January 10, 2013

Off Beat: Tales from the dancer's belly

Joie Grandbois will teach in a new class how to 'bring drama to your dance' and share a story with a shimmy or a shake.

Apparently, there are lots of different styles of belly dancing.

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Joie Grandbois, center, demonstrates theatrical belly dancing at Bright Star World Dance in Portland.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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WHEN: 7:15 p.m. Thursdays through Feb. 14

WHERE: Bright Star World Dance, 496 Congress St., 4th floor, Portland

HOW MUCH: $60 for full session; $15 drop-in

INFO: tinyurl.com/aj5ofqg

Who knew?

Joie Grandbois, for one.

She teaches belly dance classes and performs with the Portland vaudeville company Dark Follies under the name Selcouth. So for Grandbois, it makes sense that people who already know something about belly dancing (it's a growing trend, in case you haven't noticed) would be interested in taking their art to the next level.

Theatrical belly dancing.

"There are lots of traditions and styles of belly dancing: Cabaret, Egyptian, tribal. What makes theatrical belly dancing stand out is the element of storytelling," said Grandbois. "There's a more direct connection with the audience."

Grandbois will begin teaching her first theatrical belly dance class on Thursday, with classes continuing on Thursdays through Feb. 14. A total session costs $60.

Now, learning to be theatrical with one's midsection is not something you can just jump into. Grandbois says she wants people who have taken at least one session of belly dance classes already so that they have the belly basics down.

Then the class can focus on how to use the moves of belly dancing to convey emotion and tell a story. As Grandbois says in her online course description: "Who knew hip drops could be sad, silly, or angry?"

The same can be said for a twist of the midsection or a shimmy of the shoulder.

"It's more than just getting up and putting on a display. You have to be able to tell a story with movement and use something like a shoulder shimmy to convey fear or happiness or a secret," said Grandbois.

In fact, that's how one exercise in the class will work. Grandbois will tell people to focus on one move -- like a shoulder shimmy -- and they'll have to display a specified emotion with that move.

OK, everyone try this as you read along. Use those shoulders to show how happy you are right now to be reading a newspaper story.

Grandbois said there is a lot of improvisational theater skills used in theatrical belly dancing. And belly dancing itself, she says, is an expressive and passionate art form, which grew out of folk traditions and community celebrations.

Another belly dance form is gothic belly dancing, says Grandbois, which includes mood music and themes from mythology.

Talk about theatrical.

"Theatrical belly dancing is a way to bring drama to your dance, find your creative voice," said Grandbois.

Finding your voice through your belly -- imagine that.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:



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