Salem hosts national belly dancing competition at the Grand this weekend 

The Grand Theater will be the venue for the Belly Dancer USA 2024 competition, an annual belly dancing competition run by a local professional belly dancer who hopes to grow the event into one of the largest belly dancing events on the West Coast. 

The competition started 41 years ago and was traditionally held in southern Oregon before Cassandra Rose Pangburn, the owner of Rose Empire Dance, a belly dancing studio downtown, inherited the competition in 2019. Because of Covid, Pangburn didn’t get to start putting it on until 2022. 

This year will be her third year in charge of the national event which includes a gala at the theater on Saturday, June 15, at 8 p.m. which will showcase belly dancers from around the country, followed by various categories of competitions. 

The main competition, the Belly Dancer USA competition, is on Sunday, June 16, at 6 p.m. The winner will be crowned at 8:30 p.m.

Dozens of belly dancers will take the stage including the internationally known Victoria Teel, and last year’s Belly Dancer USA winner Crystal Liu. 

Gala tickets cost $25 and children five years and younger get in for free. To view the competitions, tickets range from $15 for daytime events and $35 for an all-day pass. 

Pangburn won the competition herself in 2012 and has judged and taught belly dancing ever since. She said she became entranced by the beauty of belly dancing as a teenager, and has built her career around it. Pangburn said it is never too late to start. 

“I’ve had dancers who have come to me and started in their 50s. I have dancers in my troupes who are in their 60s. And I love the woman power,” Pangburn said. “It is very welcoming of all people, shapes, sizes, genders, and ethnicities. I love that we can put Middle Eastern art in a positive light … we show the beautiful culture, the music and the dancing, and we try to do it with respect to really honor the fact that this is someone else’s culture, and we want to do it justice.” 

Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 503-335-7790.

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Joe Siess is a reporter for Salem Reporter. Joe joined Salem Reporter in 2024 and primarily covers city and county government but loves surprises. Joe previously reported for the Redmond Spokesman, the Bulletin in Bend, Klamath Falls Herald and News and the Malheur Enterprise. He was born in Independence, MO, where the Oregon Trail officially starts, and grew up in the Kansas City area.