Indonesia Expat
Meet the Expats

Melissa Calmes

Melissa Calmes

Meet Melissa Calmes. Passionate Belly Dancer, Musician and one third of the Calmes Triplets!


Melissa CalmesSo Melissa, where were you born and raised?

I was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, raised in Lexington, Kentucky and lived most of my professional life in Washington, DC.

You and your sisters form the dance trio the “The Calmes Triplets”! What was it like growing up as a triplet, are you and your sisters close?

Are we close is an understatement. The three of us have an odd gravitational force that keeps us together not only geographically but creatively as well.  This is the first time we have been this far apart. Laura resides in Lexington and Beth is still in Washington, DC. Growing up was a fun time. Our relationship together always provided the most wonderful support network, we are the best of friends.  Of course we have always attracted attention in the mere fact that we are triplets but I think we have a beautiful and dynamic energy together that people notice and feel. I love them dearly.

What was your childhood ambition, and how did you first become interested in belly dancing?

To be an artist! I wanted to play music, act, dance – Fame, the movie, was so inspirational to me. I wanted to live that dream. I played my cello, I joined the speech team at school – the only thing missing was dance. I could feel it in my soul every time I would watch a movie or see a performance. I needed to move with the music like that! And it didn’t matter what type of dance either. Not until 2000 did dancing become a reality. The three of us found Middle Eastern dance, took one class and the rest is history. We threw so many hours into rehearsing, studying and performing that no one could doubt our love for what we do. Oftentimes studying and performing in California, New York and Washington DC.  We still continue to pursue this passion promoting the classical beauty of this art form to the highest level.

The CalmesTripletsDo you have a favourite or most memorable moment in your dance career?

Honestly there are many memorable moments. The most beautiful part is when the three of us go into our creative place and unearth the piece we are working on from the music selection to the choreography to the costuming and to the feeling we want to project–and the moment we present this to our audience and dance colleagues is always most memorable.

So what brought you to Jakarta, had you visited before moving here?

I visited Jakarta with my husband Abi in 2003 and 2008. With Abi being Javanese and raised in Jakarta we always played with the idea of moving here. In December 2011 we took the plunge, arriving on New Year’s eve, in time to celebrate a new year in a new world.

And how are you enjoying the city so far?

Love it. It’s so dynamic, vibrant and constantly surprising. It is a city of extremes, being quite cosmopolitan and culturally rich. I love the dichotomy of it all. There are so many options for entertainment, dining, shopping and the warm, friendly and hospitable nature of Indonesians make the overall experience quite enjoyable.

I’ve been told you’ll be teaching belly dance classes at the Kemang Dance Center this year. Could you tell us a little about your classes and what we can expect?

I am looking forward to sharing my love for bellydance to enthusiasts living here in Jakarta. The focus will be Egyptian Raks Sharki, or cabaret style with folkloric themes at times. Often a dancer performs with props such as zills or finger cymbals, assaya or cane as well as veils and fan veils. All are beautiful accents to the dance and as a dancer it is important to know how to use these to help better express the choreography.

Melissa Calmes - The Belly DancerWhat is the most difficult aspect of belly dancing and is it difficult to learn?

Belly dancing is like a beautiful flower with many petals. There are many pieces that all fit together to create the whole, from the history, to the technique, music, choreography, costuming, and emotions. Probably the most challenging part is learning how to find the right muscles to use and learning to isolate them so you can contract/release, undulate or shimmy. It is difficult in the beginning to learn how to execute the moves properly but the most important part is having someone that knows how to teach well. Communication and method are key.

Will you be teaching any other classes?

Yes, Pilates. It is a nice accompaniment to dance classes and provides an effective and efficient way for dancers and non-dancers alike to condition their bodies.

Apart from dance, is there anything else you are passionate about?

I love doing all things creative including clothing and jewellery design. However, playing music with my sisters from the age of nine, is probably at the top of my list. Classically trained, we play violin, viola and cello and have played in orchestras as well as focusing on ensemble work. In our recent years we worked in Washington, DC performing for many private functions and corporate events around town.

Looking forward into the future, my vision is to continue sharing our unique creative process with the world through teaching and performing, hoping to share our joy with all.

Thanks Melissa! For more information please contact:

The Kemang Dance Center
Phone: 021 – 71794726
BB Pin: 21E1D9C1
Email: [email protected]
Address: Jl. Bangka Raya No. 5C, Jakarta Selatan – 12730

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