SHAMOKIN — What does a belly dancer look like?

Unless you think that she looks like your typical nurse or slightly shy next door neighbor, you’ll probably never recognize Shamokin’s most ardent “belly dancers.”

While the summer heat swelters, a group of area woman gather in an airless room where they transform from secretaries, sewing machine operators and housewives to grinding, grunting, swaying, seductive Egyptian dancers.

Dedicated to learning the true movements of the early Egyptian dance, each woman can aptly present her own rendition of the dance that for centuries has charmed both prince and pauper. Meeting each Saturday, the woman are, without a doubt, the most technically advanced local interpreters of the ancient dance art.

Class instructor is Kathy Kopyscianski Long, a Ranshaw native who has become a “pro” at the art of belly dancing. Kathy dances professionally throughout a tri-state area under the name “Sabrana.” She teaches the dance and it’s history at North Hampton College and lectures throughout the state on the history and benefits of the ancient dance form. “What I’m trying to do is educate people to see that belly dancing is a strenuous and beautiful art form; not something that belongs in smoke-filled back rooms,” said Kathy. She emphasized that she will only perform at husband-wife affairs and that her show is “geared to appeal to the entire family.”Unlike Kathy, her students are not studying to become professional belly dancers. Why then, do they submit themselves to the rigors of learning the dance?

“My doctor recommended it,” said one 38-year-old nurse who asked not to have her name mentioned for professional reasons. “Some people still connect belly dancing with things like carnivals. My bosses wouldn’t understand,” she volunteered.

The nurse explained that she has arthritis so badly that she couldn’t even kneel down before she came to class. “Now, I’m in better shape than I have been all my life. My husband hates when I miss class,” she stated.

Not all husbands are so supportive of their wife’s belly dancing efforts; some only tolerate the situation. “My husband wasn’t going to let me go to class,” said Connie Renn, one of the best dancers in the class.

Mrs. Ronnie Miner, married with two children, rationalizes the situation this way: “My husband has his darts, football and tennis. I have the kids and housework. I look forward to these classes all week.” She said that she practices while she is washing clothes or doing housework.

All of the belly dancing students proclaimed belly dancing as “the best exercise you can do. You use every muscle in your body.” Mrs. Jeanette Komara said that she has already lost four pounds. “And, belly dancing is a lot more fun than doing 50 push-ups,” added Peggy Erdman, the only single girl in the class.

Will Shamokin’s serious belly dancing students ever dance “in pubic?” In response to this question, the women rolled their eyes and exchanged horrified looks. “Never!” came the response. “Well, maybe,” some relented. Only time will tell.

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