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Tummy tango

click to enlarge BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott

Framed by a flick of the hips, a dip of the knees and a wave of bejeweled arms, a belly can mesmerize the human eye.

"In the Middle East, life is a celebration and dance is an extension of that," said dancer Mahisha, pictured above belly dancing at Tajine Alami Moroccan restaurant in Manitou Springs.

As a local dance teacher and practitioner of naturopathic medicine, Mahisha can attest to dancing's healing power. And after dancing for 49 years, the 54 year-old should know. "I believe dance keeps us young," she said. Her half-Egyptian father encouraged her to dance at a young age. "I grew up with the music and the culture," she said of her childhood home in California.

Dancing took her around the world -- to Australia, Canada, England and Guam. But when she talks about dance, she stresses the spiritual journey rather than the material one.

Take belly dancing, she says, which traditionally dramatizes five stages in a woman's spiritual development. Her 45-minute dance at the restaurant traces these steps:

First, the woman is covered in veils.

Next, the woman begins to shed her veils and inhibitions.

Then, a robust dance follows as womanhood is attained.

The woman reaches a crescendo during a drum solo.

And, in the final stage, the woman reaches maturity, fully comfortable with her dance.

Moving the belly involves the entire body, Mahisha says. And why is the belly so mesmerizing? "It's the cradle of life."

-- Dan Wilcock

  • Tummy tango

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