By Holly Glen Gearhart, Contributing Writer
Her day job as a CPA involves mathematical symbols; numbers, ratios and equations, but her passion lies in the music of finger cymbals and body movement in a dance form as old as the sands of the Rub’al Khali, on the Middle Eastern road from Cairo to Doha.
Lynne Raines Parsley has spent her life in dance, starting at the age of four, and was offered a scholarship to the prestigious American Ballet Theatre at age 14 before finally settling in to the ancient form of what we know as belly dancing, but which is more properly known as Raks Sharki, or Oriental Dance.
“I loved it immediately,” says Parsley, “the music, the costuming and the culture all drew me…I was completely in love with Raks Sharki … taking classes three or four times per week.”
Our impression of belly dancing has gotten a bum rap, thanks to pop culture, she said.
“This dance is performed by everyone, young and old, men and women, and is part of their culture at parties,” said Parsley. It is not what is commonly performed on stage or in restaurants as a form of entertainment.
She stresses, “… while this dance can be sensual, done by a professional it is not sexual; we are not strippers in spite of the inaccurate stereotype.”
Belly dancing, or Raks Sharki, is also a good form of exercise. “Belly dance is all about isolating muscles, muscle control and core strength,” she said. In fact, belly dancing helped her recover from the effects of a car accident.
Parsley is now offering classes in Raks Sharki at her home in Florence Acres Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. Classes are $10 for a one-hour class. In addition to learning and drilling movement, you will learn about Middle Eastern music, use of finger cymbals, improvisation and performance skills. All ages are welcome; children are welcome as long as they are able to take instruction.
Classes begin Jan. 8 at 6:30. Call (425) 772-8413 for the address and directions.
Attire for dance class is yoga-type clothing; no shoes, but you may want to wear ballet slippers or go barefoot. No baggy clothes; rather, please wear a top that is more form-fitting. Hip scarves and finger cymbals are provided but if you already have these please bring them.
Belly dancing can be a powerful way to improve self image, Parsley added.
“People who are negatively self-conscious of their bodies become proud and carry themselves differently,” she said. “It can be very empowering.”