The sisterhood of the dance |

The sisterhood of the dance

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Stina Sieg Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” A couple of nights ago, the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts was a sea of gyrating bellies. There were tan ones and pale ones, flat ones and round ones, young ones and older ones ” and one pregnant one.

“And I think they’re all beautiful,” said instructor Aarin Meager-Benson.

Sisterhood is part of the soul of belly dance, after all.

Meager-Benson, 31, and her girls, ages 11-60, were practicing hard for the fourth annual Goddess Hafla. Shimmying into the center Saturday, the night features dancing from more than 40 performers from eight troupes. Tribe Marrakech from Denver will headline, while Grand Junction’s Burning Desert Fire Collective will add some fire dance to the mix. Students from the center ” as well as Meager-Benson’s professional group, Sahara Moon ” will infuse the evening with local feminine flavor.

“We’re so much more than a dance class,” said Meager-Benson, looking out on her colorful students.

With an air of serious concentration, the women shook their hips and torsos in loose, ever -changing formations. They seemed comfortable rocking their bare midriffs for all to see.

Still, everyone had to jump over the same hurdle of showing off their stomachs at first, their teacher stressed. What she finds amazing, though, is how quickly the movements change people.

“You strengthen your emotional levels, your physical and spiritual levels,” she said.

Though heavily pregnant, she couldn’t stop moving, and even as she talked she was tapping her leg to the Middle Eastern music playing behind her. This dance makes her feel vital and strong, and she fully expects to be dancing on her delivery day, around Halloween. And why not? As she explained it, this was originally created as a fertility dance.

She first ran across it as a safe haven from the strict body standards of modern dance, jazz and ballet. After being classically trained in those methods, it was such a relief for her to find a dance where “curves were OK,” she said.

In fact, they’re celebrated.

“We’re using dance to heal our womanly self-esteem wounds,” she went on, smiling as she did.

For Denise Hayes, 52, it definitely seems to be working. For her, this is like permission to be a freer spirit.

As the class wound down, she was sitting in her bronze circle skirt, cropped black top and jangly hip belt.

“Part of the fun of belly dancing is dressing up,” she said. “But the best part is just the whole sisterhood it brings together.”

The two-and-a-half-year belly veteran used phrases like “the urge to burst out there” and “letting go” to describe her love of the art form.

“In the end,” she said, “we all learn to like our bodies for what they are.”

Joy White, who flounced by after Hayes, added that she couldn’t imagine what she ever did without this. A 29-year-old mother of three, she only started the dancing a few months ago. At the time, she was looking for an activity that was truly her own.

“I needed something to feel like a strong, beautiful woman again,” she said.

A bright little sunflower in her hair and a full, pink skirt hugging her hips, she looked happy. For her, the joy of this is showing that females of all sizes and all ages can delight in their bodies. On Saturday, she hopes everyone watching feels that power of the dance.

“It makes me feel pretty,” she said.

And doesn’t every woman want to feel that?

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