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Published: Monday, 3/4/2013

Women learn to have their sway in weekend classes downtown

Barbara Rocci, second from left in pink sleeveless, and Kristy Windt, right, both of Ann Arbor, learn general belly dancing moves during a seminar at the Grand Plaza in Toledo. Barbara Rocci, second from left in pink sleeveless, and Kristy Windt, right, both of Ann Arbor, learn general belly dancing moves during a seminar at the Grand Plaza in Toledo.
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Ask Helaine Rumaner what she loves about belly dancing, and the first thing she mentions isn’t the jangle of costumes or the sway of the hip.

The Toledo yoga instructor, sky diver, and belly dancer said she’s drawn to the Middle Eastern dance because of its “positive vibe.” She appreciates the supportive group of women who practice and perform belly dance and likes that dancers of “all sizes and shapes” participate.

She started belly dancing about a year ago and joined roughly 40 dancers Saturday who are attending classes this weekend in downtown Toledo.

“Some people do it because it’s great exercise, and it makes you feel beautiful,” Ms. Rumaner said. “I started to do it as something to take up my time in the winter.”

Belly dancers from Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana spent Saturday learning from dance teacher Cassandra Shore, the Minneapolis-based artistic director of the Jawaahir Dance Co.

She returned to Toledo this weekend for the second time to lead a dance seminar, which continues today with two classes at the Best Western Premier Grand Plaza Hotel and Convention Center. Saturday events also were scheduled to feature an evening cabaret show including local band Raq the Casbah, whose belly-dancing member helped organize the activities.

Ms. Shore has a background in a variety of dance styles — from jazz to ballet to modern dance — but found her rhythm in belly dance.

It appealed to her because of how the dance movements expressed the accompanying music. She opened a dance school in 1978 and also travels to lead workshops.

“The good part is you can help people get more graceful [and] get more comfortable with the movements,” she said about teaching.

Belly dance has experienced several “boomlets” in recent decades, including interest in the last five years sparked in part by response to the fitness-workout program Zumba, which incorporates moves inspired by belly dance, Ms. Shore said.

In between classes Saturday, dancers perused racks of sequined and colorful costumes, which were arranged in a rainbow from apricot and iridescent lime to teal and cotton-candy pink. Vendor tables offered medallions and other trims, tambourines, and veils to tempt the dancers.

Lori Friedlis of Charlotte, Mich., and Cindy Maldonado of Haslett, Mich., both belong to the Habibi Dancers, a Lansing troupe, and made the trip to Toledo for the weekend seminars. Ms. Maldonado said she saw belly dance performed during a festival and thought it was beautiful. She’s been dancing for a total of about six years.

“It’s a blast, it really is,” she said, adding that she likes the variety and diversity of the dancers.

Ms. Friedlis said the dance is “empowering,” and that the belly-dancing seminars are a great opportunity to learn from another instructor.

“It really teaches you that everybody is beautiful,” she said.

Those interested in taking today’s classes can register before the 11 a.m. class at the hotel, 444 N. Summit St.

The cost for today’s seminar is $75.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065.

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