Qiuying Zhao, left, speaks with Margaret Wong, an immigration attorney and civic leader from Cleveland during the Women of the World Symposium.
She had one arm in a sling, and the skirt tied around her waist and over her pants kept slipping to the floor, but K. LaVerne Redden was determined to belly dance.
“I thought it was refreshing,” said Ms. Redden, 76, of Toledo. “I thought it was liberating.”
The hour-long belly-dancing lesson Saturday was part of a larger day-long Women of the World Symposium at the University of Toledo's Scott Park Campus, meant to recognize Women's History Month, “bring women together, nurture dreams, and expand dreams,” said CeCe Norwood, WOW’s chairwoman.
Ms. Norwood hoped the women who attended — 193 registered — would leave with at least one message: “Encourage women to reach out to other women to realize what dreams they have.”
PHOTO GALLERY: 2013 Women of the World Symposium
Planning for the six-hour event, featuring various break-out sessions and a keynote address from Margaret Wong, a Cleveland immigration attorney, started in August, Ms. Norwood said. She hopes the event will become an annual celebration of women.
“There really isn’t anything like this that women can depend on,” Ms. Norwood said.
The event is aimed at giving women a day to themselves, she added.
Talina Tolson, a dance instructor at the Toledo School for the Arts who taught belly dancing as a break-out event, said the dancing was a perfect tie-in, showing women to let go of their tension and stress and “letting the body do what it needs to do.”
Ms. Tolson, a dancer who has trained in various countries in the past 20 years, said her class Saturday was “about dancing for yourself first and learning the boundaries of your body. ... It’s not so much about performing. It’s more of a meditation.”
Ms. Redden agreed, saying she moved her body in ways she didn’t know she could.
“Shoot, I could shimmy,” she laughed.
The afternoon closed with the address from Mrs. Wong, 63, who immigrated at age 19 to the United States from Hong Kong in 1969.
Life as an immigrant and a woman, and then as an immigration lawyer, taught her that it’s OK to dream, she said. One of 10 life rules she laid out was to dream big: to follow your head, heart, and gut.
She also told the women that “it’s OK to be insecure” and that “life is not about survival ... it’s about living.”
Mrs. Wong, whose book The Immigrant’s Way was published in 2009, challenged the audience to read one book every week and two newspapers a day.
“A book and newspaper open you up to the world,” she said, saying she is too cheap to buy The New York Times, so she reads it on an electronic tablet.
More information about the symposium is available at wowtoledo.org.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6054 or on Twitter @taylordungjen.