Open class in the exotic dance centre Alegria

Open class in the exotic dance centre Alegria

On Thursday, August 10, I attended the open class of the exotic dance centre Alegria which took place at the Centre of Young Technicians on E. Birznieka Upīša 4. The manager of the centre Ilze Zariņa introduced us to four types of dancing that can be learnt by the teachers of Alegria - belly dances, Indian dances, flamenco and Gypsy dances. There were performances of the teachers illustrating each of the dance types.

Despite the announcement in newspaper Diena (which actually drew my attention) and the information in the home-page, those interested in starting to learn one of the dances were rather few. It seemed that the main part of the audience consisted of practising dancers (unfortunately only female ones because Latvian men are not keen on dancing), teachers and a few under the spur of curiosity.

Belly dance. It is based on an ancient Egyptian fertility rite that has been expanded and modernized during centuries. Belly dancing is highly recommended for women - it tones up and relieves the abdominal muscles, strengthens the reproductive organs, improves blood circulation, makes the spine more flexible and agile and delays the aging process. It`s feminine, supple, elegant and lively. To some extent it is a dance - therapy. The most important thing to start belly dancing is the desire to feel and release the femininity inside oneself and the desire to dance accompanied by Oriental (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey) music or drum beats.

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Teacher Ieva, who has been actively dancing for four years and teaches beginners, also small girls, performed two belly dances; one was relaxed and plastic, the other - drum solo.


Indian dance.'Bharata Natyam' - a delicate and sophisticated South Indian dance form (State of Tamil Nadu). According to the legend, its first performer was god Shiva himself.  He taught it to his divine wife and she delivered this art to people.

It is a rhythmical and dynamic dance.  It has a variety of movements with a focus on jumps, turns and clapping along the rhythm. "Bharata Natyam" is considered to be the rhythmical side of Yoga. Fingers during this dance are always tightly clutched in "mudra" positions that follow one another depending on the figure of the dance or the plot. A unique system of hand positions has been described in the most essential ancient scripts devoted to the performing arts, and this system forms the entire "alphabet" of all dance schools. Basic positions - balanced postures with outstretched arms, which add linearity to the dance.  "Bharata Natyam" possesses power and beauty, slowness and speed, purely technical elements and pantomime at the same time. The style fits both for solo and group performances.

The Indian classical dance uses the body for interaction with God or as an instrument for changing oneself and the world around. Till the beginning of the 20th century this dance was a part of the temple ceremonies. The dancer, her guru and her musicians were much respected and they lived in the temples. The dance itself, without the complex ritual ceremonies, was performed also on other occasions and at an appropriate time, for example, a festival, coronation, marriage, birth of a son or moving to another town or house.

alegria, bellydance, dance, flamenco, gypsy

Dance teachers Janinas demonstrated both the Indian dance itself and 28 unique finger positions, that can be not only shown but also sung through. They explained how important the plot and the symbolic meaning of each gesture is in Indian dancing. If one decides to learn Indian dancing, there must be a strong motivation for it because one will have to learn not only the plasticity but a whole philosophy.

Flamenco.  Place of origin - a southern province of Spain - Andalusia where it was danced by Gypsies. It was formed as a cultural synthesis of Gypsies, Muslims, Moors and Spanish people that emigrated from India. Rhythmically this dance is complex and unusual. Requires maturity emotionally and of the soul. Also initially it is difficult to learn the combinations of the movements of the hands and legs. But those, who have at least once seen real flamenco and heard the passionate Spanish music, will never forget it. This dance develops a sense of rhythm and holding the hands high up straightens the back. Rhythmic, sophisticated, proud, provocative and tragic by its nature.

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I must say that it is the dance that made me go to the open dance class.  I found out about the femininity and suppleness of belly dancing a couple of years ago from the talented teacher Dana from Madona, but I have always felt that I need something more passionate and self- complacent. After a number of great dance performances, which were performed by the school`s best dancers and teacher Ilze, who teaches the most experienced dancers, I met Santa who teaches beginners. To start dancing, shoes with 4-8cm long heels are necessary (like it already) and comfortable clothes - trousers or a wide skirt and, of course, a commitment to learn.

Gypsy dance.  It is temperament, freedom, passion and soul. These dances contain a lot of improvisation and feelings, a constantly increasing rhythm and vibrating movements. This dance is very vibrant and suits for women of different age, if only they possess the ability to experience real joy and real sorrow. According to an ancient legend, all Gypsies used to be birds. One day, when flying over land, they saw a glorious palace sparkling in the Sun.  Driven by desire, the Gypsies - birds flew into the palace, which was full of geese, chickens and turkeys. They were amazed by the beauty of their guests and started to tempt the colourful birds with gifts, gold and jewels - just to make the Gypsies stay. Soon, all the Gypsies were dressed in shining gold. Only one bird resisted the temptation and did not touch the gold. He bade everyone to fly away but no one listened. With a heavy heart the bird flew up the sky and crashed into the ground like a stone. His death made the Gypsies come to their senses. They tried to take off but the gold had made them too heavy. The chickens, geese and turkeys triumphed, they wanted to keep the Gypsies in golden cages. But a small, red feather fell from the sky. It freed the Gypsies from the heaviness of the gold but they couldn`t lift their wings anymore. The feather was lifted by the wind and flew somewhere far, far away.The Gypsies followed it and, anxiously waving their wings, the birds turned into men. Only their souls remained the same - they belonged to the birds who had forgotten how to fly.

The performance of Gypsy dance teacher Signe.

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