YORK -- The wiggle of hips, the snake arms waving, the jangle of a coin belt. Sultry sounds from a sitar and other exotic, stringed instruments waft through the dusk. Imagine royal courts filled with limber-limbed ladies and wide-eyed Sultans clapping and asking for more. Must be Tangier in Morocco, or looking over the Bosporus in Turkey, maybe long-gone Babylon.
At the York Recreation Center on Monday nights, the outside world creeps in, a few ripple hands and rib shimmies at a time.
It is all the work of Caroline Wheless. A lady trained in classical and modern dance, who taught dance, then took belly dance herself. She came up with the idea to hold a class in York.
"The one thing belly dance requires is a fun spirit," said Wheless, who teaches philosophy and ethics at York Technical College in her day job.
As a person who despises the boring and seeks those with a fun spirit -- I spent days checking out a Rock Hill fitness club that teaches pole dancing -- to York on Monday night I went.
I found out belly dancing is popular from Lebanon through India and everywhere in between. Immigrants in America continue to practice it.
"These women were praised and revered for their skills," Wheless said of belly dancers.
But in York, I found no women hoping to be professional belly dancers. Just a group of ladies who love a good time.
Melinda Lawrence, age "in my late 30s."
"My mother learned a little bit of belly dancing when my father was in the Army," Lawrence said. "I've taken ballet, jazz, clogging, Irish dance. Maybe I can show it off to friends and family. Not in public, though."
Then, in walked a woman wearing a coin belt made of metal rounds -- belly dancers used to wear actual coins to show how much money they made -- named Erika Toohey.
"You here for the belly dancin'?" asked a dummy.
"No, I normally wear a see-through purple skirt around town on a Monday night," Toohey responded with a grin.
Of course the dummy who asked that question was me. I am not real sharp when it comes to belly dancing.
Karen Pigott walked in and says she was nervous to take the class but wanted to learn something new. Wheless explained that belly dancing is not loosey-goosey, but extremely controlled. There are veil dances and scarf dances and cane dances.
Wow, what an idea. Sexy, but more "Look what is covered, not at what isn't."
Then, Lisa Hendrix, 50, summed it up. She has jumped out of airplanes, parasailed, just for kicks. Belly dancing is another thrill. "I want fitness, and fun, and to learn to belly dance, but I don't think I would go do it at a church social," she said.
Then, they all practiced. Wheless invited me to try it. "Men do belly dance," she said.
Not this one.
I feign injury.
"Bad back," I said.
No rhythm is the truth, though.
The ladies did figure eights with hips, rolled shoulders, elongated arms in beautiful movements. The practice was lovely.
And the shimmy of hips, rib cages and bellies?
Yes, belly dancing in little York is a great idea whose time has come.
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