Jingling skirts and midriff-baring shirts

BY CATHERINE KRUSE | Evergreen club reporter

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The Belly Dance Club may be one of the few places where prancing around like a bird in a black top and 25-yard skirt with your hands above your head would dub everyone the nickname “ostriches.”

“We’re just an informal club that enjoys belly dancing,” said club President Krishna Hedger, a junior studying zoology. “You don’t have to know how to belly dance to come into the club.”

The club started with former graduate student Rebecca Liao and some of her friends. Liao, currently the club adviser and the WSU academic adviser for deciding students, said she loved belly dancing but never got a chance to practice. She described the club as a place to let loose and embrace one’s feminism.

That being said, the club isn’t just for women. Sometimes, even men will come in to learn. Practices are split between beginners and advanced dancers, and newcomers are taught everything they need to know, Hedger said.

“I’ve been in it for about three or four years now,” Hedger said. “A lot of the girls describe us as a family.”

The members come from a range of majors and dancing experiences. Hedger was a self-taught belly dancer and Liao took ballet, ballroom, and belly dancing. Junior civil engineering major Kellie Bracht, club vice president, said her dancing experience was minimal, limited to ballet classes as a child and school dances.

“(I joined) for the outfits,” Bracht said. “The skirts, the pants, the shiny scarfs. It got my attention when I was wandering the (Glenn Terrell) Mall. That’s what gets people’s attention.”

The outfits Bracht refers to are the clothes many of the dancers wear during practice and performances. These include coin skirts and 25 yard skirts. These outfits are like an American twist on a traditional look, she said.

The dancers also tend to dance barefoot, Bracht said. It’s not recommended to dance on their practice floor in socks because it’s waxed wood, which could create a safety hazard. During one of their outdoor events, the stage became so hot some of them walked away with blood blisters on their feet, she said.

“We’ll complain about it for days on end, but we’re tough as nails,” Bracht said.

As with any physical activity, there is the risk of pulling a muscle or spraining an ankle, she said. The dancers move to both slow and fast tunes, from older Middle Eastern songs to the more modern and popular songs. Bracht said while nobody’s gotten hurt so far, one is most likely to pull a muscle in the torso, especially the back.

Belly Dance Club uses a type of belly dancing called American Tribal Style (ATS). Created in California, the purpose was to create a style that took the best of all types of belly dance and make it a group dance, Hedger said.

While most styles involve individual dancers, ATS is performed in a group and improvised. Hedger said the dance is coordinated in the sense that there are specific moves, formation, and a leader who guides the other girls.

“It’s very organized and coordinated for being improvised,” Hedger said.

Even with the use of the coin skirts that offer a jingling, maraca-like sound, Liao said belly dancing isn’t something that could be compared to the fitness dancing of Zumba. The history of belly dancing is so rich, there’s actually no record of when or where it actually started, she said. Some said Turkey, others Egypt.

While the dancing can be seen as physically healthy, Liao said there’s more of a focus on fluidity and feminism. It’s about being comfortable in one’s own body and honoring the history that came with belly dancing, she said.

Bracht said she likes doing the club because she loves performing, and that’s one of the reasons she stuck with it. Liao said she enjoys the sisterhood the girls share. She described the club as a confidence builder so a girl can be comfortable in her own body and show off her stomach.

Collaborating with everybody and teaching new people the different skills and moves of belly dancing, is one of the things Hedger said she likes most.

“A lot of the girls come in not knowing anything at all,” she said. “By the end of the semester they’re ready to perform.”

Belly Dance Club has their main practice on Fridays from 6-8 p.m. in Smith Gym 115. Sunday is an open practice from 6:30-8 p.m. for practicing on one’s own in the same room.