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Meet Isabella Salimpour

Today we’d like to introduce you to Isabella Salimpour.

Hi Isabella, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I have few memories of my childhood that do not involve Middle Eastern dance, constantly watching my mother and grandmother run our family’s business. I would sit on the side of my mother’s dance floor and watch her rehearse for hours, enamored with the magic of the body and the spirit of the music. I adored the vulnerability. This is what encouraged me to start dancing and, eventually, join my family’s business. I trained every day, doing drills around my dining room table starting at the age of four. I began assisting my mother and grandmother in teaching classes, going on tour with their companies, and assisting in workshops. Along with dancing, I loved to sing and act as a result of the variety of activities I did at a young age. In addition to developing my dance career, my mother always encouraged me to explore my passions.

In middle school, I fell in love with musical theatre, excited at the prospect of mixing all of the art forms that I was so passionate about. I also loved jazz music, taking classes at the Berkeley jazz school and at my high school. After transferring from a musical theatre college to the New School, I decided to major in Jazz and Performing Arts. It opened up a completely different area of my brain that I never knew I could access. I learned to write, hear, sing, and produce my own music which allowed me to find my voice in the art world. I loved being able to intellectualize every note and melody in a song and I sought to do the same with my own material. With the knowledge I acquired from my education, I was able to merge my culture with my musical spirit by incorporating Middle Eastern sounds into my music. I continue to explore the idea of combining my love for my culture with my passion for music in my work.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges for me was overcoming the pressure I put on myself, especially when I was younger. My mother and grandmother had always been in the spotlight, making me feel as if I had to live up to certain achievements and standards. I was worried about disappointing the community that supported our legacy and always wanted to contribute something impactful. This pressure also leaked into my individual passions such as music and theatre which limited my creative and personal explorations. The expectation to uphold my reputation prevented me from making mistakes, something that I feel is vital for anyone to find themselves. A lot of my identity came from who I thought I had to be rather than who I was internally. All of these fears were brought to light during my freshman year of college, forcing me to re-evaluate myself and my identity. I am thankful for that experience as difficult as it was at the time. Luckily, I was able to overcome these limitations and free myself. I feel this is something every person struggles with throughout their life.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I recently just transferred to Saint Mary’s college to finish my degree in performing arts. I am also actively involved with my family’s business where I teach classes on emotional development for choreography. The lessons involve taking the students through a series of techniques that they can use to strengthen their connection to the music and dance. I absolutely love working with dancers and helping them develop a deeper connection to their work. I feel this is what helps dancers create a specific “style” or uniqueness. It gives them a certain unexplainable magnetism. I am also currently in the midst of writing and developing upcoming singles, all based around human connection, spirituality, change, and internal struggles. Music plays a huge role in my life and in my career. I love to explore my sound by collaborating with different producers who have their individual styles and, while I am creating, I tend to visualize movements that compliment the music. I also like to find new ways I can incorporate middle eastern sounds into my work, which has a more modern feel; this helps me push boundaries when it comes to my style.

Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
I was really nervous when I was just starting out. I was afraid of not giving a strong representation of who I was, which held me back from exploring my music style and taking risks. I was a little too much of a perfectionist, and it was not until I started studying at the New School that I realized my perfectionism was doing more harm than good. That is when I realized it was okay to go outside of the lines, to proudly make music that I usually would have kept hidden, to collaborate with new people, and to defy the restrictions I originally put on myself. I was finally able to make music that I was passionate about. If I could have grasped this fearlessness earlier on in my career, I think I could have spared myself a ton of mental distress. It is so important to be open and take risks when you are first starting out.


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Lauren Kerr Rachel Duff

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