Feb 022005
Authors: Casey Cisneros

Some people try hard their whole life to capture art within themselves or understand beauty the way that only some poets do.

Others have to try just as hard to have enough self-esteem to look someone else in the eye and say a few words.

Cindy Loader has managed to find the art, beauty and self-esteem after overhearing a few women at a gas station 29 years ago talking about how great they felt after belly dancing.

After five years of belly dancing lessons, she finally worked up enough nerve to perform in front of people and discovered a feeling of exhilaration, which she would crave from that moment on.

Today, Loader teaches the ancient discipline of belly dancing at her own dance theatre Jewels of the Nile, 533 S. Taft Hill Rd. and performs along with her group, also named Jewels of the Nile, to entertain and empower people.

"It is totally an art form," Loader said. "You use every muscle in your body. We use power clear to our finger tips."

Belly dancing is one of the oldest types of dance still being performed and learned by students today.

"A lot of people will say (belly dancing) is the grandmother of dancing," said Ivette Lopez Bledsoe, who dances in the Jewels of the Nile ensemble and has been belly dancing for five years.

Belly dancing has been around long enough to be found drawn in caves and mentioned in the Bible, Loader said.

Belly dancing still has the appeal to watch and the authority to bring people together.

Last Saturday night the women of Jewels of the Nile performed with their silk veils, long-flowing radiantly-colored skirts and rolling midsections at the Bas Bleu Theatre, 401 Pine St., for "An Evening of Cultural Dances."

Susie Phillips, a Pierce resident, came to the Bas Bleu Theatre to watch her son break dance and enjoyed the belly dancers' distinctive popping and rolling movements.

"It's neat to see the different types of dance within Belly dancing," Phillips said. "Everything about it (is neat), the movement, the outfits are very beautiful, the progression of the scene and it's good family entertainment."

Loader insists that although some people find belly dancers taboo in society; the performances are G-rated.

"When the belly dancing first came over, the strippers would take the moves and use it in their stripping and people would say 'belly dancing, that's the hutchie-coochie' and it's not at all; it's an ancient art," Loader said. "I've performed at a lot of birthday parties; we danced for anniversary parties and retirement parties."

At performances the audience will see a lot of variation within the ancient dance. At "An Evening of Cultural Dances" Linda Sampson, who is also one of the Jewels of the Nile dancers and has been belly dancing for seven years, was performing in a group candle dance.

"It's a nice controlled, beautiful dance with six people, each of us with two candles in our hands," Sampson said.

And although the common perception is that belly dancing is exclusively female, Lopez Bledsoe said that idea is incorrect.

"There are male dancers but the technique drifts over gender," Lopez Bledsoe said. "Men typically hold the beat a lot in ethnic dances."

Unlike contemporary dancing, choreography does not play a vital role in the performances or in the process of learning belly dancing. At her school, Jewels of the Nile, Loader doesn't want to limit the dancers with movement confined to an arbitrary arrangement.

"I teach the students how to feel the music, I don't want them leaving being my clone," Loader said. "I want them to be their own person and once they learn to feel the music and bring it into their soul their personality will come out in their dance."

Other than being a fun hobby and an entertaining dance, belly dancing can serve other vital roles in people's lives. In ancient Middle Eastern countries the dance was used to prepare the body for childbirth. Sampson can agree with this kind of body conditioning during pregnancy.

"When I was pregnant it kept my hips and body feeling good," Sampson said.

But besides keeping the body fit, Loader has taught belly dancing to rape victims who have been mentally and physically violated, to help them regain self-esteem and hope within themselves.

"I've gone to the rape crisis center and I've helped them out," Loader said. "I have people who come to me who have lost their power and with the belly dancing I help them find out who they really are and get their power back."

The practicality and art of the belly dancing culture are equally worth anyone's time and commitment.

On her Web site, www.jewelsofthenile.net, at the end of a short autobiography titled, "From a Caterpillar to a Butterfly" Loader wrote, "Belly Dancing is more fun and less expensive than a psychiatrist. It takes you to a natural high!"

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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