With strong feet rooted on the floor, her soft belly moves to music. Elegant arms frame the look of regal confidence on her face. She demands your attention and respect. She is young, mature, black, brown, white, voluptuous and svelte.
As I sat at the Carolina Theatre on February 5, I saw these images. The show “Get Your Shimmy On” by Troupe Bellysima, a belly dancing troupe headed by Daliana Diane Carter-Simons, performed on stage.
The troupe’s dance roots lie in the Turkish cabaret style of belly dancing but they incorporated other types of dance into their performance.
This show demonstrates a new stage in Carter-Simons’ career as a dancer and teacher. She recently opened her own dance studio, Daliana Dance, on Guilford College Rd.
Instead of teaching at different gym locations, the studio brought all Carter-Simons’ followers to one location and incorporated other forms of dance, including African, hip-hop, ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and cheerleading.
Carter-Simons, five months pregnant herself, also offers pre-natal belly dancing. The doula-trained teachers understand the special needs of a pregnant woman. This type of dance helps a woman in all stages of her pregnancy.
Carter-Simons began as a ballet dancer at age three and started belly dancing at age 11. Seven years ago, after many years of performing professionally, Carter-Simons’s teaching career started at the Ragsdale YMCA and other gyms followed.
Carter-Simons thought belly dancing was a spectator sport and not something people actually wanted to learn. She admits how wrong she was. When the minimum requirement to teach a class at the YMCA was five people, Carter-Simons had 40 women show up.
“Dancers go through phases where they want to be the actual performer, and for a long time, that’s what I thought I wanted to do,” said Carter-Simons. “My focus now is on creating dynamite dancers. The goal is to create dancers better than I am and for people to say, ‘Wow, who’s your teacher?'”
Besides improving dancers’ skills, these belly dancing classes help form a great connection with your body and the glorious movements that it can create.
“As you start to look at your body and at your skin, that starts the passion in the dance,” said Carter-Simons. “The passion is in you, which comes out in the dance. So early on I teach that connection.”
In the beginners’ belly dancing class for all ages, Carter-Simons has you look at your hands and see how they move. This leads you to look at other body parts and develop an appreciation for them.
I remember watching my nieces in their beginners’ belly dance class. She had the class sit in a circle and do this exercise of looking at their hands. She wanted them to see how beautiful and unique they were and to look at how they moved.
“My focus is on girls developing a comfort with their bodies and appreciation for their bodies,” said Carter-Simons. “That’s a beautiful thing no matter what shape, size, or color.”
I am amazed by the diversity of color, background, age, and shape that flock to Daliana Dance studio. You will see beautiful ebony to alabaster skin and every shade in between. There is no age limit, dance level, or shape requirement.
“It’s about developing a comfort level no matter how ‘juicy’ you are, no matter how many rolls you have,” said Carter-Simons. “And if you got those extra rolls? What can you do with them that that ‘skinny minny’ can’t? It’s appreciating the looks of every body.”