Freespirit belly dancers create community
summit daily news
Aaron Till celebrated her 17th birthday belly dancing to Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and the 1958-surf instrumental “Tequila.” Though only one other female, Nicole Ransberger, was close to her age, a sense of family pervaded the room, and Till had a smile on her face nearly the entire time.
That evening, May 20, almost a dozen women, donning everything from gray hair to brown and blonde, gathered to eat pizza, enjoy cake and, mostly, dance.
Sherry Wofford volunteers her time to work not only with women who are disabled or have special needs through Timberline Adult Services and the Developmentally Disabled Resource Center, but also teaches belly dance to women who can’t afford other classes. The $40 she charges for a six-punch pass goes solely to cover rent for her studio in the industrial part of Silverthorne and buy hip scarves. Often, she kicks in some money herself to meet studio expenses.
But Wofford receives something more valuable to her than money from the time she dedicates sharing her knowledge of belly dancing. It allows her to share in community and watch women blossom.
“In this little area, you get to be yourself,” Till said, adding she’ll dance until she can’t walk. “It makes you happy, and I like the creativity.”
Wofford focuses on basic moves, as well as the history of belly dancing, which involved women dancing for their own pleasure.
“It makes you feel beautiful,” Ransberger said, wearing a turquoise costume. “And, it’s a safe place to go.”
Sylvia Williams is one of the women who love to dance; she has performed with the group of belly dancers for seven years in Frisco’s Fourth of July parade.
“She just loves music, and she loves to dance, so this is a great place for her to do it,” said her mother, Sylvia Conway.
Lauren Green only has attended five dance classes at Freespirit, but she’s already hooked, both by how the dance makes her feel graceful and also by how the form helps her “get things moving” after sitting all day at her desk job. She added that it improves her self-esteem.
“You have better posture and present yourself to the world and feel more confident,” Green said.
Wofford views belly dancing as a “way of bringing the best out of a woman” and creating community. Plus, it conditions the body. She began studying belly dancing in 1993, then took over teaching at Summit School of Dance a couple years later, at age 42.
She stopped teaching professionally in 2002 when her mother became ill, and Wofford ended up spending a lot of time with her in Texas. When Wofford returned to Summit County, she realized the expenses and commitment of teaching full time were a bit too demanding for her taste. When she examined her desires and skills, nurturing, teaching and helping made the top of her list.
“I am a humanitarian at heart; I am a professional volunteer,” she said. “I do better when the pressure of money is not involved.”
She began teaching women with special needs in 2003, when Brenda Goto, who now lives in Florida but at the time was a counselor at the Developmentally Disabled Resource Center, suggested Wofford work with her clients. Wofford focused on the joy of dance, and everyone loved it, so she kept going.
“There is no wrong or right; it’s just about having fun and exercising,” Goto said.
And for Till, it’s a means to a memorable 17th birthday.
“It’s definitely a celebration – being able to be a beautiful woman and just express yourself,” said Pam Seegers. “It’s really a rewarding experience, and the studio is very social.”
“It’s more than just a studio,” Wofford added. “It’s a sanctuary for all female adults who love to dance together.”
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