Elders and Belly Dancing

A simple but extraordinary event occurred yesterday in the basement studio of a local dancer and entrepreneur. On a snowy but not too cold afternoon in late January on a back road in the small Maine community of Damariscotta Mills, 35 people gathered to watch the first dance showcase of Nathifa Shakti.

How could Middle Eastern belly dancing be relevant to empowered aging? Among the performers on stage was 83 year-old Clara who gracefully moved in rhythm with her fellow students as young as 18. As Clara said in the program, “There was an ad in the newspaper that Peke was teaching at Spectrum Generations in Damariscotta so I went and was the beginner’s class. The other girl didn’t show up, so she put me in the next class and I have been trying to catch up ever since……Belly dance is a great exercise. Peke makes it so much fun. Belly Dancing is for everyone!” Keep on keeping on, Clara.

In the audience, among toddlers, young parents, and professionals from the community with a passion for dance, were 8 other elders, including 6 from the Hodgdon Green assisted living residence. Thanks to the tireless efforts of volunteer community members Sandra and Carol, all our lives are so much richer. Never knowing what they’re going to get dragged to next, these intrepid souls: Kathryn, Gerry, Jolan, Henry, Joyce, and Florence, climbed into the cars with their walkers and canes and took off for this Saturday afternoon adventure. Across a snow-covered walkway, and through an ordinary appearing daylight basement door, they forged ahead, no questions asked. Jolan at 93, had wowed us all last year with her own precocious and uninhibited belly dancing. This year she’s more focused on her poetry, singing, and art. Henry, a stand-out with his bright orange hunter’s cap, afterward sweetly thanked the performers and eventually shuffled back to the car. All the others had broad smiles and heartfelt appreciation to have been included with this small cross-section of their community from which they are often segregated and to whom they are largely invisible.

So as the world watches the events unfolding in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, an Argentinian native introduces Arabic dance to people of all ages in a small home along the coast of Maine on a snowy Saturday afternoon. This community’s elders are an integral part of that landscape. This is the mission of Full Circle America. The entire scene was an encouraging metaphor for a brighter future for all of us.

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2 Responses to Elders and Belly Dancing

  1. Clara Wentworth says:

    Dear Dr. Teel, Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! I guess I have a lot more catching up to do to catch up with Jolan. She is great! Peke is fantastic! We all enjoy her classes soo much. There is no limit to her patience and hard work and good heart. She and Jon made the Showcase a hugh success. I have noticed in the paper that you do a lot for the elderly. Keep up the good work. I enjoyed chatting with your father. You are a very nice family. Sincerely, Clara.

  2. Kim says:

    While listening to the John Tesh radio show I heard “Researchers also say that dance is the #1 physical activity found to reduce the risk of dementia – since the brain gets a literal workout trying to match body movements to music.”

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