Members of Stettler’s Avabelli Dance Troupe are prepping for their annual Shimmy Mob event May 11th, all in support of a tremendous cause.
The group, which focuses on the ancient art of belly dance, meets each Monday evening in the basement of Stettler United Church, starting at 7 p.m.
No experience is necessary and all ages are welcome. Currently, there are about 16 members in Avabelli, and 12 are registered for Shimmy Mob.
As to the Shimmy Mob, members are collecting pledges in support of the Association of Communities Against Abuse (ACAA) in Stettler.
Dancers around the world take part as well. The global aim is to create awareness towards the goal of ending domestic violence and to support victims of abuse around the world.
Specially, this year in Stettler, the aim is to raise awareness about the early signs of emotional abuse and raise funds, as mentioned, for the ACAA.
Things kick off at 11:05 a.m. on Main Street starting in front of Wells Furniture and the Consignment Closet.
They progress by 11:30 a.m. to near the four-way stop by No Frills Gas Bar and the dancing continues at 11:45 a.m. at the 59th Street Liquor Store.
Finally, from noon to 2 p.m. folks are invited also to join the troupe at the Mall for a hot dog sale, guest dancers and a shot at some audience dancing participation.
“Shimmy Mob has been going for years – there are 183 troupes in the world that are doing it, and 2,302 people are registered,” said Gayle Tennant, a member of the local troupe.
As for the art of belly dancing, members agree that it’s not just a superb form of physical exercise – it’s also a place to really connect with others as well.
“I love the music, the dancing and the positive experience with the women. And I love the fact we are doing something to support the Association of Communities Against Abuse – I love that we are sharing that with the town.
“We encourage each other – it’s a positive atmosphere.”
And as Troupe Leader Chris Shewchuk pointed out, it’s a very supportive community.
“It’s a safe space for people to maybe step out of their comfort zone. No one has to perform (singularly) in the troupe – it’s your choice.”
The dance also has a long and fascinating history.
“There are fabulous male belly dancers, but originally, when you trace it back to its oriental roots, women and men didsn’t dance together,” she explained. “Women danced for women, and a lot of the moves that we do were used to strengthen one’s core for child bearing.
“A lot of it is about isolating (muscles) and having a strong core. We dance, we support each other, and it’s just a very safe, positive experience,” she said.
‘There are also many different types of belly dance, and most of them aren’t wearing skimpy little outfits,” she added, referring to what many folks might picture when they hear the words ‘belly dance’.
“It really is about isolating different parts of the body. So when someone is new to it, it may seem kind of foreign; but it doesn’t take long to learn how to isolate those different areas.
“For Shimmy Mob, we will be doing the Shimmy Mob song and we’ve got a couple of other choreographed (routines). The moves don’t change – it’s how you put them together,” said Shewchuck, adding that there will be some special guests featured during the Shimmy Mob event as well.
Shewchuk also noted that during performances, the dancers usually incorporate an audience participation piece.
She also mentioned how supportive the community continues to be with Shimmy Mob, with several local businesses coming onboard with various forms of sponsorship.
For Shewchuk, it’s an art that brings a special sense of fulfillment and joy. She explained how you could be having a pretty bad day, but once you get into the intricate rhythms of the dance, the stress and issues of life seem to diminish.
“When I do any kind of belly dancing, I just feel so uplifted.”
Tennant agreed. “You have to forget about the world. You cannot think about other things and dance.”
For more information, find them on Facebook at ‘Avabelli Dance Troupe’ or call Shewchuk at 403-740-7135.