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Belly dancers shake it up to raise money for charity
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Audience members applaud for the Alchemy Drumming and Dance benefit performance Saturday night at Midtown Greenway. - photo by NAT GURLEY

People were swept away to faraway lands Saturday night at the annual Belly Dance Benefit show, performed by Alchemy Drumming and Dance.

Held at Gainesville’s Midway Green, several visitors took advantage of the good weather and enjoyed picnicking while watching performers demonstrate both traditional and more modern interpretations of the dance.

Performer and instructor Fox Gradin said that the showcase featured Egyptian, Turkish and American forms of belly dance.

“Egyptian is much more classical, a lot more balletic,” she explained. “Turkish is more earthy, and American-style belly dancing, they call it tribal dancing. It is a little more jazzy.”

The outdoor set was plushly decorated with rugs, drums and brightly-colored pillows, while the dancers’ costumes were of richly saturated hues of purple, red and blue.

“Open air seems a little bit more magical,” Gradin said of performing outside. “It seems a little bit more in the spirit of the dance.”

Ro Johnson has been dancing with the company for 18 months.

“It’s such good exercise,” she said about belly dancing. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, or how unfit you are. Anyone can do it.”

The repetitive, fluid movements and drumming music drew the audience in, with many people clapping along with the beat during the ending performance.

Lori Burke was there to see her niece perform.

“This is our first time seeing it, but she’s shown me some moves,” Burke said. “So I’m very excited. And the weather’s great.”

Burke was there with children, Brody, 4, and Peyton, 2. “They love dancing,” she said.

The event was free, but donations were accepted for the “Children at Play” fund for the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department, which provides financial assistance for children of low-income families for peewee and youth athletics, and certain other instructional programs.

“It’s for children who have fewer opportunities for exercise, for fun, for play and, of course, for dancing,” Johnson said to the audience. “Every year, hundreds of children benefit from this fund.”

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