On the shiny, waxed, hardwood second floor of Preston Health and Activities Center, bare feet could be seen along with the reflection of spots of glimmering yellow lights. Women danced to rhythmical sounds of mystical drumming and flutes.
Students can now use these ancient techniques from the Middle East to ease their comfort with body image while becoming enriched.
The seductive belly dance from the Middle East has hit Western’s campus. Classes are being taught at the Preston Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. by LeOra Day, of Stone Creek. Day also teaches dance at Dance Arts Studio in Bowling Green, but decided to add a six-week course on campus.
This class does not start out as most average classes do.
“Swing your back like a horse’s tail and when this gets too boring move your arms,” Day said to get new dancers in the groove.
“You’re in a safe place now,” Day said as the music started and she showed the class how to move their pelvis. “The bad guy with the sitar can’t get you right now.”
The ancient dance form helps women feel more comfortable with themselves – even a bit sexy as big hips are almost preferred for this type of dance technique, Bowling Green graduate student Andrea Kitta said.
Kitta said she learned various forms of dance as a child. She would practice in the kitchen while waiting for the school bus to come. Kitta claimed belly dancing is a more entertaining way to exercise when compared to using the Stairmaster.
“Having big hips is an asset where usually it’s not,” Kitta said. “It’s a positive body image experience.”
The class started with head circles, then arm movements resembling that of snakes, followed by pelvic circles. The students made ‘swooshing’ sounds to help them exaggerate their hip-circling motions.
Leotards are replaced with detailed scarves or beaded belts which are wrapped around the waist to accentuate movement and add jangling sounds as the women shimmy. Some wear shorts or leggings, while others wear skirts to further accentuate their dance technique.
The common belief of this dance tradition is that it is always intended to only please men, Day said. However, this ancient custom has more history than to just delight sexual appetites. Religious scholars believe belly dance originated in India and was used as ritual dance to praise gods or goddesses or to give stories visual aids before there was writing.
Belly dancing has also been used in other ways and other countries. There is evidence of its use in early Egyptian times to relax women during their pregnancy, much like lamaze class is used today, Day said. The rhythmic aids of drumming music and dancing would help calm the woman during her contractions, she said.
Day has been teaching dance in Bowling Green for four years and also in Florida off and on for the last 15 years.
The class features rhythmic beats from native artists of Morocco, India and Turkey.
“With belly dance you get to put on a whole new character, Day said. “It’s kind of a chance to become somebody else from some other time and place.”
The class ended with a sense of ease and good feeling as the women grasped hands to make a circle and incorporated their new Middle Eastern moves while in rotation. Occasionally colliding as some went to the right instead of the left, the women’s faces lit up with laughter.
“Whenever you get stressed out you realize you have this to come to at night and it’s kind of a de-stresser,” Owensboro freshman Amanda Hardy said.
Reach Amber Sigman at [email protected]