July 22, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers belly dance troupe serves as symbol of diversity

Photo by Courtesy of Rutgers Belly Dance Troupe |

Rutgers Belly Dance Troupe consists of people from various cultural backgrounds who express themselves through dance.

Belly dance requires the use of every part of the body, but most especially the hips, according the Rutgers Belly Dance Troupe’s website.

The dance has different costumes and styles depending upon the country and region, and as its popularity has become global, new styles have evolved in the west.

Belly Dancing, which originated in the Middle East, has since become widespread and is represented here by the Rutgers Belly Dance Troupe, which began in 2005.

Pearl Verma, president of the troupe, said aspiring troupe members must go through two weeks of tryouts in the fall. 

“I have had a passion for dancing since I was 6,” said Verma, a School of Engineering senior. “When I came to school here I knew engineering was going to be really stressful for me, and I wanted to continue learning to dance.”

She saw the group at the involvement fair and instantly wanted to try it out.

Not only does the troupe, made up of 12 members, showcase their dances at the University, but they also travel to other universities like the University of Massachusetts and Columbia University to perform for their belly-dancing peers, she said.

In order to fund their travels, Verma said the troupe relies on funding from the Rutgers University Student Assembly and fundraisers. 

Kassia Leon, the public relations and fundraising chair of the troupe, said the troupe sometimes has hookah nights as fundraisers.

Leon, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said the dance troupe wears two different costumes depending on the dance they are performing. 

The costumes, which range from long skirts to tribal pants, are referred to as cultural and tribal costumes, Leon said. 

“Not only do we incorporate our personal styles into our costumes, we try our best to represent Rutgers as well, by incorporating the school colors of red and black,” Leon said.

The troupe has proved to be a diverse community as it consists of people from various cultural backgrounds who express themselves and their culture through art, Leon said.

“The troupe serves as a medium for us to express our personalities and our cultures through the solos we do and also our costumes,” she said.

The troupe’s coaches, Lindsey Sherratt and Tina Dukandar, joined the group as regular members and became coaches when the opportunity opened up.

“My experience as a coach has been great and rewarding. A lot of dancers that do join our troupe have never had any experience with this sort of dance. It’s really nice seeing how they progress from being novices to really amazing dancers that aren’t afraid to go on stage,” said Dukandar, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

Coaches are tasked with choreographing the group’s various showcases and rely on YouTube videos for inspiration, Dukandar said.

They also find ideas through watching various works from established belly dancers like Zoe Jakes, Sera Solstice and Rachel Brice whom they look up to, Dukandar said.

“Coaching can a be challenge — coming up with creative dances on a deadline, I have work and school a lot of times its difficult for Tina and I to balance out our busy schedules, said Sherratt, a School of Environmental and Biological Science senior.

Sherratt said the troupe plans to have their annual spring Hafla, which will include performances, free food and henna, on April 17 at Trayes Hall on the Douglass campus.

By Abimbola Fagbayi

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