A 19-year-old Penticton woman is hoping to showcase her moves and transform minds about belly dancing and its perceived sexual overtones by auditioning for a Quebec-based dance competition TV show.
Celine Blais, a dancer and instructor at Get Bent Yoga & Dance is in Gatineau, Que. this weekend hoping to wow a panel of judges with 90 seconds of her best Bollywood belly dancing. If she succeeds she will earn a spot on the show Revolution.
“A lot of people have a bad impression. They see skimpy outfits and in some places it’s really over sexualized. But it’s not all that. It can be a beautiful dance. It’s fun, accessible to everyone. It’s a legitimate dance style, just like ballet or any other type of dance. It’s not this idea that people have that it’s an exotic, provocative dance,” she said during an interview before teaching the Mini class at the studio.
The studio, which Blais has been a part of since she was eight years old, has classes for all ages starting as young as three.
The Mini class is for ages three to five.
“The kids come here and they just love it. It’s so fun. They get to dress up and learn moves and there’s lots of glitter. What’s not to love?” she said with a laugh.
“The worst thing is when the kids start getting older they come in and they say things about when they told someone at school they belly dance they got teased and made fun of, bullied, or the other kids ask, ‘are you a stripper?’ It’s not right that there’s this negative stigma around it. They’re just having fun and learning to dance.”
She explained belly dancing goes back centuries in Arabic culture and, although there’s many stories she’s been told, the root of dance style was women gathering and dancing in celebration.
Blais remembers seeing a Get Bent belly dance troupe perform at the Ironman street festival when she was eight years old. Her family had just moved to the city.
Although a dancer in that performance invited her to come up when they performed a community dance, she was too shy to join. Later that school year, she made a friend who was part of the studio and she decided to try it out.
“I think it was just the sense of community and family at this dance school,” she said of why the dance form became such an important part of her life.
Blais not only continued to progress through the dance program at the studio she became a student teacher in high school and is in the apprentice program now.
She is the instructor of several classes and also performs as part of the troupe.
“That’s the thing too. As a high school student I was dancing at events and making money at it. So, it’s one of those things that I always knew it could be a career. When you say to people you’re a dancer there’s two things that kind of happen. They’re kind of leery when you say it at first because they don’t think dance is a legitimate career and then when you say you’re a belly dancer they think it’s something it’s not.”
Blais is showcasing the moves of the Bollywood belly dance at the Quebec competition. The Bollywood style originated at Get Bent. She explained there are different nuances of belly dancing at every studio and every troupe around the world. She describes the Bollywood style as “based in the Arabic style but with Bollywood music and hair.”
“It’s very fun and uplifting, cheerful, full of energy.”
As part of the show Revolution dancers of all styles square off against each other in hopes of winning a grand prize of a $100,000 scholarship. If Blais makes it into further rounds of the show she will spend two months filming in Quebec this summer.
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