In an ordinary dance studio in the heart of the bluegrass, a group of women gathered for their ritual dance lesson. The bodies and faces lined up in front of the instructor were a mix of women from all walks of life, and while the ethnic blend of the participants was widely diverse it still faded in comparison to other distinctions that separated these women as individuals. Some of the dancers with their graying hair pulled back into tails or buns stood shoulder to shoulder with young girls barely budding in maturity. A woman near the front of room who looked to be at least eight months pregnant followed her classmates as they worked their way through a series of beautiful movements. At first glance, the classroom full of moving bodies dressed in a mix of exercise clothing appeared like any other fitness class, but after a few moments of taking in the sights and sounds it became clear that this was something altogether quite different.
Their dancing forms moved in tandem to an earthy, exotic rhythm, and the movements were filled with swaying hips, sinuous arms, and undulating bellies. The teacher explained to her class that the music was a piece from Cairo, Egypt and that the movements were part of a Beledi choreography that they would be learning and perfecting over the course of the current session. The class continued working through the series of motions as the teacher moved through their ranks to help some of the student's one on one. As the lesson ended, the students glistening in sweat came together to talk about the class and to get tips from one another.
All ages, shapes, and sizes had found a common place in the dance class. No divisions were drawn there, no expectations only Unity. And as the instructor, Safiya Nawaar, explained, "dance was a wonderful medium to be involved in, and the classroom was a great place where lovers of dance could meet, share, and bond."
Safiya Nawaar Middle Eastern Dance Company is new to the greater Lexington Area, but its founder is by no means new to the world of Belly Dance. Before her relocation to the BlueGrass State, Safiya was an instructor, choreographer, and performing artist based in central Florida. Her alluring performances have graced stages throughout the Eastern United States, and she also has been an active participant in community and nonprofit events near and far.
As an art form, Middle Eastern and North African dance have as wide a range of styles, as they have countries of origin. Safiya has dedicated the past 11 years to the study of Raqs Sharqi (Eastern Dance), Egyptian Folkloric, Vintage Orientale, Turkish, Lebanese, and Classical Persian, to name a few. Her first experience with "Belly Dance' opened her eyes to a whole new way to express herself artistically. The earthy appeal of Folkloric, the ethereal sensuality of the Veil, and the sweetness of the Beledi drew her into Belly dance and all that it has to offer. Now, as an instructor she shares this knowledge with others; hoping to teach, inspire, mentor, and mold other lovers of dance.
For fitness, belly dance becomes an incredible tool to build core strength, burn calories, tone muscles, increase flexibility, and improve joint health. The gentle repetitive movements are a low impact exercise beneficial to women of any age.
Finally, as a diversity initiative, Safiya's classes introduce students to an eclectic mix of ethnic dances from the Middle East and North Africa; helping to foster an appreciation, understanding and mutual respect for cultural differences.
Safiya's newest class location is in the heart of downtown Frankfort at the corner of Saint Clair and Broadway, at the Frankfort School of Ballet. Whether for fun, fitness or the aspiring artist Safiya will definitely make your journey into this ancient art form unforgettable.
Join Safiya and her students, new and old, at the Frankfort School of Ballet 340 Saint Clair Street, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601 on October 21st, 2011 at 5:30PM for the New Location Celebration. Free 30 minute introductory lesson followed by a performance you won't want to miss by Safiya and members of her student troupe, Hala Alimah.
Feel free to visit Safiya at www.dancesafiya.com.
photo credit thephotosmithllc