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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Belly dance showcases unique talents

Published: April 26, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

Performing this past Sunday in the Shapiro Campus Center, the Belly Dance Ensemble brought to life Egyptian and Turkish dance through a myriad of Brandeis undergrad students, masters students and staff. Deena Horowitz ’13, leader of Brandeis’ Belly Dance Ensemble said, “What really gets me are the people I’ve been dancing with in this troupe.”

What is at first most noticeable about the Belly Dancing Ensemble are their outfits. Adorned in elaborate costumes with arm-cuffs and flowers in their hair, their look was as flowing as the dance itself. Every dancer’s costume was different, allowing each dancer to celebrate her own individual look. Most wore jewel-tones, with skirts and necklaces that jingled and made noise when their bodies moved.

Horowitz explained, “Belly dancing requires confidence.” The club members’ page states that “members of the ensemble also have the opportunity to voluntarily perform at school events.” This is a voluntary choice, not a requisite. While many may consider belly dancing sexual, Horowitz celebrates it more as accepting one’s body. The club states that belly dancing “was traditionally created to help women strengthen their bodies in preparation for a safer childbirth.”

After beginning with a slideshow highlighting previous performance moments, the troop began with an ensemble number. This dance used silk veils—a fabric prop that extended the movement that began with the dancers’ arms. The dancers moved fluidly, timing the swell of the music with a sway of the veil or the lifting of a knee. The veil would touch the dancers’ shoulders, necks and then move to their stomachs. The dancers smiled and did not appear to be self-conscious.

The show also displayed the dancers’ talents through a series of solos. First, Candice Sheehan ’16 performed. Sheehan had extremely fluid arm and foot movements. She used the floor as a prop in her dance, dropping close to the ground and then popping back up. She would also kneel, adding different levels to her dance. Playing with her hair and unsmiling, Sheehan seemed slinky and snake-like to match the music choice.

Lauren Laperriere, a masters student, chose a vibrant purple outfit. Dancing to faster-paced music, almost hip hop style, Laperriere extended her long arms up and moved her hands with her hips. While the music was repetitive, it was also joyous, and Laperriere timed her moves very well.

Another solo, performed by Anne Rookey, a staff member at Brandeis, focused on the use of hands in the dance. She would clasp them together, and raise her palms upward in a sort of pleading yet joyful motion. Her face remained extremely expressive throughout the entire dance. Rookey has been dancing for years, and is even the leader of her own troop off campus. The solo performed by Horowitz was also entertaining to watch, as she employed the use of a cane to make her performance unique.

The performance also involved duets. In one notable number, dancers held clackers in their hands, which they used to make noise in time to the music. In these duets, the dancers would often play off each other and catch each other’s gaze. Swaying in synchrony, the duets were entertaining as the dancers directly engaged the audience.

Belly dancing often involves rib isolations, allowing the stomach to move on its own. It also encourages fluid arm and leg movements, and each dancer adds her own music to the song through clinking and clacking of jewelry and bells. While the Brandeis Belly Dance Ensemble struggled slightly with synchrony, the club celebrates diversity in the type of dance and music it brings to campus.