Springtime Shimmy’s message: Acceptance

Body positivity radiated throughout Acoustic Cafe last Saturday for the fifth annual belly-dancing event

More stories from Maggie Cipriano

On Hawai’i Time
December 3, 2018

Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

People gathered Saturday night to watch belly dance performances by Lasa Anahata Tribal and Geek Slink Belly Dance.

Acoustic Cafe was filled to the brim with spectators and dancers Saturday night. The dancers were draped in their loose-fitting, brightly colored clothes and tassels, their tops adorned with bells and beads.

Entrancing music played while three women tiptoed and dipped, circled and spun, their heads covered in scarves, flowers and jewels serving as ornaments. Ornate makeup painted the faces of the dancers.

The fifth annual Springtime Shimmy brought dancers from Lasa Anahata Tribal and Geek Slink Belly Dance from Minnesota and the Chippewa Valley to downtown Eau Claire.

The crowd at the event was loud and captivated, swiveling their chairs to face the dancers and cheering after each set.

“It’s interesting,” LoriAnne Beck, a second-year student at UW-Eau Claire, said. “It is something I have never seen before.”

Through an audition process, men and women can join the “fusionist” club, Geek Slink Belly Dance, which performs at least twice per month and produces shows in the Twin Cities, said Shannon Townsend, Geek Slink’s director.

It’s no secret that Eau Claire’s music scene is thriving, and it’s also no secret it comprises mostly indie music.

“It’s great to add diversity to the music scene because there is a lot of indie here,” Mariah Miller, a first-year student at UW-Eau Claire and spectator of the Springtime Shimmy, said.

Eddie Sanchez, a Geek Slink dancer, said the city is still inclusive despite its prominent indie scene.

“(Eau Claire) is really accepting and nice,” Sanchez said. “They are always willing to seek new people and accept them.”

Acceptance was a word heard over and over again at Springtime Shimmy.

Being accepted into Eau Claire’s single-stream music scene is monumental, but the other ways belly dancing has invoked acceptance are much more important, Townsend said.

“I’ve had some body issues in the past; (belly dancing) has helped me be more accepting.” Sarah Nelson, a dancer, said. “Out in regular street clothes, I feel more uncomfortable than in a dance bra.”

Sanchez and her dance friend from Geek Slink, Katherine Schuh, both agreed with Nelson’s statement.

“It’s a game-changer as a plus-sized woman and professional dancer and choreographer,” Townsend said. “It’s hard because you put your body out there as a canvas. Belly dance has helped me get comfortable with my body; as opposed to viewing (my body) as an ‘it,’ I view it as a ‘her.’”

Underneath the bright colors, flowing fabrics and jingling metals are people from all walks of life who have created a community based around acceptance and the love of movement.

“(Belly dancing’s) sole purpose is to give people of any size, of any age, of any body type and any creed and background,” Townsend said, “an opportunity to create art and share community.”