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Belly dance classes now offered at City Park Rec Center

By Jessica Coates

SALISBURY — When City Park belly dance instructor Fern Blair was growing up, she didn’t enjoy dancing.

“I was actually a little girl and my mom signed me up for ballet. And I walked in the door, and I remember just looking at all of the other little girls and just going, ‘I’m not one of these little girls,’” Blair said.

But when she first tried belly dancing 12 years ago, she knew it was for her.

“Because belly dance is really for everyone. It’s a low-impact kind of dance. It focuses on isolations and just a little bit of layering and the music is very, very fun and the costumes are really, really fun,” Blair said.

Blair — whose performance name is Firuza — said the style of dance is nothing like the “sensationalized, fictional version” that Hollywood has depicted since the early 1900s.

“That created this modern image of a belly dancer,” Blair said. “… But what’s happened since then is that in America and in other cultures — like Egypt and Lebanon, where these original, traditional cultures were from — they’ve regained that dance and they’ve made their own styles that are modern versions. And it’s nothing like that sketchy Hollywood stuff.”

Instead, she said, belly dancing is “woman-friendly,” “body-image-friendly” and good for all ages and sizes.

“And it’s really great not just for your physical health — the toning and the flexibility — but for your emotional health because you get the support from all of these other women that you meet through the community,” Blair said.

Since she began belly dancing, she has been “drawn into a community of women.”

“The instructors I’ve had have been so wonderful. There’s no drama. It’s about having your own space, being confident in yourself, having a good time, expressing yourself. It’s not about competition,” Blair said. “It’s just been wonderful for me.”

Blair said the women she has met through the dance community are part of what inspired her to start a class in Salisbury, where she lives.

“I just really hope that I can provide the opportunity here. There’s a lot of people who are interested and they might not be able to get to a belly dance class because they don’t want to drive an hour. So I’m hoping that this can provide an outlet for that and I’ll see if it takes off,” Blair said.

Blair performs with three belly dance groups, the closest of which she said is 45 minutes away. One is called Rhythmic Essence Belly Dance, which is in Newton; another is Rockabellas, which is in north Charlotte; and another is Roses of the Realm, which performs at the Carolina Renaissance Festival.

“I’m just excited to be able to have it here in my own hometown,” she said.

Blair said her first belly dance experience was at a local YMCA when she was living in Virginia.

Anyone who is nervous about trying the dance, she says, should keep in mind that “you never know” what you’ll love.

“You should always try things. I think it’s really fun to go and try things and see if you like it,” Blair said. “And, I mean, I did and I’ve been doing it for 12 years.”

The Belly Dance for Beginners class meets at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday at City Park Recreation Facility, 316 Lake Drive.

Each class costs $5. No previous dance experience is required. Participants are encouraged to wear workout clothes and bring a bottle of water.

For more information, visit the Blue Rose Bellydance Facebook page.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.



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