More Than Belly Moving

This belly-dance class teaches life lessons to the strains of Middle Eastern Music

By Abigail Ramirez In Generation Next

As the lights slowly turn on, the sounds of Middle Eastern music fill the room at The Railyard Performance Center.  The sound of sils, finger cymbals, catches your attention and a spotlight focuses on 15 barefoot young women with colorfulhip wraps sparkling as they move their entire bodies in a belly dance.  These young women are members of the Self-esteem, Expression, Empowerment and Education through Dance program.

The Seeds® program is a one-year full scholarship offered to young womrn interested in  dance.  The participants put on at least four performances, mostly at the Railyard Performance Center.  But dance isn’t the only thing these young women are mastering.

“We are an empowering program with a beautiful environment where girls can come to express themselves through dance and gain skills for life,” said Leah Woods, 17, a member of the Seeds Program.

Lucy Gent, 16, another Seeds member, added, “We are a group of young women who come together to learn a dance form and to learn how to become motivated, independent women in the world.  We learn techniques as practical as balancing checking accounts and budgeting an income.
Myra Krien, creator of the Seeeds program and director of The Pomegranate Studios, said she had a lot of teenage girls who were trying to get into her classes, but had no money.  “I decided to make an official program that would make them feel better about themselves, be well-rounded people and be a part of their community,” she said.

The Seeds program teaches belly dance in the American tribal-style® dance, but also includes a “talking circle.”  In the talking circle the instructor brings up a topic or a question that the girls are asked to discuss.  The topics include goals, investing money, learning how to support themselves financially, what it means to be a woman, what the meaning of community is, etc.  Guest speakers are brought in to share information about different banks, finances, balancing checkbooks, the stock market and clearing up bad credit.  The girls are also encouraged to keep journals, where they record their financial spending and earnings, progress on reaching their goals and thoughts or feelings on certain issues.

“(The talking circle) has helped me figure out what I want in my future and start the process of achieving my goals.  It also lets me sort out what I think,” said Seeeds member Dara Minkin, 16.