Sunday, March 18, 2012

Navel Maneuvers Trump Irish Jig On St. Patrick's Day

There wasn't a shamrock in sight - instead there were lots of women dressed in brightly colored scarves. A soft unmistakable sound from luminescent bangles could be heard with every passing step during Saturday's dance event. Belly dancers joined Ayshe, The Queen of Wings, for the 12th annual Master Seminar and Showcase 'Wings Over Connecticut' held at New London's Connecticut College.

Ayshe, of Greek and American descent is a New York dance artist best known for her exotic dance expertise and for the development of 'Isis wings', a speciality of cabaret performance. Asyhe's website describes the history of wings in dance performance as, "Wings were originally used for costuming in Las Vegas acts and Caribbean carnival parades. They found their way into Middle Eastern dance as a means to depict the Egyptian Goddess, Isis, who appears on ancient wall paintings with large birds."

Combining various studies of classical ballet, yoga, modern dance, fusion and fantasy belly dance, Middle Eastern, Indian and Pharaonic dance techniques, Ayshe holds a B.A. from City University at Hunter College in Dance and Human Movement, Archaeology and Middle Eastern Studies.

A 4-hour intensive class covering 'Wings of Isis' was the impetus for the belly dance workshop. Class participants performed in the evening's showcase. The Wings technique is considered a huge step for dancers because the prop is quite formidable in size and takes skill in achieving choreographic coordination.

Farasha, a Middle Eastern Dance performer, teacher and choreographer, incorporated the wings into her routine. Watching the dual sided expanse of material move with Farasha's rhythm was mesmerizing. The wings were made of a silver sheen and caught light with each undulating turn, until finally the dancer was encircled entirely when both left and right sides connected, forming a whole.

Farasha dances with wings

Ayshe approached the stage area with an urn balanced upon her head. At first I thought the head gear was to show balance. A familiar scent soon filled the room and I suspected my camera had been worked too hard. I realized the smell was coming from burning incense when puffs of smoke floated out from the urn.

All the dancers wore exotic fabrics in sheers, velvets, sequin accessories that shimmied and swayed with each hip and belly movement.

I came to the New London event to see my friend Jackie dance with her posse, Judy's Gypsies of Naugatuck, CT. The group performs in nursing homes throughout Naugatuck and surrounding towns. It was during one of those occasions when I first saw them in action.

Judy Alt dances because it makes her feel good.
I fell in love with Judy's Gypsies and their giving of service to others. Judy Alt, leads the group and teaches belly dancing at her studio Compassionate Hands Holistic Center.

Anyone can't help but appreciate this dance form - women of all ages, shapes and sizes, create a visual art form through their movement.

I always thought of belly dancing as something women
did for husbands or superiors. The origin of the belly dancing is unclear, though it seems the Middle East and Africa are good starting points for various styles of dance  ritual.

Based on history it seems the tradition began as activity done for others. Women gathered to dance in preparation for childbirth. Movement encourages flexibility and builds strength, particularly needed during labor.

As with any exercise, endorphins are released and a feeling of well being ensues, thus finding divinity within.

Belly dancing is in today's world, a physically liberating activity dancers do as a celebration of body.

While Saturday's St. Patrick Day performance wasn't remotely like any Irish jig, (there was no beer in sight), it was, a wonderful way of commemorating the other March happening. No, not the March madness pandemonium associated with basketball. I'm referring to Women's history month. Belly dancing seemed a perfect opportunity to honor women, past and present who have made life a little more colorful for all!
 Judy's Gypsies

Women of all ages are drawn to belly dancing for as many reasons. Some come to the dance for the exercise it offers. Working the abdomen the moves are deliberate and concentrated.

Some come for the intrigue of costume or to team up with others. Divinity's philosophy stems from honoring self and others. Belly dancing is most certainly a social activity, drawing on its roots in performance.

Beautiful costumes of rich colors and materials, paired with accessories help personify the music and personality of the dancer. What women doesn't like shopping for the style that best suits her self expression? Whatever the reason, any reason at all is a good staring point to stay on track with something that will inevitably be beneficial to the mind and body.

                                                                                                 Judy's Gypsies


  1. This is just lovely...they all look so beautiful and seem to be enjoying thoroughly. Glad you had a wonderful time.

    1. It was nice to see everyone putting themselves out there. I admire every dancer there!

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