Tradition holds that Salome's (Herodias' daughter), famous (or infamous) "Dance of the Seven Veils" delighted King Herod so much that he promised the girl half his kingdom. But we know what she asked for, which may explain why much of western society has a preconceived, often negative, impression of oriental dancers (aka, belly dancing) - a notion based on misinformation and Hollywood stereotyping.
"Belly dance" is a name coined by western society to describe a style of dance (oriental dance) developed in the Middle East and other Arabic-inﬂuenced areas. An Internet search provides enough information to conclude that the origins of belly dancing can be traced to the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Africa. The Turkish term for belly dancing "Oryantal dansi" can be translated to mean "exotic oriental dance" and the Arabic term "Raqs Sharqi" (translated as oriental dance) claims to be of Egyptian origins.
Four lovely ladies - Heidi Hudek, Lesley Lewis, Clare Cochran and Kristi Sayer - all residents of Cedaredge, have come together to preserve the ancient art of "belly dancing," performing under the name of the Shanti Baila Troupe.
The troupe's founder, teacher and impresario Heidi (aka, Nyssa Yassa), the daughter of Bruce Hudek and Nancy Wood, was born in Lancaster California, graduated from Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, in 1990, and studied music performance at Ft. Lewis College from 1990-1994, before moving to San Francisco.
While living in San Francisco Heidi worked at "Lark in the Morning," a music store claiming to have "the largest selection of ethnic musical instruments" from all over the world."
Heidi said it was there that she was introduced to many lifestyles and cultures. "It opened my heart and mind to all the world," she said. "It's important to gain knowledge about as many cultures as possible.'"
She also developed a passion for acoustic instruments, especially percussion instruments and Middle Eastern music. She eventually took lessons for the dumbeck, a Middle Eastern drum, and belly dancing. Heidi, said she loved to dance. "Music has always been in my soul," she explained, "and belly dancing is just another form of that expression, and an opportunity to get in touch with your inner being."
Deemed a "natural" by her dance teachers, and by other dancers, Heidi began performing at informal gatherings, concerts in the park and other small venues, and was eventually coerced into teaching belly dancing to others before moving to Cedaredge in 2005.
After arriving in Cedaredge, Heidi began giving vocal lessons, went to work for David Starr (Starr's Guitars) and teaching classes on belly dancing. Heidi was looking for students who wanted to go farther than just the basics. One thing led to another, and eventually the Shanti Baila Troupe was formed.
Heidi choreographed the ﬁrst dances. "Now we all have an equal say it what we do," she explained. "It's a team effort, with each team member taking their turn at selecting the music and choreographing the dance." The troupe works out weekly and practices their dance routines at Lesley Lewis' ofﬁce in Cedaredge. "The classes and troupe have been an excellent way for me to have an outlet with friends, where I can get good exercise, have a great time and learn something new," explained Lesley.
The art of belly dancing has gone through many transformations since its earliest beginnings. Fourteenth century BC Egyptian tomb paintings show dancers whose bodily positions appear to be the same as those found in belly dancing, and there are various forms of belly dancing, including Turkish, Egyptian, Oriental and American tribal.
Shanti Baila has performed at AppleFest and at a recent fundraiser, with preference shown to the Turkish and Egyptian forms, all while wearing authentic, colorful and very beautiful costumes, explained Heidi.
For Heidi, belly dancing is all about improvisation, self-expression and conﬁdence. "Women can get in touch with some of the conﬁdence that they've lost," she said. "It's a creative expression of feminism, and it allows women the opportunity to express themselves by connecting body, mind and spirit. Creative expression is a gift, and it can make a woman feel beautiful again." And, as for Clare Cochran, "This is so cool! A musical experience with the opportunity to be creative, while learning new dances and experiencing a culture different from your own. I would encourage everyone who has the opportunity to take a class."
She added, "And Heidi is one of the most awesome people you'll ever meet."
Heidi is proud of Shanti Baila dance troupe, and rightfully so, as they provide her the opportunity to educate even more area residents on the importance of cultural diversity. "People today have such a negative opinion of the Arabic culture," she said."but it's important for us to have an open mind to the beauty from every place and every culture."blog comments powered by Disqus