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Spotlight: Belly dancer shares talent

BY MEGAN BERG | NOVEMBER 19, 2010 7:20 AM

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Christy Andersen has a dent in the crown of her skull.

It's not a birth defect or from being dropped as a child — it comes from balancing a sword on her head.

Andersen, 23, is a belly dancer, and "sword" is a form of the art in which dancers horizontally balance a decorative blade on their heads while they dance, which helps check their posture and makes for something very intriguing to watch.

The De Soto, Iowa, native has been involved in all types of dancing since age 4, but she has been belly dancing for only three years.

She started the hypnotizing style of dance while pregnant with her now-2-year-old daughter, Lilona. The art form helps women exercise parts of their bodies that will be stressed during labor. Belly dancing originated in menstrual tents in which mothers taught the art to their daughters to help them alleviate cramps.

Andersen loved belly dancing so much, she began teaching it in August, and she still enjoys the dance's femininity.

"[My favorite part about belly dance is] connecting with women, definitely," Andersen said. "I love to bring this to other women and share the dancing space with them. I think it's so lovely."

Andersen teaches in a cozy studio called Healing Arts at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets. The space also has room for her massage clients — she studied massage therapy — and Eastwind Healing Center in Iowa City.

Watching her dance, the passion she has for each movement is obvious. Her hips roll, glide, and shake as if their movement were separate from the rest of her body, and the twist of her torso — which shows zero evidence that she birthed a 2-year-old — is completely mesmerizing.

She is the only person who teaches tribal fusion — a more modernized form of belly dance that incorporates Egyptian Style, American Tribal Style, and certain aspects of hip-hop — in Iowa City.

Anna Salino-Hugg is one of Andersen's more advanced students, and like her teacher, is inspired by the way the art form speaks to women and helps them feel comfortable in their own skin.

"It's so feminine," she said. "There's no 'right' body type for it."

As if teaching belly dance isn't interesting enough, Andersen is also a member of Cirque Stupendo, a traveling circus/band that has performed in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. She also performs with a belly-dance troupe called Unda. The members have become somewhat psychic with one another, she said. There have been moments, she said, in which she will think of a move that should be incorporated into the performance. At that exact moment, someone else in the group dance will start doing just what she was thinking.

The women in her class will perform the choreography they have learned on Dec. 16 at a hafla — the Arabic word for party — in the studio. Melanie Moore, the woman who taught Andersen's belly dancing for pregnancy class and one of her mentors, will also be present.

"I think Christy is a beautiful dancer," Moore said. "I really enjoy seeing my students blossom into their own dancers with their own styles, especially when they become teachers. I think that's great."


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