Crystal Silmi is a belly dancer from USA. She teaches and performs a unique fusion style of belly dance. We spoke to Crystal recently to get her perspective on the vegan lifestyle to see how well it supports her very energetic lifestyle and career.
1. What or who inspired you to become a vegan?
I became a vegetarian when I was 14 years old. There was a profound moment for me at that time when I made the connection between the food on my plate and where it had come from. I love animals very much and realized that my omnivorous diet was causing suffering to these precious beings. Not only that but I felt that I had somehow been cheated by society for “disguising” the truths about the factory farming industry. I switched to a full vegan diet about 3 years ago when I came in contact with some very alarming reports about the horrifying treatment of cattle and the stats on how methane from livestock is the key contributor to climate change. We have a slogan here in California for milk- “Happy Cows Come From California.” Wow. The truth about dairy cows paints a very different picture. Not only is the dairy industry torturous to the animals, but it is totally unnatural for humans to be drinking cow’s milk to begin with. The switch from vegetarian to vegan was very easy for me with this information in hand.
2. Can you please share with us the benefits you have found from following a vegan diet?
Switching to a vegan diet from a lacto-vegetarian diet has brought some suprising benefits. I feel lighter, both mentally and physically. I also feel more content ethically speaking. My diet has a super low carbon foot print and I know that animals are not suffering on my account. Not only that – but I have discovered the limitless joys of vegan cuisine. In California we are so blessed to have a multitude of restaurants and goods catered towards vegans. I have recently fallen in love with Purely Decadent Vegan Cookie Dough Ice Cream. To Die For.
3. Does the vegan diet provide enough energy for a dancer such as yourself?
I am EXTREMELY active. I teach multiple classes every week. I direct a troupe of dancers and we have performances all the time. Not only do I have “enough” energy as a dancer but the constant feedback comment I get after my performances is “You have so much energy! I love your energy!” The dancing that I do tends to be super fast paced and requires a lot of stamina. I dare to say that I am more fit and have more energy than many of my non vegan dance counterparts.
4. Please tell us a bit about your style of belly dancing.
I do “belly dance fusion” which encompasses a broad range of styles under the technical umbrella of belly dance. That means using the foundation of belly dance, I often incorporate movement and music from other dance genres such as hip hop, jazz, flamenco, north african dance, etc. As an Arab American living in a very “fusion” society comprised of people from all parts of the world, my influences in dance and culture have known no borders. Dance for me is a vehicle of self expression and the range of my being is widely variable. I appreciate dance and music of all varieties and find that I am more free to express myself when I embrace the world of dance at large, not just a singular genre.
5. Do you have a favourite recipe that you can share with us?
Practically every day I eat toasted 100% rye bread with avocado and a little salt and pepper on top. Tastes even better with a few slices of Vegan Gourmet Mozarella Cheese. I know that’s not really a recipe, but it’s a staple meal of mine.
6. Who is your greatest inspiration and why?
I am inspired by so many people in so many different ways. Artistically of course my main teacher, Suhaila Salimpour paved the way for me to find my voice as a dancer. I have since found inspiration through all artisitic mediums from poetry to painting and beyond. The women in my dance troupe RaksArabi inspire me with their commitment to my artistic vision and their ability to make it come alive. Every day I am moved and inspired in some way. When I hear about the work people are doing for the greater good of humanity and the selfless sacrifices that are made daily by people to help one another, I am moved and inspired.
When I remember the words of great people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mohandas Gandhi or Mother Theresa I feel a wave of love and inspiration to do good deeds and to be the change I want to see in the world. I cannot deny though that the main source of my inspiration comes from my beloved spiritual teacher Supreme Master Ching Hai. Without her compassionate love and guidance, I cannot say that I would have found dance at all. Her noble way of living and teachings on the nature of our true essence has really shaped me as a wise, loving and compassionate human being. I find eternal inspiration in her words and deeds.
7. If you could send a message out to the world, what would it be?
Please – our time here is very short. Not only as individuals but as a collective. Our mother needs our help to reverse the damage we have caused to her. We are in a time where extreme change is needed – and that starts with what’s on our plate. It is so easy to be vegan. The health benefits are limitless and you will feel uplifted to know that you are a cog in the wheel of REAL change. This is beyond politics and opinions about whether we are the cause of global warming or not – the only thing that matters is that we have the ability to do something to save our beautiful home. The animals will thank you, the Amazon will thank you, I will thank you but most importantly your own inner consciousness will thank you. Be Vegan to Save the Planet!