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Belly Dance! Studio Teaches the Ancient Dance Form and Fosters Community

By Marina I. Jokic

Originally founded by Sula Frick and later inherited by Leea Aziz in 1978, Belly Dance! Studio is currently led by Tabitha and Angelina, professional dancers and lifetime enthusiasts of the art. Belly dancing is a great way to get cardio exercise as well as express yourself creatively through dance.

"If you are curious about belly dance, some of the benefits include exercise, emotional and spiritual wellness, cultural awareness, self-expression, creativity and costuming," Tabitha said. "It is a great way to take time for yourself, and join a welcoming community of women."

Tabitha always has been passionate about belly dancing, and wanted to share her love of this ancient art form with the rest of the local community. At Belly Dance!, there are classes that emphasize all kinds of techniques and skills.

"Belly dance is a dance for all ages and bodies and is very positive for women and [their] body image," she said.

Tabitha recommends the beginners' level class for people who have never attempted to belly dance. That class includes steps and cymbals to accompany dancers to the tune of faster paced music, and shimmies for slower parts of the dance. Intermediate instruction covers veil movements, standing slow, drum solos, and putting steps and cymbals to music. Also, more advanced steps and finger cymbal patterns are incorporated. Finally, the advanced intermediate and advanced level classes emphasize steps, the use of swords and other props, drum solos, and complex rhythms. This latter class will drill more advanced finger cymbal patterns as well as touch on musicality and Middle Eastern culture.

"My inspiration was first to [continue] this unique community of women," Tabitha said. "I saw this as a great opportunity to spread the word about belly dancing as well as create a space where professional dancers could continue to grow as well as teach their own classes."

Belly dancing has given Tabitha the opportunity to form lasting friendships with the women who take her classes and the instructors who are part of her teaching staff.

"There is a common feeling of sisterhood throughout the belly dancing community, and our studio is no different," she said.

Tabitha intentionally diversified her class offerings by teaching belly dancing fitness and belly dancing technique classes; the latter course is for those who want to focus entirely on perfecting the art. Taking a class at Belly Dance! is also an enjoyable way to familiarize yourself with a facet of Middle Eastern culture. Originating in Egypt around the fourth century B.C., belly dancing eventually spread across swaths of the Middle East and was popularized as an artistic form.

Despite some stereotypes that pigeonhole belly dancing as an adults-only pastime, especially performed by women, the dance can be enjoyed by people of both genders.

"Belly dancing is family-friendly entertainment, and a perfect way to get any party started," Tabitha said. Belly dancers are culturally invited to perform for weddings, baby showers, and just about any community or family event.

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