The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Entertainment meets education: belly dancers take the stage at a local art gallery

Photo Credit: Shaina Little

On Friday, January 24, an unusual and exciting event was held on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill.  Inside of the The Christina Fretchard Art Gallery, beautiful, vibrant canvas paintings lined the walls, reflecting the soft lighting as the attention was directed from the refreshment stand to the front of the gallery. Members of the audience strolled in, paying their ten dollar fee to enjoy one night of extravagant professional belly dancing.

The show consisted of two opening acts by Tribe Fidah and Madjan Saeed.  Next, the dancers came to the suito-stage.  Sahra, the main event, performed along with her students and colleagues: Hakan, Unsak, and Trsta.  The dances were all choreographed to music by Tom Moran, which played on a boombox to the side of the performers.

Each dancer began by illustrating his or her personality through an individual dance for the audience. Their gorgeously flowing movements complimented their bejeweled, glittering outfits of various colors and shapes. Some wore the traditional belly dance clothes, which show and accentuate the belly, while others wore more conservative gowns.

A variety of types of belly dance were shown. There were dances that were considered tribal, some tribal fusion, and some tango fusion. Each dance had the basis of flowing arms, popping hips, and an amazingly relaxing beat.

Between each act, the next performer was introduced, and cultural aspects of belly dancing were explained. The show was as informative as it was entertaining.

One of the reasons for the show was to gain public interest pertaining to belly dance classes. Sahra teaches belly dance in three locations, one of which is now the JCC in Squirrel Hill. Her classes will be held on Tuesdays from 8:15 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. She offers classes in Dormont on Wednesdays and in Point Breeze on Thursdays.

Her business card proclaims her a performer, instructor, and choreographer. Sahra also co-writes a blog about her teaching and learning of belly dance, tracking her travels, studies and performances around the world.

Beyond her classes being advertised, another key point of the event was to educate about the culture and history of belly dance. Between acts, a variety of types of the dance were explained along with their origin. One particular dance originated in Saudi Arabia, while others originated in a variety of other places.

One of the most surprising aspects of the performance was Hakan. Hakan is a male belly dancer who uses his sense of humor to entertain the audience during his performance.

Often, belly dancing is thought to be for females; however, this demonstration was sure to convince the audience that that is not the case. He did not wear the same revealing dress as the women did, but his performance was just as entertaining and beautifully danced as the women’s.

After the finale, Sahra, Hakan and the other dancers made their way to the front of the room for more dancing. During this part of the show, the audience was encouraged to stay and dance alongside the professionals.

The atmosphere was light-hearted and the intimidation factor was surprisingly low. Quite a few members of the audience did choose to attempt a dance of their own. Once gaining their confidence, the professional belly dancers were more than happy to provide and tips and knowledge about the art to anyone participating.

Overall, the night of belly dancing made for a wonderful show. It allowed people to come out of their shells, expand their horizons and experience an art form that is often overlooked.

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