DAVE STONE/THE EAGLE
The Tavern thumped with excitement Tuesday night to the exotic sounds of Middle Eastern music during the Arabic Club’s Belly Dancing event, designed to share Arab culture and reinforce the positive body image associated with belly dancing.
Students in the Tavern for their regular meal were taken off guard by Mary Pappin, Arabic Club President and a junior in the School of International Service, welcoming everyone in Arabic. Many students were intrigued and stayed for at least part of the show.
The event consisted of two acts. First, Rachel Kay Brookmire, founder of the Sahara Dance School in Tenleytown, gave belly dancing lessons and performed a few traditional dances. Brookmire asked the crowd for volunteers. Five girls volunteered; two said they had previously taken some classes. Beginning with simple arm motions, she transitioned them to walking and then to hip motions.
While dancing, Brookmire explained that belly dancing was a celebration of women’s bodies and was done on special occasions.
“When you’re doing the shimmy, you’ve got to be willing to let everything shake - your bum, your belly - everything shakes,” she said to the volunteers.
Casey Layman, a senior in the School of International Affairs, was one of the dancers who participated in the event.
“I just came, showed up and did it. It was a lot of fun and a good distraction from studying . quite a workout,” she said after the dance lessons.
After her teaching segment, Brookmire showcased her skills by performing a traditional dance. For Brookmire, belly dancing extends past being an art form.
“The most important thing I feel women can learn is to respect their body and appreciate their curves,” she said. “It’s also an interesting way to learn about Arab culture and music. It’s a healthy, natural way to exercise.”
Following Brookmire, the Palestinian dance troupe Al Hurriyah performed. Al Hurriyah consisted of three women and one man. Three of the dancers - Hanan Idilbi, Huwaida Arraf and Haneen Azzam - are students at the Washington College of Law. The fourth member of the group was Fadi Kiblawi, who was not affiliated with AU.
Their dance style contrasted with Brookmire’s belly dancing. It was very energetic with very brisk footwork. For much of the time, the group members’ hands were linked, displaying their skill and coordination. The group has been in existence since August 2004 and aims to raise awareness about Palestine. Money from their shows goes to help Palestinians, Pappin said in her introduction.
Idilbi said her favorite thing about performing is “spreading the culture and keeping the memory of Palestine alive.”
Pappin explained that the Arabic Club is new and still trying to spread the word and get people excited about the Middle East through cultural activities.
“The most exciting [way to exhibit Arabic culture is] music and dance,” she said. “The goal is to provide as many opportunities as possible for people to get a hold of the Arabic culture, expose them to the language and even inspire them to take [classes in] it.”
Most of the people in the Tavern displayed great interest and enthusiasm for the various performances.
“I think I’m going to take a belly dancing class now,” said Kristen Luppino, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs.