News Archive

Belly Dancing Proves Popular Among Students

New club combines exercise, dance and fun

2/10/2006 2:52:02 PM


LYNCHBURG – Who knew belly dancing could make such a splash in Lynchburg?

Jemila Raks, the belly dancing club at R-MWC, has turned into one of the more popular activities for students.

The club was formed by sophomores Emily Miller and Denise Sewell in the spring of 2005.

After becoming an official campus organization in April 2005, Jemila Raks began recruiting members. There are currently more than 30 active members.

“I joined because I wanted to be active in a fun way,” said sophomore Kristen Fort. "My previous experience comes only from a belly dancing video.”

Belly dancing is actually a western term describing baladi, an Egyptian style of dance where the stomach is isolated and a variety of dance-like, ethereal movements are made.

Belly dancing has made its mark in the past few years, becoming extremely popular across the United States.

Miller and Sewell became interested in belly dancing around 2004. Both have taken classes and learned from observation.

Miller, who is from Dallas, has performed before an audience and has won an amateur belly dancing competition.

A Georgia native, Sewell has also participated in performances, dancing in venues such as Middle Eastern restaurants around her hometown.

In addition to the session taught by Sewell and Miller on Wednesday nights, they also employ the help of a specialist, Lavina Damrell.

“I love having the specialty teacher Lavina,” said freshman Maria Lugo. ”It really helps me to learn different belly dancing skills that I don't learn each week,”

Damrell focuses on tribal style and slow, graceful movements.

Like Miller and Sewell, Damrell’s knowledge of belly dancing comes from both a mixture of formal instruction, experimenting and informal observation.

“I had a friend whose mother was an Armenian from Syria/Lebanon and knew how to (belly dance), so she taught all her daughters, who in turn taught me,” Damrell said.

Last fall, Jemila Raks put on a student-run performance, the “first annual R-MWC Belly Dancing Hafla.”

Students of all skill levels participated in the event.

“The instructors really are dedicated teachers and their talents prove that almost anyone can learn to belly dance. I had a great time with the Hafla,” said freshman Kandace Marie Allen.

Jemila Raks has other plans for the future, including a Belly Dance Competition and a trip to see the Belly Dance Superstars perform.

The classes are held every Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations