‘You’re a shape and you can dance’

Sunniva walked into her first belly dance class with the intention of just going for the exercise and community experience — but 11 years later, it has become an integral part of her life.

“I ended up falling in love with it and one thing after another. I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m never going to perform,’ (I) performed that year,” Sunniva said. “‘Oh, I’m never going to solo,’ I soloed. ‘Oh, I’m never going to show my belly,’ I did that. It’s just one thing after another — and it’s just led me to this point.”

Sunniva — who goes by her stage name — is one of the five belly dancers performing at One World Cafe 7 p.m. Saturday. The event is free of charge, but there will be an opportunity to tip the dancers for their performances.

When she first started dancing, she said there was a feeling of self-consciousness, but being around people who were like-minded and empowering let her fall in love with belly dancing, as well as her own body, Sunniva said.

“I’ve never been a small person, and I was never able to really find something that made me feel good about my body until belly dance,” Sunniva said.

How one looks at themselves creates a connection between their body and mind — people can tend to focus more on what’s on the outside versus who we actually are on the inside, said RebL, one of the belly dancers performing Saturday.

RebL dabbled in hip-hop, social and modern dance, but said when she found belly dancing, she felt the movements truly connected her body more than other styles.

She works at Washington State University as an adviser, but also teaches belly dancing classes at the University Recreation (UREC) in Pullman, RebL said.

“Our body is more than just the way it looks but more so how it functions,” RebL said.

While Sunniva learned belly dancing through classes and a more structured setting, RebL was self-taught, which was part of the reason she prefers to teach the style of dance.

“You can come from two completely different backgrounds in belly dancing and still be amazing to watch,” Sunniva said.

Sunniva describes her style of belly dancing as more traditional, pulling from Egyptian and Modern American styles —which is typically what people see.

“It originates in an area of the world that is controversial at times, so people who tend to take belly dance are very open-minded about it and very open-minded about culture,” Sunniva said.

American tribal style focuses on a more modernized version of belly dancing, which mixes in multiple cultures, creating a mixture of dancing that RebL practices.

The other dancers preforming Saturday are Catherine, Stazia and Andrea, Sunniva said.

Sunniva and RebL plan to partner with other belly dancers, as well as different types of dancers in the area for future events.

They encourage people to try belly dancing, to find a class and just go for it, Sunniva said.

“There are so many different body types and body styles that are in belly dancing. You can be any shape, you’re a shape and you can dance,” Sunniva said.

Alex Brizee can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @alex_brizee

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