Belly dancing quickly became her passion, though, and Rounis studied under a number of teachers in New York and Pennsylvania.

Shortly after, Rounis chose the stage name Samara in homage of her mother, Mary, whose maiden name was Samaras, and danced professionally, she said.

Her pursuits led to her to perform all over Maryland and even twice in Greece.

"They wouldn't let me down off the stage," Rounis recalled of her 1977 performance in Athens. "I felt like a celebrity then."


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Rounis likely gets a similar feeling these days when performing at any of her many gigs, including weddings and festivals, in Baltimore County.

She said she's often recognized by people who have seen her perform.

The performances have changed little since Rounis began as a professional belly dancer more than three decades ago.

Rounis said she can still pull off all of the techniques, even the Turkish Drop, a maneuver in which the dancer spins and spins and spins then suddenly drops, knees and head touching the floor simultaneously.

She has the ability to perform the feat, but admits she hasn't attempted it in years.

"I can do that, but I'm afraid," she said. "You can break a bone or something."

It's not the pain she fears, but the potential of being forced to be sedentary.

"I don't want to stay and play bingo my whole life," Rounis said. "That's not my goal in life. I want to be active.

"I know 85 year olds who can't hardly move," she added. "(Dancing) makes you feel good. It gives you a high."

Her son, Michael Vatakis, said he can't imagine his mother ever stopping belly dancing.

"She's a very young 85, and I see her doing this until she's 105," said Vatakis, a Perry Hall resident. "She's one of the fortunate ones that found something she can do as she got older.

"It's more than a passion, it's almost her life."

Rounis teaches belly dancing for one hour every Friday at 10 a.m. at the Catonsville Senior Center.

Vatakis said he's not sure whether she enjoys teaching or dancing more.

"It's my business to make these people feel the music and the dance," Rounis said.

Rounis teaches technique and implores the dancers to keep their eyes up, lest they look like they're counting, to 13 women each week, she said.

"I do not teach anything hoochie coochie," Rounis added. "It's a beautiful Middle Eastern belly dance."