On Stage

Hafla Hoedown

Putting the ‘belly’ in Bellingham

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It’s been almost 17 years since Maggie Rose discovered that a modern dance class she’d signed up for was, instead, a bellydance class. Instead of asking for a refund, she decided to stick around and see what it was all about.

“I was completely mesmerized by the strong, confident community of women I saw in that class,” Rose says of her decision to stay. “The only bellydancer I had ever seen in person before was a solo dancer at a Moroccan restaurant. At the time, I had no idea you could actually take bellydance classes. I was hooked!”

And, although she didn’t give up on other types of making movement—she’s since taken modern dance classes, as well as West African dance, Bollywood, tap, hula, swing, ballet and many more—bellydancing has remained a steadfast passion.

In addition to performing solo and as a member of several troupes over the years—including being a current member of the Portico Dance Company—Rose also teaches a variety of bellydancing classes, and continues to seek out additional training opportunities to further her own education. 

But she’s not the only one. At a “Silk Road” Hafla happening Sat., March 22 at Presence Studio, members of the Portico Dance Company will be joined by the Mahala Dancers, the Tribal Kind (from Seattle), soloists, a variety of student ensembles, and others to share their bellydancing talents. Those who are intrigued by what they see can find out more about upcoming classes, and discover just how thriving Bellingham’s bellydance community is. 

“We’ve been putting the ‘belly’ in Bellingham since the mid-’70s, when bellydance trailblazer Shelley Muzzy formed one of the first touring troupes, Bou-Saada,” Rose says. “These days, there are probably close to 100 people taking bellydance classes here at any given time.

“My favorite thing about our dance community is the camaraderie and support, not only from each other but also from the studios in which we all teach and host workshops and haflas: Presence Studio, La Vida, Bellingham Dance Company, Bell Tower Studios, Flow Motion. They create space for us to keep dancing.”

At the hafla—basically a “bellydance party” where advanced dancers perform new choreography and new students perform for the first time—attendees can feel free to ask questions about upcoming classes, styles of bellydancing and find out why costumes are so important to the art form. They can also simply enjoy the show.

“I love that even if you are performing choreography, anything can happen because it’s a live performance,” Rose says. “I also love connecting with the audience. All performers gain energy from an engaged audience!”

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