May 26, 2009
Dancer shares ancient art
World renowned belly dancer makes stop in Homer on tour
HOMER — Bonnie McKinley traveled to Cortland from her home in El Paso, Texas, for the chance to learn from Diana Tarkhan, a world renowned belly dancer who led daylong belly dancing workshops Saturday and Sunday at the Homer Center for the Arts.
More than 30 women participated in the workshop Saturday.
“It’s not often that you get to learn from an Egyptian master teacher without going to Egypt,” said McKinley, who found out about the workshop in November on bhuz.com, a Web site devoted to belly dancing. She had never been to the Cortland area before.
More than 70 people came to the Center for the Arts theater Saturday at 7 p.m. to watch Tarkhan and several other local belly dancers perform.
Tarkhan inspired clapping and shouting from the audience as she performed the same choreography she taught during the workshop.
Also performing were Denise Robinson, a Web programmer and belly dance instructor, and the local women who take her belly dancing classes Monday nights in the Center for the Arts and in Binghamton.
Tarkhan lives in Cairo, Egypt, where she teaches professional belly dancers. She began dancing when she lived in France and has performed and taught dancing around the world.
During the weekend she was on a North American tour that includes five stops: Montreal, New York City, Washington, D.C., a city in Mexico and Homer.
Robinson arranged for Tarkhan to lead the workshop and perform. Robinson said she has attended workshops with Tarkhan in Albany the past two years.
Tarkhan was planning to return to Albany this summer until the woman organizing the event became too busy planning her wedding to prepare a workshop. Robinson asked Tarkhan to come to Homer.
Sue Michales, 45, of Cortland, a student in Robinson’s class at the Center for the Arts, said she started belly dancing five years ago, having no prior dancing experience.
“My kids grew up, moved out, and it was my turn to have fun,” Michales said.
After finishing a four-hour choreography lesson at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Tarkhan said she started the lesson with many students, but ended up with a smaller group, as some of the women took a break.
She said she usually teaches the complex choreography to professionals and that it was difficult for many of the women to follow her.
Some of the women who were performing later that night said they wanted to save their energy, and some others visited another room in the building, where Ibrahim Turmen, a well-known Middle Eastern percussionist, was leading a drumming workshop.
Lindsey Trevino, a Cornell University graduate student, who has been taking belly dancing classes for three years, participated in the workshop the entire time.
She said she did not think the choreography was too difficult, but that Tarkhan’s style, featuring a lot of spinning, was different from the styles she had learned before.
Tarkhan said average women can also gain a lot from belly dancing, which she calls Oriental dancing because in Europe, the word Oriental refers to the Middle East region.
“I think they gain more self-confidence with themselves. You see all different sizes here,” Tarkhan said. “I think with Oriental dancing they can accept their body better. It has a psychological impact.”
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