time, but I’m pretty sure the blindfold is sheer, so she can see through it. Perfect balance, naturally, so the sword on her head never falls and barely wavers. Her warrior’s pose before the four minute mark made me grin. At the end…her character seems possessed, offering the sword to some unseen entity. Hard to look away.

Video #2: No Props

Gotta love her flair for the dramatic. The intro to this video with the silhouette on a dark background… Difficult to see her at first, but then she glows in the soft spotlight. One thing I really loved about this piece was how at the beginning of the song, if you followed her arms, you could see that she would raise her arms when the melody went high, and then the reverse. Or she’d push out for high and move her arms inward for low. It’s fun to watch her interpret the song, because of that “musicality,” that sensitivity to what the song is doing while she dances, and matching her movements to it.

Video #3: Veil

Irina seems to have a thing for the band Beatbox Guitar–for which no one can blame her. We’ve seen her dance to them before, in my post “Every Shade of Belly Dance,” and I’m including another one here as well. This one gives off less of a Native American vibe, and more of a Spanish one. This guitar is heartbreakingly beautiful. Even if you just listened to the music, you’d fall in love.

Watching a ton of Irina’s videos, she does get a bit repetitive. Still, knowing your style and sticking to it — that’s important. She does what she does very well.

Countdown to Belly Dance Mastery: 9,982 hours

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