Meet Vancouver’s Belly Dancing Troupe

These belly dancers know how to shake it.

Under the guidance of instructor Leona Finlayson, the women of Y Belly Dance performance troupe meet several times a week to study the grace and rhythms of the traditional dance form. Through their practices at the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre and numerous performances throughout the year, the women have not only learned how to transfix an audience—they’ve also transformed how they perceive themselves.

1. “I was a single parent and I was looking for somewhere to go to be with a group of people, because I didn’t have a partner. It was a way I could dance, and I like dancing, so I thought I would join.”—Ann Stine, early childhood and special needs educator

2. “For me, with my body type, it feels great to be able to feel free.”—Angela Parmar, schoolteacher

3. “After I had kids and I’d gotten a bit older and my body had changed, I felt that I needed to be comfortable with it again.The first time I did a performance with them it was terrifying having to expose myself like that, but after that it just got easier and easier.”—Mielle Grant, high school receptionist

4. “My favourite part of being a teacher is getting to dance with my ladies and seeing them blossom as dancers and their friendships grow.”—Leona Finlayson, belly dance teacher

5. “My favourite part is the companionship of the ladies and performing. I love it.”—Kathie Black, office assistant

6. “I like fast spins because you build up this momentum and this energy and it’s a release, almost—especially when you come out of it and the crowd cheers so much. I love the adrenalin rush of performing.”—Cristal Folka, receptionist

Click photo to enlarge.

7. “In 1999, I visited a friend in New York and she threw a party—there was a belly dancer. Then we went out to a restaurant—there was a belly dancer. On the flight home, I picked up the inflight magazine and there was an article on belly dancing. So I said ‘Okay, universe. I’m listening. I’ll try this.’”—Georgina Daniels, manager of operational training for the justice system

8. “We had one piece where we needed a guy to dance around and was actually in that show. He’s always been a fan.”—Anh Nguyen, technical writer

9. “As a hobby, I had participated intensely in the world of Schutzhund dog training for 20-plus years, which I then left in order to care for my mother when she became terminally ill. When she passed away I went into a severe depression. Many years later I thought back on what I used to do outside of dog training that had brought me joy, and belly dancing had always been in the back of my mind.”—Christine Walker, homemaker

10. “Leona has always been very open about us wearing what we want to class and so I’m kind of used to coming to class in a lot of fun things.”—Cecily MacGregor-Gauntts, artist and film extra

11. “When I am on the stage performing, I see myself as a dancer. It’s very different. People look at financial planners as a professional career, but this is my other side of enjoying music, enjoying my own world.”—Lucenda Lam, financial planner

12. “My mom signed me up and said ‘you’re going.’ That was 10 years ago. I stayed with it because it made me feel that I was more than just a nerdy girl, that I was actually a woman.”—Karime Kuri, software analyst

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