Soraya D’Simone is far more than a casual belly dancer. She is known internationally for her authentic, entertaining style of dance.

Soraya D’Simone “celebrates life” through belly dancing. But D’Simone is far more than a casual belly dancer. She is known internationally for her authentic, entertaining style of dance.

The 30-year-old Margate resident says she was a natural. Growing up in Margate with a Syrian heritage, D’Simone often heard Middle Eastern music played in her home. By 3 years old, she was performing the traditional dance mostly out of her “emotional and spiritual connection” to the music.

D’Simone let that connection drive her career. Never taking a formal lesson, she lets her body react to the music and strives to keep the dance form as authentic as possible, refusing to allow Western influences into her style. In fact, she tries to keep choreographing routines to a minimum.

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That devotion to authenticity and her understanding of the Arabic and Hebrew lyrics commonly found in the music are major reasons she believes she is successful.

Her performances have included opening for Egyptian superstar Amr Diab in front of 5,000 people at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort to working for a hotel chain in India. Her most interesting performance was in front of King Hassan II, who personally invited D’Simone to perform for a private royal family party in his palace in Casablanca, Morocco. D’Simone also performs for private parties, and she owns an entertainment booking agency that specializes in ethnic programming.

“Belly dancing, for me, can’t be mechanical; it has to flow,” said D’Simone, who keeps her routines conservative so they are suitable for families. “When people watch me, I hope people can feel that connection I have to the music.”

Training military-style

If you think you’re a fitness fanatic, you should meet Dolph Hoch. The 46-year-old resident of the Lower Bank section of Washington Township, Burlington County, runs 50 miles at a clip through sandy soil in the Pine Barrens just to train for a race.

But Hoch will admit his entire life has always been pretty extraordinary. As a former United States Marine Corps scout sniper and former Army Special Forces member, Hoch certainly has his share of battle stories and training styles.

Hoch, who is in the middle of switching from an active reserve for the Air Force to a captain in the Army reserve, pushes himself to the limits physically. He is one of only 12 Americans in 25 years to finish a military race in the Republic of Estonia that lasts six days and has “the whole Estonia army chasing you down.”

He now has his sights set on finishing a 100-mile trail run in 24 hours, which will be a stepping stone for a triple Iron Man race next fall, which includes a seven-and-a-half-mile swim, 336-mile bike ride and 78.6-mile run that must be completed in 60 hours.

Hoch brings his military and training experience into the classroom as a physical education teacher for Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City, running his classes in military fashion.

“They love it,” Hoch said. “Sometimes, you have to win them over a bit, but when they get into the swing of military calisthenics and sounding off steps in a drill, it’s a pretty impressive thing. When they hear the nutrition and training I do, they know I am not telling them to do anything I wouldn’t do.”

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