Rachel “Omega” Matz is looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of her samba troupe, Sambistas do Sol, at the second annual World Culture Festival this February. The group was founded at last year’s inaugural festival, which will again take place at the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church. Omega, as she’s more widely known, found a kinship in samba dancing that reminded her of her youth in southeast Florida.
Dance wasn’t the path she thought she would pursue however, as she trained on the tuba. With her bachelor’s in music from Florida State University, Omega went on to earn a master’s in music from the University of South Florida and a doctorate of musical arts from the University of Georgia. As a musician in the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and part of local band, Clever Girl, she says her music training feeds directly into what she’s accomplished with dance.
“I have good time because I practically lived with a metronome under my pillow for a decade,” says Omega. “What I didn’t realize until I started dancing more and going to conferences and performances is how being a musician ended up adding a lot of credibility to my dancing. High profile auditions also gave me an eye for detail and how to polish a performance.”
Skills from the music world went hand in hand with Omega’s love of dance. With a focus on ethnomusicology, she discovered samba through studying its music, and felt her “body had been waiting for it” this whole time.
Because she was immersed in Latin American and Caribbean cultures growing up, social dancing was just another part of Omega’s childhood home. Her mother, a trained dancer, placed her in ballet classes very young. However, after a trip to Tarpon Springs where she was mesmerized by a performance in a Greek restaurant, she found belly dance in her late teens.
“I remember thinking it was so beautiful and amazing,” says Omega. “I already knew how to move my hips at that point, so I continued to gravitate towards dances that moved my hips.”
At the time, belly dance fitness videos were in vogue, so Omega bought a VHS and became a selftaught dancer. When she came to Tallahassee for her undergraduate studies, she found her first dance teacher, Juliana, at the Women’s Bellydance Center.
Omega also joined FSU’s belly dance club. She fondly recalls her first performances as a “baby” belly dancer where she learned the art of performance through trial and error. She laughs while remembering a particular wardrobe malfunction concerning a costume belt attached with Velcro.
“I was in the middle of a shimmy and my belt fell to the floor,” laughs Omega. “My skirt stayed on, but I had to step out of the belt and keep going.”
Now as a more seasoned performer of belly dance, samba, and Polynesian dance, Omega feels gratified in the performance experiences she’s added to her resume. She’s toured the east coast, Germany and Italy with Bellydance Evolution, was the featured instructor at River City Raqs belly dance festival and teaches locally at Hip & Heart Movement Studio.
Omega is also a part of the Mau’oli’oli Dancers led by Nancy Redig. She says the opportunity to study hula has brought humility and discipline to her dancing, and appreciates Redig’s wealth of knowledge. As both a performer and instructor of different dance forms, Omega emphasizes how much more there is to study than just the movement.
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