It’s mesmerizing to watch the waving, graceful arms float through the air with swaying hips making the colorful shirts swirl around the women’s waists.
Every movement flows into the next; it’s earthy and fluid.
“Belly dance is an ancient art form that celebrates the beauty, strength and sisterhood of women,” said Vicky Mitchell, president and founder of the Central Texas Belly Dance Association.
Mitchell started the group at her Harker Heights kitchen table in 2008 after years of belly dancing to help promote confidence.
“Women are last on the family totem-pole, so we do this for us,” Mitchell said.
Today the association has 24 members in four troupes, Maidens of Mystery, Mystic Silk and Caravan Boheme and Forte.
Often the troupes perform free at local events, like Hood Howdy, Copperas Cove Rabbit Fest and Shimmy Mob, that benefits Families in Crisis.
Soon the association will “unveil” its World War II boogie woogie piece in Austin and then later locally at its annual Hafla, or dance party.
“Belly dance is for everyone; it’s fun and empowering,”said Janet Adams, classically trained in ballet and director of Caravan Boheme. Adams is one of the belly dance instructors through Central Texas College’s Continuing Education program.
At a recent class, she called out instructions as dancers followed her movements swirling across the floor to hypnotic rhythms of music, laughing and cheering each other.
Beaming her trademark ear-to-ear smile, Angela Patterson-Young said she takes both the beginner and advanced classes. “If you have hangups about your body, belly dance will get rid of them,” she said.
The dancers range in age from 15 to 60-plus, and many have personal, and sometimes painful stories that led them to belly dance.
LaToya Gaston started taking classes after a car accident as part of her rehab. “The movements are slow, so it stretches my hips gently,” Gaston said.
Six years ago Michelle Barnwell stopped taking dance classes due to arthritis, but she lost 100 pounds and triumphantly returned two months ago.
“My teacher said I’ve still got it,” she said.
A dancer all her life, Yvonne Imergoot was taught belly dance by an Army wife-friend in 2007, and clung to the sisterhood during difficult times.
“Once I thought I was too heavy or had too many stretch marks, but I don’t care about that anymore; I just love it,” said Imergoot, vice president of the association.
Sabina Fundling, instructor of the beginning class, also takes the advanced class. “I enjoy seeing women blossom, and become more comfortable with themselves.”
But behind the coin-lined scarfs, veils and all that fun is a lot of skill that takes time to learn.
“You won’t get belly dancing in one lesson,” Mitchell said. “It’s a journey of art, of dance, of joy and of womenhood.”
For more information, contact Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.