Marsha West

Telluride, CO
United States

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Purpose ~

To continue sharing the dance of the belly with women and men around the region through classes and workshops. Plus performing this beautiful dance for various venues so that all people see that this is a true art form with many benefits.

The Dance of the Belly ~

The dance of the belly was created by and for women as a way to socialize, condition their bodies and celebrate their femininity. It had been a way of teaching the movements of love making, preparing the body for childbirth and practiced as ritual and for spiritual enlightenment. It later evolved into an art form that has captivated audiences throughout the ages, including the dances women danced for each other in the harems.

Origins of the classic styles came from the Middle Eastern countries referred to as Raqs Sharqi meaning oriental dance or Raqs Baladi meaning folk dance. When introduced to America, the Americans became fascinated with the belly and so the coined term ‘belly dance’. Women in America have taken the dance to higher levels, blending and creating new styles as well as developing increased abilities.

The dance is a powerful avenue for self-expression and personal growth. With its circular and undulating patterns of movement, belly dance calls forth the energies of the first and second chakras and ignites the Kundalini energy. These movements are inherent to the bodies of women and are often easily accessed as a memory from times past.
Belly dance is accessible for women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Whether you have experience of other dance forms or have never taken a dance class of any kind, belly dance will give you the opportunity to explore the art form through a choreographed dance. The dance will spark your creativity and express your feminine self by giving you an opportunity to open your body's sensuality more fully and to express it through movement.

For children and teens the dance is a wonderful expression cultivating creativity and healthy body image. Boys and men enjoy dancing the dance too.

I believe in the dance of the belly. From the moment of conception to our last breath the belly is central to our lives. The dance of the belly enriches us through its healing, exhilarating, sensual movements. The posture of the dance, creates body awareness allowing intricate layered movements to not only massage the organs, but also encourage space for them to function as they should.

As the body moves through various isolations the skeletal structure is lubricated making us more flexible and less breakable too. Some of the undulating movements actually lengthen the vertebrae while other movements such as figure 8’s adjust it naturally.

Belly dance is a weight bearing exercise that if we continue dancing later in life offsets the possibility of osteoporosis. Staying flexible we offset the possibility of arthritis as well. Belly dance keeps the mind fit and focused, plus with aging slowing down the possibility of dementia.

Dagaz, the figure 8, the symbol of infinity, also connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain, a partnership. The dance of the belly weaves together opposites such as tension and release simultaneously so that we may move effortlessly and so that we may add more layers to the dance. The dance truly enhances our motor skills, perhaps some that we never thought we had before.

Always returning to that sparkling golden or silver thread of light that reaches into the universe, through us and rooted into the earth, we cultivate centeredness adding to our balance and ability to gracefully transition the continuous movements of the dance. As we dance the chakras open up, endorphins are released and our souls awake in play.

Our life energy center is called the ‘hara’ located below the belly button, familiar to those who study martial arts. In the dance, we extend our hara out from the belly on out through our finger tips. And for example, when dancing with veils our life energy extends on out through the fabric creating a another beautiful flowing dance of color. And btw . . . dancing with veils is a pleasurable way to weight lift toning the upper body rather than building bulk muscles.

The deep breathing methods of belly dance develops muscle control and also cleanses the body ~ prana. The quivering hip shimmies strengthen pelvic muscles somewhat like kegels do. A good thing for us crones. The dance creates a higher level of energy, enhances the libido and the vibrations break up blockages in the body that may cause illness and disease.

The dance of the belly also taps into our artistic imagination of infinite design. Belly dance is becoming one of the most popular dance forms around the world enriching many lives. I invite you to enjoy the healthy radiance that the dance of the belly offers.

The dance is a life study and compliments all that we do throughout our life.

About me ~

I am a dancer, choreographer and teacher of belly dance. I have danced and studied many forms of dance throughout my life. My endeavors with the dance of the belly, have taught me how to convey the essence of the dance as an art form, a healthy movement, a spiritual channel, a means of social interaction and a way for women to empower themselves as individuals. It is a moving meditation. Loving our bodies is key to making healthy choices. The rest happens joyfully to embrace those feelings. Staying open and aware of healthy practices then attracts what we need for mind/body/spirit. When we take care of our bodies, our vessels, we then realize the eminence of taking care of our earth, the cradle we all share.

