Desert Dancers

By: Carrie Ratkevich, Staff Reporter

Former instructor teaches Middle Eastern dance

Belly dancing is more than a way to exercise, it is also a way to meet new people and be a part of something, said former CNM Instructor and profes­sional belly dancer Maria Chavez.

Anyone can learn how to belly dance regardless of age, sex, or body type, said Dancer Cynthia Florence.

“It is an accepting dance that is fun and good exercise,” said Florence.

Learning to dance takes a lot of practice and support from the belly dance community, said Theater major Lauren “Lorena” Martinez- Burr and Sonography major Kimberly Hawley who both learned to belly dance at CNM.

“We saw the class as an elective and thought it would be interesting,” said Hawley.

They began dancing as an elective three years ago. Hawley and Martinez-Burr have now formed their own troupe called Scarlet Aishling, said Martinez-Burr. The girls per­form both separately and as a duet, they said.

CNM has cut the Middle Eastern dance classes from the curriculum, but people can still experience belly dancing through the Jewels of the Desert showcase, said Chavez. The show includes choreographed performances and an open dance, said Chavez. During the open dance performers bring up members of the audience to participate in the show. Any dancer who wishes to perform is welcome, said Chavez.

The free show takes place the first Saturday of every month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Blackbird Buvette, said Chavez. Dancers can sign up to perform at the show by contacting Chavez. Drummers experienced in Middle Eastern drumming can also sit in with the band.

Belly dancing, which began in the Middle East, was traditionally taught by a mother to her daughter, said Chavez. This is true for Cynthia and Hanna Florence.

Cynthia Florence took up belly dancing 20 years ago after seeing some dancers at a street fair, she said.

Pre-Nursing major Hanna Florence said she grew up watching her mom belly dance, and decided to learn it herself when her mom started teaching the technique at her high school.

After watching a friend’s wife belly dance, martial artist Eric Koenig said he decided to learn the art as well.

“It was very interesting because she is normally a very reserved person. But when she danced for people she was very commanding. A different side of her came out,” said Koenig.

No matter how bad he feels, belly dancing can make him feel better, he said.

“I like how it makes me feel. It brings out the best in me,” said Koenig.

Biology major Jade Walters started belly dancing 11 years ago when her mom suggested they take some classes together, she said.

“My mom had taken some Middle Eastern dance classes in college and she loved it,” said Walters.

Shortly after she started the classes, Walters’ sister started dancing and her dad started drumming, she said.

“I love the music and the connection with the music,” said Walters.

Beginner belly dancing classes are taught by Chavez at the Enchanted Ballroom, at 337 San Pedro NE. The one hour classes are $7.50, said Chavez.

For more information on belly dancing, how to find classes or the Jewels of the Desert show, contact Maria Chavez at 505-319-6213 or

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