Middle Eastern culture introduces belly dancing to the community

Walk up the stairs of the old South Main School on Monday and Wednesday nights and listen to the sounds of bells. With boundless energy and encouraging smiles, Laura Shakti teaches belly dancing and yoga classes to the Bowling Green community.

New to Bowling Green, Shakti comes from Los Angeles bringing her experience and expertise in Middle Eastern Dance.

“The type of yoga that I teach, kundalini yoga, is really kind of an ancient healing science,” Shakti said. “It’s not just the poses that you might do in the gym or community centers. It uses breath, chanting and mudras – the ancient way of moving the hands that has a specific effect upon the body. It makes the body and the aura more radiant.”

Open to all ages and genders, belly dance is not only an educational experience, but also a workout. Shakti’s students leave her classes with the same type of core workout they might find in a pilates class.

After having three kids, Lisa Stichler attributes her motivation for taking up belly dancing to them.

Although, a good workout is not the only reason to enroll in one of these classes.

Candace Byington formed her opinions on belly dancing after watching a belly dancing troupe in Toledo several months ago.

“I thought it was absolutely fascinating – it’s really positive for women,” Byington said.

Shakti also finds it important to bring a cultural education with her to her classes. Many people make the mistake by classifying belly dancing simply as entertainment for men.

“I’m really glad to offer the cultural context to this community from Los Angeles, and I feel that it’s a very important part of learning this dance,” Shakti said.

Belly dance is the perfect combination of dance, music and exercise, while incorporating a positive image for women, said Jane Chang, a dance and music lover.

Shakti enthusiastically promotes another activity entitled “Yoga Groove Dance.” She describes the event as being an alternative to going to bars on the weekends, especially for people who want to avoid the party scene.

“It’s no alcohol, no shoes. I really would like to see the community have that space, and I see that as healing,” she said.

After going to the open house held on March 3, Claudia Nieto, a student from Colombia pursuing her master’s degree at the University, was ready to sign up for belly dancing lessons.

In the old school where scarves adorn the windows and tribal music can be heard throughout the room, Shakti teaches her students culture, confidence and poise.

“I think it’s a really good supplement to the fine arts and performing arts that we have here in Bowling Green,” she said.