Belly dancing: Glitter, music and movement
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photos courtesy of Michele Palmieri
The Denver area has a strong culture and community of professional and amateur belly dancers. Acclaimed belly dancing artists Sadie Marquardt, Rafi’ah Ruyah and Phoenix of Denver continue to inspire resident Michele Palmieri who belly dances for fun, exercise, sisterhood and especially for the costumes.
Twelve years ago, Palmieri saw belly dancers in their colorful costumes coming and going at her gym. “I thought they looked kinda cool. My workout friend was out of town so I checked out a belly dancing class and I haven’t looked back!” Palmieri shared.
The glitter, the moves, the friendships and the inspiring instructors kept Palmieri taking classes locally and online. Palmieri has performed and attended many shows and belly dancing events such as a belly dancing conference in Las Vegas. Palmieri even traveled to Egypt with a fellow dancer, Gina Moretto from Castle Rock, for a whirlwind five days where the two met with costume designers, visited belly dancing boutiques and saw male dancers called whirling dervishes who performed on a Nile River cruise. Riding to the pyramids on a camel and a white stallion wearing their costumes made for an incredible photo shoot. Palmieri came home with costumes and many memories.
Palmieri is soon to be 69 years young and loves the challenge, both mentally and physically, of belly dancing. “It’s a lot more than just wiggling your hips; it’s moving different parts of your body. Maybe you’re moving your arms slowly, but you’re moving your hips fast.”
Learning the choreography and staying in sync with the group is a challenge Palmieri enjoys. As for performing on stage, Palmieri said, “If you’re going to learn this stuff, you might as well show it off.”
Palmieri emphasized that the belly dancing community includes people of all ages, (some in their 70s), shapes and sizes. “You can’t belly dance with six-pack abs,” Palmieri exclaimed.
“You’ve got to jiggle something. It’s a different kind of shaping of your muscles because of all the different parts of your body that you’re working.”
According to Palmieri, there are entire classes on shimmying, and many different styles to try such as cabaret, tribal, Turkish and fusion. “My instructor Phoenix wants us to learn how to do things like the finger cymbals, but I love the sword!” Palmieri exclaimed. The swords are heavy and must be balanced as they are twisted around a dancer’s head and body. Palmieri performed a solo with a fan veil and has performed with lit candles on her head and in the palms of her hands. She demonstrated the twisting motion required of a dancer’s wrists and arms to keep the candle upright. “You can’t hold the lit candles; they rest in the palms of your hands.”
“Belly dancing is fluid, it’s pretty and it can be sassy,” Palmieri remarked.