Photo by Derek J. Amaya
August 13, 2012
In dance, the happiness, sadness or fury of the dancer is expressed through the body in elegant movements with the music.
Bette Lucas, a flamenco and belly dance instructor, says the body is a wonderful added instrument to the music because the feelings start to unleash when the music begins.
“Everybody is different and everybody has the opportunity to express themselves,” she said. “They can find their own individual voices as a dancer.”
Lucas has been teaching flamenco and belly dancing for more than 15 years and says dancing is a great way to not only express yourself, but to also keep the body moving for exercise.
“I think dancing opens up new worlds in movement,” she said, showing dance moves with her hands. “I see women come in who don’t think they can dance, but once they get their veils, their confidence grows and [they] start dancing everywhere.”
The instructor has been been dancing for 30 years and inherited the class after a teacher moved back to Spain. A fellow classmate wanted Lucas to teach.
“I’ve been floating around different studios,” she said. “For the last few years, however, I’ve been renting space here at Arthur Murray with mirrors and air conditioning.”
In flamenco, dancers learn flexibility, strength and balance, which can be aerobic. Belly dance also increases flexibility and sparks from natural movements of the female body.
“We all know we have to exercise, but it can be fun,” Lucas said. “If both dances really touch you, they can be a lot of fun.”
Mary Ann Hope, a student and dancer of flamenco, says the ancient gypsy dance taught by Lucas is stress relieving and empowering.
“It’s wonderful for older people because you can put all of your life experiences in your dancing,” Hope said. “Plus, it’s great exercise. If I didn’t do it, I would weigh 300 pounds.”
She also thinks there is another group of people who would enjoy doing flamenco.
“It’s not just for women,” she said. “In Spain, many men and boys are learning how to dance. Traditionally, the gentlemen were the dancers of flamenco.”
Belly dance was a reintroduction to dancing after several years off for Melissa Larimer, a student and dancer of belly dance.
“I think belly dance is really intuitive and natural for women,” she said. “I think whenever we start something physical we enjoy, then we’ll want to do more.”
Larimer said being with other women socially and dancing is therapeutic and has rejuvenated her love for dance.
“It inspires me to do other things, especially when it comes to working out,” she said. “If I come in Monday night to dance, Tuesday I will come in and incorporate yoga in my day. It also inspires me to get better at dancing, so I start to exercise a lot more to keep up with the dancing.”
She added that Lucas’ dance classes are a very supportive group of women, who are not in competition with one another.
“It’s about women coming together, supporting each other and moving their bodies,” she said. “The classes are safe havens to come in and relax.”
Lucas says women involved in her classes gain much more than they realize.
“The women here are part of a camaraderie,” she said. “They’re supportive and gain courage through flamenco and belly dancing. It’s always fun.”