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Exotic Moves

Classically trained ballerina
to present belly dance classes

Gentle movements and
stretches are good for arthritis

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(March 2011) – At the most recent belly dance class presented at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library, an eager and slightly anxious group of students filed into the auditorium. Calls of “I don’t know how to dance!” and “I’ve never done this before!” echo throughout the room.

Heather Adler

Photo by Lela Bradshaw

Heather Adler will teach belly dancing
classes at the public library on the
second Thursday of each month
from March through June.

“That’s good!” instructor Heather Adler announces cheerfully. She quickly waves participants over to a bright table and encourages students to sort through the different colors and discover the different sounds of the heavily ornamented and be-jangled scarves. Soon, laughter fills the room as young and old settle on favorites and join the large circle, ready for the class to begin.
Adler stands in the center and goes through some of the dance moves, before repeating them again more slowly for the class to see exactly how the motions are performed. “Belly dancing is more illusion – not what you think you’re seeing,” she explains.
The belly dance classes taught by Adler will continue to run the second Thursday of each month from March through June. Each class meets at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the library and lasts about an hour. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes and “eat light” that evening. No prior dance experience is needed and students should show up ready to have fun. This season’s classes were originally scheduled to run January through March, but due to popular demand, they have been extended. The class typically attracts between 20 and 50 people.
Kim Kreuzburg, library assistant and adult programmer, said, “Every time she teaches, people are absolutely devoted to her and the class.”
After she took over as adult programmer at the library last year, patrons began to ask if the class which had been taught a few times before would be returning. “People were dying to have it repeated,” she recalls. Kreuzberg believes part of the class’s popularity is due to the fact that Adler ties fun and education into one class. Not only do participants get to enjoy an entertaining workout, but they also learn how belly dance is related to other forms of dance around the world and how dance is important to a variety of cultures.
Adler points out that part of the broad appeal of the course is the fact that it provides “wonderful camaraderie for all ages.” She explains that the gentle movements and stretches can be good for arthritis suffers. Even pre-school aged children get in on the fun, twirling happily to the music. “The people who participate are all ages,” agrees Kreuzburg,
Adler stresses that the dance form is something new to almost everyone in the class, and that people should not feel intimidated by their own lack of training. Even those with a strong training in dance will find themselves facing a new medium, “this is not at all like ballet,” she says seriously. Adler herself has a background in Russian ballet and even after spending years with the demanding en pointe style, dancing on her toes, she found that belly dance presented her with exciting new challenges. “Belly dance is like learning another language,” Adler explains.
Adler works hard to make sure all of her students find the class rewarding, no matter what their fitness level. “We start out slowly, get people to feel happy with music,” she says. The class begins with the basics.
“One of the first things you learn is to stand up straight,” Adler notes, explaining the importance of breathing correctly.
After the class works through a series of easy stretches, the students being to pick up more challenging moves. “You’ll get a six-pack – I think it’s easier than sit ups,” she says laughing as the exercise portion of the lesson begins in earnest. “You end up using every muscle in your body.”
Adler reflects on the benefits of belly dance saying, “You listen more to your body. I think it’s a very good holistic way of moving.” She encourages people to “Do something that’s good and healthy for yourself.”

• For more information on upcoming programs at the Madison-Jefferson County Public Library, visit www.mjcpl.org or call (812) 265-2744.

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