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Dancers shimmy away misconceptions

by Lenise Willis

BY LENISE WILLIS lenise@yesweekly.com

When it comes to discussing AIDS, many people are fearful, thinking it’s a scary disease that conjures terrifying images — photos of dying children in Africa and people wasting away in their beds. The disease is often misconceived and certainly doesn’t have a connotation with joyous dancing; in fact, one would be hard pressed to find a connection between the two.

But here in the Triad is a group making that connection: Torque bellydance troupe, together with Twisted Dance Studios, a group of local bellydancers. Their world dance benefit, Project Shimmy, began four years ago to help raise funds and awareness for Triad Health Project, a local organization that gives medical, practical and emotional support to HIV/AIDS patients and their families.

“We wanted to showcase bellydance to the public because we feel it’s kind of a misunderstood art sometimes,” said Sarah Sills, member of Torque and co-owner of Twisted Dance Studios. “But we didn’t just want to show off, we wanted to do something good while we were doing it. We wanted to benefit a good cause.

“We chose Triad Health Project for several reasons. Number one, we felt a little bit of a kinship with them because we felt like the group that they work with — people who have HIV/AIDS in their families — is also a group that is misunderstood.”

“Project Shimmy is an amazing gift to us,” said Ken Keeton, director of development and community involvement at Triad Health Project. “How they made that connection is beautiful to me.”

Last year Keeton attended the event for the first time as a recent addition to Triad Health Project. “It was a fantastic event,” he said. “I had never experienced bellydancing in person and I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it. I had a lot of preconceived notions about it. But I went and I sat there with a huge and sincere smile on my face all evening.”

The worldly show has 16 performances in  all with dancers across the state showcasing a variety of bellydance, African dance, hoop dance and more.

“It’s like it’s new every five minutes,” Sills said. “It will keep your attention for sure.”

Some of the volunteer performers include Haala, a solo dancer who bases her choreography off of folkloric Middle Eastern dance; Ayla, who will present a Turkish Roman (or Gypsy) dance, Mimi; a solo dancer who specializes in dance with sword balancing; Dandara, who will present an African dance; and many more. More about each performer is available on Twisted Dance Studio’s Web site.

“Anyone that comes is going to see a show that is going to be completely different than anything they’ve seen before,” Sills said. “For a Saturday night, it’s going to be way more interesting than going to a movie or going to a bar. And while you’re at it, you’re helping out a good cause.”

Each dancer has volunteered their time so that all ticket and raffle proceeds go directly to Triad Health Project. As for the venue, Greensboro College generously donated the use of their large auditorium. “They have been so great about letting us use the space,” Sills said.

“It’s been amazing,” Keeton said about the last three annual events. “They’ve raised over $5,000. We’re a small grassroots nonprofit and were affected, like everyone else, by the economic downturn. It’s very warming and it helps us reach a new audience, as well as raise very valuable funds.”

Sills said they chose Triad Health Project specifically because they’re local and do a lot of good in the community.

“We like them because they are local, so when we donate money we know exactly where it’s going,” Sills said. “We also had a member who had previous experience with them, so we knew that they were able to do a lot with very little. We knew that whatever [funds] we gave them it would be maximized in terms of usefulness and efficiency.”

In addition to the show is a raffle, in which funds raised will also go to support Triad Health Project. Tickets are $1. Donated items to the raffle include a $25 gift card to Red Mango, a gift card to M’Coul’s, a two-hour photo session with Bonnie Stanley Photography ($225 value), a one-month pass to Twisted Dance Studios, a $25 gift certificate to Golden Spiral Tattoo, two salon baskets and more.

WANNA go?

Project Shimmy World Dance Benefit will be for onenight only Saturday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Greensboro College’s Huggins Auditorium. Tickets are $15 at the door; $10 in advance or for students and children under 12. For more information visit www.twisteddance.com.

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