Newest ECA dance class starts today

Today, Dec. 4, and Thursday, Dec. 11, ECA instructor Carla Roberts will start a beginners class in Oriental Dance (or belly dance). The class is scheduled 3-4:30 p.m.

Oriental Dance is a wonderful way to develop muscle control and isolation, graceful arms, and body conditioning from head to toe.

This class is $5 per session and is held at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse at 230 Port Avenue. Please call Carla Roberts for more information and an extended schedule for classes at 731-3117.

The style of dancing we now call belly dance can trace its history back to Mesopotamia, over 6000 years ago, with the Egyptians, Turks, and Phoenicians all claiming the dance as their own.

Wendy Buonaventura traces the history of this ancient dance in her book “The History of Belly Dance.”

“From the blend of tribal styles emerged a newer form of dance, the women’s dance. Whilst folk styles may be danced exclusively by men, or women, or may be danced by both sexes together, the women’s dance was danced by women for women. This concept still survives today, women dancing for women at afternoon tea parties and other happy gatherings.”

America first encountered belly dance at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, in the performance of an Egyptian dancer nicknamed “Little Egypt.” The dance created a controversy that became a media sensation. Lines gathered around the block, eager to witness the outrageous act of bellydancing. Americans were enthralled by the dance, and the American belly dance tradition was born. 

American belly dance is unique in that its present form has been shaped by so many different cultural influences and traditions. It is constantly evolving, as new dances are introduced to the community, and for this reason it has a remarkable variety. Today, across borders and cultures, “belly dance” is recognized as a dance style of its own.

Oriental dance is uniquely designed for the female body, with an emphasis on abdominal muscles, hip moves, and chest moves. It is firm and earthy, traditionally with bare feet connected to the ground. It is a dance characterized by smooth, flowing, complex, and sensual movements of the torso, alternated with shaking and shimmy type moves.

Veil dancing is a relatively new addition to traditional belly dance, but it has been a part of American belly dance almost since its inception. This form was first seen in 1896 in “The Dance of the Seven Veils,” from Richard Strauss’s opera “Salome, “based on Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name. Belly dancers took to the idea and began dancing with veils soon after, early in the 20th century.

In the U.S., women from all walks of life are becoming involved in this very ancient dance. Bellydancing is used as a way of celebrating woman’s femininity, as it helps women gain confidence in their bodies. Women who bellydance are having a lot of fun and feel young at heart!

Ladies interested in trying out this exciting dance style can come to the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse 3-4:30 p.m. today and Dec. 11. for an introductory class with Carla Roberts.