Women share bond of the belly dance | SummitDaily.com
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Women share bond of the belly dance

KIMBERLY NICOLETTIsummit daily news
Special to the Daily/Joe Kusumoto
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BRECKENRIDGE – In a county focused on fleece and extreme fitness, it’s easy to lose touch with the feminine side.But every week, a dedicated group of women gather to bare their bellies and shimmy to the beat of drums through Colorado Mountain College’s (CMC) Center for Lifelong Learning noncredit classes in Breckenridge.Ninety percent of the women begin classes feeling self-conscious, often wearing baggy clothes and covering their bellies. But six weeks into the class, they begin to flower, said instructor Kathleen McCleneghan. They proudly show their bellies, enjoying the reflections that shimmy and slink along the mirrored walls.In belly dance class, everyone is beautiful, and the dance is sensual.Sensual. Not stereotypically sexual.”Most people would view it as a somewhat sexual thing,” said Cat Starnes, who has taken classes since January 2002. “I see it more as a seducing beauty.”

And the most alluring quality of the dance comes from the grace it brings out in women.”I think all women are sensual, and a lot of times, our culture shuts that down and teaches that’s dirty, when actually sensuality is feminine and a part of all women,” McCleneghan said. “Belly dancing helps you accept who you are and love who you are.”Kristin McCaskey felt nervous about baring her belly when she started dancing in January, but now she feels confident. Belly dancing also challenged Tara Dugan’s self-image and confidence, but she has learned to accept her body.”I leave class every week on such an unbelievable high. It’s invigorating. And really empowering,” Dugan said. “I just turned 30 in March and feel so lucky that I’ve discovered this at this point in my life.”Besides increasing confidence, the discipline builds physical strength; belly dancing demands strong abs, quads and arms along with balance and flexibility.But it’s not all about self-improvement. Women keep coming back because of the bond dancing together creates. After learning basic moves, women dance in groups, taking turns leading through improvisation.

“There’s a real sisterhood to belly dancing,” said Gretchen Joslin, who began taking classes eight years ago at The Lodge & Spa in Breckenridge and has taken four classes at CMC.And female bonding can be essential in a predominantly male-oriented county.”Up here, we’re so busy and everything’s so geared to biking and skiing and being strong and intense sports – it’s just a moment to be with women, just women, to dance and be able to feel like a woman,” Starnes said. “It’s nice to watch women gain confidence in their bodies through dance instead of having to be grunting through Summit County.”And speaking of feminine lures, no one can overlook the costumes, which entice some women to sign up for class. The flowing black skirts, the jingle of gold and silver coin belts, the colorful bras adorned with jewels and the turban strewn with scarves captivate many. Once taken by the dance, women return to class, learning to balance candles and swords on their heads, dance with silky veils and play zils (finger cymbals).The rhythmic music, the contractions of abdominal muscles, the connection between women dancing and the bold colors create a hypnotic atmosphere.”I’m focused on the music and my body and what feels good,” Starnes said about performing. “It’s like skiing. It keeps you in the moment. You don’t think of anything else.”



Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.The class: Beginning belly dance starts at 5 p.m. Tuesdays Sept. 13 and runs through Nov. 8. Intermediate and advanced belly dance starts at 6:45 p.m. Tuesdays Sept. 13 through Nov. 8. To register, call (970) 453-6757.”First and foremost, I want to make sure everyone’s having fun and enjoying their bodies, especially with the beginner class. I try to keep it really light,” said instructor Kathleen McCleneghan. “As the dancers progress, I help them with any goals they have.”American Tribal Style Belly Dance finds its roots in the folkloric dances of the Middle East, North Africa and Spanish flamenco.The troupe: Lori Friedman started teaching belly dancing classes at Colorado Mountain College in 1999. The belly dance troupe she formed has performed throughout the county, most regularly at South Ridge Seafood Grill in Breckenridge. Its next performance at the restaurant is at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, July 14. It usually performs every first Thursday of the month. Friedman moved to Texas about two months ago, but the troupe is still shimmying strong.


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