Moving to music releases stress

It may have been an unusual choice of outing, but for four years, Mary Beth Harrison and her mother, Jan, have created mother–daughter time together by learning to belly dance and taking classes taught by Aziza.

Mary Beth performed for the 2009 Buck Creek Festival audience to a drum solo. “Belly dancing is an art form, like ballet, and I listen to and interpret the music with movement,” Mary Beth said.

Currently the youngest student in her advanced class, Mary Beth said belly dancing is for all ages and all shapes and sizes.

“Once you have been trained, you will find your hips moving to any type of music,” she said. “For me, and others I’m sure, it is stress therapy –– a way to release the tensions and frustrations that arise in daily life and just relax.”

Belly dancing or “raqs sharqi” –– literally translated as oriental dancing –– is believed to have originated in Egypt or India. Homewood teacher Aziza, has performed and taught classes for more than 34 years in the Birmingham area, as well as touring Egypt and Morocco.

Mary Beth, a psychology major, will transfer from UAB to the University of Montevallo this fall. Her weekend job at Pearl Vision in the Galleria has grown into a desire to become an optometrist via the influence of mentor, Dr. Paige Cambers.

Mary Beth also rides horses and loves animals, which extends to nurturing and taming the pigs and goats on her aunt’s farm. Her own pets are Caspar, a part-Siamese cat and Princess Jewel, a daschund–beagle mix, who indeed does wear a jeweled collar.

The belly dancers’ costume is to be an element of surprise, revealed only during the dance; before and afterwards, modestly covered with scarves.

Mary Beth, a former runner, says belly dancing relaxes her mind.

“Especially in the privacy of my own home, it is a physical expression that brings me great peace,” she said.