The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Local belly dancing troupe gives free performance

Posted at 11:00 p.m. 2/5/10

Belly dance is an ancient dance form that’s roots can be traced back to gypsy tribes traveling through the Middle East and Europe. According to an article written by belly dance guru Tamar Shaanan, citizens of the old world danced as means of celebration, self-expression and as a way to convey messages and tell stories.

Last weekend patrons of the Acoustic Café were invited to experience this ancient custom with a local belly dancing troupe. Peanut Butter and Gypsy, Eau Claire’s original belly dancing troupe, and sister group The Jelly Bellys gave a free performance Saturday night to a packed house.

Jelly Belly member senior Sarah Ulrich gave her first performance that night. The geology major said she was nervous at first but ended up having a good time.

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“It was lots of fun and I would do it again,” she said.

The performance began with the lights dimmed with four dancers holding candles in each hand, moving slowly to the pulsing music. Throughout the evening, the performers utilized different props such as colored sticks, scarves, finger-cymbals, bowls and swords. The performance lasted for about three hours, with troupe members dancing to everything from tribal music to hip hop and even joining personal trainer Benji Willford for a Zumba demonstration.

The audience also participated in the performance learning the customary zaghareet, which is a form of applause in the belly dancing world, learning to swivel their hips and even dancing with the performers at the end of the show.

UW-EC Alumnus Ann Marie Liesch and Jelly Belly member beckoned to audience members to stand and led them in dances at the end of the performance. Liesch said she liked the work out belly dancing gives her, but her favorite part of dancing is dressing up. Liesch was clad in a maroon top baring her mid-drift as well as a long flowing green skirt. Her shirt was embellished with metal coins and a broach with metal tassels that hung down toward her belly button. On her hips Liesch wore a colorful scarf which was also accented with tassels.

The rest of the women dressed in suit. Some pinned flowers and colored braids in their hair and wore long brightly-colored skirts and belly-baring tops decorated with shells and other exotic looking items. Many of the women wore hip scarves heavy with beads, tassels and coins that jingled as they swayed their hips. All were barefoot.

Audience member senior Linnea Leighton said she was impressed the dancers’ beautiful costumes.

Junior Anna Havens, who accompanied Leighton, said she enjoyed the performance. Havens said she had even tried belly dancing before in a fitness UW-EC class.

“I enjoyed it but it was really hard,” she said. “My abs hurt for three days (afterward).”

However, costumes and a good work out aren’t the only things the performers said they enjoy about belly dancing.

Graduate student Anna Bakhtiyarova said she loves the freedom and self-expression she feels when dancing and performing with the troupe. Bakhtiyarova also said she enjoys being part of a sisterhood.

“Every girl here is a leader and it’s a wonderful place to share it,” she said.

Sheri Baemmert former belly dancing instructor at UW-EC and owner of Pilates Yoga and Beyond also said that dancing together is a celebration of sisterhood.

“It’s a time where we can set aside everyday life and just dance,” she said.

Those interested in taking belly dancing classes should contact Baemmert at Pilates Yoga and Beyond by phone at 715-832-7335 or by e-mail at [email protected].

Those interested in seeing the troupes in action can attend their next show at 7 p.m. at the Acoustic Café. The event is free and open to the public.

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Local belly dancing troupe gives free performance