Swing and salsa may have been favorite shuffles at this weekend’s Casino Night, but a different kind of dance is about to invade Yale dance floors.
Members of the newly-formed Yale Belly Dance Society participate in a belly dancing class in the Berkeley College multi-purpose room each Wednesday, and group members said they intend to begin work on a spring show.
President and group belly dance instructor Jade Haviland ’05 said she hopes to teach the dance’s cultural varieties, ranging from Middle Eastern to North African styles.
Bulletin board advertisements for belly dance classes may have inspired visions of wiggling waists and exotic outfits, but Haviland said the class also offers cultural education.
“The dances I teach are specific movements from different regions of the world,” Haviland said. “But my primary work is in Egyptian.”
Haviland said she also teaches Polynesian, Turkish and Hawaiian belly dances during the class.
The society also plans monthly events such as henna parties, dinners at Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant and Aladdin Crown Pizza, and screenings of Egyptian music videos produced by the group’s resources chairperson, Ahmed Ghazi MED ’06.
Ghazi said he has worked with the Egyptian music industry for eight years. He coordinates music for the classes and will be in charge of selecting songs for upcoming society shows, he said.
Ghazi said belly dance is involved in all Middle Eastern music.
“I try to give [members] the best music and try to find new music,” Ghazi said. “We are going to have practice parties from now on. I’ll be the D.J. for that.”
Laura J. Khalil ’05 said she joined the society because she is interested in learning how to belly dance and she wants to explore her Middle Eastern heritage.
“[The group] is still getting up on its feet, but we’ve been very pleased with the turnout so far,” Khalil said.
Yale Belly Dance Society Treasurer Lea Alfi ’06 said the belly dance classes build learned moves into sequences while incorporating all types of belly dance.
“It’s not the stereotypical seductress images,” Alfi said. “We take into account the different types of belly dancing. It provides different belly dancing skills.”
Haviland said the group may begin offering a second class due to the large number of participants.
She said the society also encourages male involvement. Many male dance moves are similar to the female belly dancing style but the male movements stress different parts of the body, Haviland said.
She said many of the male traditions are from North Africa.
Haviland said all Berkeley College members, Belly Dance Society members and Yale community members are encouraged to participate in the weekly class.
Before becoming an instructor herself, Haviland said she studied under Adam Basma, a Middle Eastern dance choreographer and founder of the Adam Basma Music and Dance Company in Los Angeles. She said she also attended workshops by belly dancing instructor Delilah.
In addition to hosting weekly classes and video get-togethers, the society also holds a dinner each Monday to discuss current belly dance topics, Haviland said. The organization is also planning activities including professional workshops and performances, some of which will occur in New York City or Boston.
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