Belly dancing troupe prepares for festival

The sounds of jingling coins and drums fill the Southern Dance Arts studio in Alabaster each Sunday afternoon. Inside, the Sirqus of Jreams dance troupe prepares to be the first belly-dancing group accepted in the Huntsville Panoply of Arts choreography competition to be held April 28.

The popularity of the art is growing and classes seem to be popping up everywhere. The women in Sirqus of Jreams think they know why.

&8220;I&8217;ve never taken any kind of dance before in my life, and taking belly dance really taught me rhythm. I couldn&8217;t dance at all until doing this,&8221; said Malawi Gibson, who now teaches the art form.

Another part of the appeal is the great physical workout a dancer gets. During one practice, each girl burns an estimated 300 calories.

Kelsey Roberts has been a member since 2004 and teaches a class for beginners.

&8220;I&8217;ve taught classes and had students before that towards the end of the class will go, &8216;Oh, I&8217;m sweating,&8217; and they didn&8217;t realize it because they were having too much fun,&8221; Roberts said.

Created by Alabaster native Jeszi Parrish the group is part of a new trend. In the past, belly dancers garnered bad reputations because they were only portrayed as slaves or deceitful women in movies, and the moves were sometimes thought to be offensive.

&8220;I don&8217;t like to think its provocative,&8221; said Shannon Williams, a third-grade teacher and belly-dancing instructor. &8220;It&8217;s all about being a woman. It&8217;s all about moving the hips, moves that a woman naturally does. It&8217;s very feminine.&8221;

The troupe includes seven women that span from early teens to late 30s in age.

Sirqus of Jreams has been guest dancers for events like the Amstar opening of &8220;Take the Lead,&8221; a movie about dance students, a birthday party for American Idol Ruben Studdard. They are scheduled to perform at the Global Village in Huntsville at the end of the month and with Raquy & The Cavemen at The Nick on Wednesday, May 2. This summer SOJ has been invited to perform in Blackpool, England