I have choreographed dances that I performed along with my students for KOTO benefits & Lipsync, AH HA benefits, Weehawken Arts programs, offered workshops as silent auction items, performed and taught classes at previous Steps to Enlightenment Festivals and performed for Rico Peace Garden Events. I have taught and performed for the Telluride Dance Academy. I performed for 2011 Harvest Dinner benefitting ACE & the Wright Stuff in Norwood. In 2011 my students and I performed for the Ridgway Arts & Crafts Fair. For the last two years I have performed with my student, Luci Reeve for the Telluride Arts Telethon. I teach at the Telluride Yoga Center and taught at the Integrative Movement Center in Ridgway until it recently closed. I have also taught classes for the Telluride Dance Academy, the Sherbino Theatre in Ridgway and the Peak Fitness Studio in Norwood.

Other choreographies have been for Telluride Theatre performances such as 'The Reenactment of the 1889 Bank Robbery' ~ benefit for the Telluride Historic Musem. And 'Shakespere's The Tempest' which included a children's dance, a sailor's dance, goddesses dances and a courtley dance. When choreographing these dances I was asked to also perform in the shows. It was fun being a can can dancer and a blue corn maiden. I choreographed a dance I call 'Enchantment' to Arabian Coffee for Weehawhen Creative Arts Nutcracker a couple of years ago. It is one of my many choreographies I continue to teach to my students.

I have many beautiful choreographies to share and many choreographies yet to create. I will teach the basic movements and will introduce the intricate layers as students are ready to embellish their moves. Many of my dances include the beautiful colorful veils.

I have danced most all of my life and my study includes the following:

Ballet, Modern, Jazz at the Fort Wayne School of Ballet 1970~74
Studied Performing Arts at Indian University, Bloomington, IN 1974-75
Professional Dancer in Utah/Wyoming 1977.
Modern, Jazz, and African movement at the Cleo Parker Robinson Theatre School of Dance in Denver, CO. 1980~84
Ballroom Dance with Dancing is Fun Studio 1982
Clogging with the Columbine Cloggers in Denver 1982
Ballet in Telluride, CO with Leslie Crane, Shirley Fortenberry and Valerie Madonna. 1989~93
I began a self study of belly dance and realized I would progress faster with those who had a background in the dance 1990
Belly Dance in Grand Junction, CO with Mary Krasnow of Khubsurat and Ellen Rehwoldt of Sultans Pride 1994~2002
Belly Dance Retreat in Hawaii with Delilah & Mesmera 2000
I have studied at many belly dance workshops with Sahra, Suzanna Del Vecchio, Tina Sargent, Momo Kadous & Saroya, Eva Cernik, Artemis Mourat, Morroco & Tarik adb el Malik, Fat Chance Belly Dance, Tamalyn Dallal, Sadie Marquardt and more.

I continue to learn for myself and to share with others. Teaching has been an ongoing study for me. I learn from my students.

I enjoy dancing for local parties and events, solo or with my students.

Costuming ~

I learned to sew when I was a young teen. In combination with being an artist I have designed costumes for the dance. I have been recycling garments, remaking them into costumes for many years. Like the dance there are many layers in costumes, lots of sparkle and much adornment of accessories.
Costumes and accessories can be purchased.

Students will need to wear loose clothing to begin with that allows freedom of movement, especially for the belly. Once the students become dedicated, they will probably want to purchase or make traditional costumes -- as it makes it even more fun to dance.

Music ~

The music encompases a wide spectrum of cultural and indigenous rhythms. We dance to contempory music as well. I prefer music that has the essence of the journey.

Dance classes ~

My classes will begin with warm up stretches and focus on the center. We learn the basic isolations and combinations to prepare for the dances. Dances are taught beginning with sequence of movement and then with refinement so that all can dance. We embellish our dances as we progress with the dance. I enjoy introducing free form movement in my classes. Classes will end with a relaxation stretch of gratitude.