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Come Shimmy With Penn State’s Belly Dance Club

Where do you envision a typical belly dancer? An exotic Arabian land? A mysterious hookah bar? How about the White Building on a Wednesday night?

Meet Penn State’s Belly Dance club. This club’s goal is to provide students with belly dance instruction, performance and choreography experience, and a chance to have fun while staying in shape. The club is open to dancers of all backgrounds, and all levels are welcome. Ranging from complete beginners to more experienced dancers, the Belly Dance Club encourages all types of students to join.

“Prior experience is not needed; We’ll teach you everything you need to know, from shimmies to props, and provide an opportunity to perform at the end of your first semester of classes,” the official Penn State Belly Dance club website states.

rehearsal belly dance
The Belly Dance Club rehearses for an upcoming performance. (Photo: Penn State Belly Dance Club)

Hayley Frerichs, a current junior and president of the club, discovered her passion for belly dancing during her freshman year.

“I never really danced much in high school, and belly dancing was never offered where I grew up,” she explained. “Once I came to college, I heard about the club. It was always something I was interested in so I thought I’d try it out.”

Though some students like Frerichs picked up this passion in college, some dancers have been shimmying for years. Ashley Madura, current senior and treasurer of the club, has belly danced since her sophomore year of high school. Hailing from Erie, Pennsylvania, she attended a branch campus before transferring to University Park her junior year.

“I took belly dancing classes all throughout high school, but they were never offered at Erie,” she said. “Once I came to University Park, I discovered the Belly Dance Club and jumped at the opportunity.”

Though belly dancing is an intriguing art to most, it is often misunderstood. Madura explained that there are many different varieties of belly dancing, not just one.

“Most people have the misconception that belly dancing is all the same. That’s not the case. The American Cabaret style of belly dancing is the most popular, but certainly not the only style we do.”

belly dance astro
The Belly Dance Club performs during Astro Fest in front of the Davey Laboratory. (Photo: Penn State Belly Dance Club)

Madura explains that American Cabaret is the type of belly dancing most people are familiar with. This style incorporates a lot of hip movements, shimmies, and props — all things that are typically expected in the art of belly dancing. In addition to dancing American Cabaret style, the Belly Dance Club dabbles in Turkish, Egyptian, Goth, Tribal Fusion, Improv, and even Burlesque style belly dancing.

“My favorite is fusion, by far. This style incorporates all the moves and rhythms from the others, and allows you a lot of freedom,” Madura said.

Once dancers feel ready, they are encouraged to audition for the intermediate troupe. This group performs at a variety of events on- and off-campus. The club performs larger scale shows called ‘haflas’ at the end of fall and spring semester, and the entire club takes part in the routine.

These belly dancers do more than dance, however. In addition to their classes and rehearsals, they enjoy social events such as costume and makeup workshop, henna socials, and movie nights.

Wondering when you can catch these belly dancers next? Come out to the Witches Ball this weekend. The club will perform this Saturday night at 7 p.m. in the HUB, hosted by the Penn State Pagan Student Association, Silver Circle. The club will perform a “Nightmare Before Christmas” themed routine in room 233A and 233B of the HUB. The Belly Dance Club will perform along with Dirty Agnes and the Full Ammo Improv Troupe.

Make sure you show your support for your favorite Belly Dancing squad this weekend, or even attend a class or two if you’ve been feeling the need to shake those hips.

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About the Author

Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with.

(Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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