K. Shawn Edgar
Poise Belly Dance Studio
In Beaverton, Oregon an exotic form of movement and body language commonly known as belly dance has found its Tualatin Valley home in Poise Studio at 4700 SW 185th Avenue.
The studio offers classes for yoga and Pilates, as well, but it is belly dancing that stands out as a fully multicultural, omnipotent event worth delving into.
The specific origin of belly dance – also called “Oriental Dance,” or raqs sharqi in Arabic – is unknown. Many countries, however, boast origin stories. And countries diverse as Turkey, Armenia, Egypt and Lebanon claim belly dancing as their own.
Several stories say that it began in tribal cultures as women dancing with and for other women, often to help prepare the abdominal muscles for labor, while imbuing and promoting unity.
Other accounts point to religious dances depicted in Persian paintings from the 12th and 13th centuries and Egyptian tomb paintings from an even earlier era.
These blended beginnings from various Middle Eastern and North African cultures have led to the increasingly popular and prolific styles now practiced in the U.S. – Tribal, Fusion, Cabaret and Gothic.
Victoria Marchese, co-owner of Poise Studio, is a skilled belly dance instructor and all around dance enthusiasts. She began roughly eight years ago, after some initial hesitation, by taking a class with a friend.
Marchese was hooked by the experience, and decided to take up the challenge of following a new path from her roots in cheerleading and dance team.
Her first public performance came two years later at the well-known “Saqra’s Annual Belly Dance Showcase Festival” in Hillsboro.
“It was so exciting. You get nervous,” says Marchese, “and then you just get out there and dance, and the creative energy hits you. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Saqra’s Showcase for 2012 runs April 24 – 26 at the Washington County Fair Complex in Hillsboro featuring workshops, live music and of course belly dance exhibitions.
After opening Poise in January, 2009 with co-owner and Pilates instructor Sarah Balmer, Marchese is now focusing on cabaret and tribal style for her professional and personal dancing.
Only this is not strictly traditional tribal dance – it is a hybrid to which has been added innovations in music and costuming, a U.S. flare for Post Modern layering of other cultures and traditions, and the dancers’ personal creativity.
American Tribal Style (ATS), says Marchese is group-oriented, focused on women and appears highly choreographed, though ATS truly has more in common with live improvisational jazz than a chorus line or hip-hop dance troupe.
The troupe of ATS dancers follows the lead of one woman who chooses each dance move in the moment. The others, tipped off by a familiar gesture, like an arm movement, chime in. This technique is often called lead-and-follow.
The seeming uniformity of this type of tribal dance comes from the dancers' intimacy with each other, their understanding of the moves, and their ability to anticipate the lead dancer’s cues.
Poise Studio can be found on the Web at www.poisestudio.com.