World Bellydance Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in May every year, but 2019 will offer a special opportunity to appreciate the art form on Salt Spring and in the Duncan area.
This Saturday, May 11, Salt Springers led by Sarah Allen will join with Vancouver Island dancers for Shimmy Mob, a “flash mob” style event that sees people from all over the world bellydance in public places as a way to raise awareness and collect funds for victims of domestic abuse.
Allen has been learning and dancing bellydance for over 20 years and teaching it on Salt Spring since 2016. She has participated in Shimmy Mob events in the Cowichan region for the past three years.
“I’ve been wanting to do one on Salt Spring,” Allen said. “There were just six of us for this first time, so we’ve joined forces with the Cowichan Valley team.”
Shimmy Mob is billed as “the largest bellydance event of its kind by the total geographical territory covered in one day.” It was started by Vancouver bellydancer Francesca Anastasi in 2011 and soon spread to an international phenomenon. Teams around the world dance using the same song and the same choreography, wearing the same T-shirt (a different colour each year).
“The choreography is fun and really simple,” Allen said. “They make it that way very specifically so anybody can learn it and dance it. You don’t have to already be a dancer or even a bellydancer. And anyone can join in.”
That includes men and children, Allen said, although so far the local group is all women.
Participants wear their colourful T-shirts partly to broadcast the event but also to show respect to the culture where bellydance originated, by not showing off too much skin. The beautiful artistry of the dance is being showcased as much as the worthy cause that Shimmy Mob supports.
Local residents will be dancing with the Cowichan team at three Duncan locations before the entire group heads to the Crofton ferry terminal. After a performance on the nearby green space, the combined team will head to Salt Spring to shimmy. Performances are planned at the Saturday Market busking area around 2 p.m. and then at the boardwalk outside Shipstones around 3. Donations are collected in a bucket and all go to support local organizations serving victims of abuse and/or working to prevent domestic violence. On Salt Spring the funds will go to Island Women Against Violence and the Salt Spring Transition House. Funds collected on the Duncan side will go the Cowichan Women Against Violence Society and Somenos Transition House.
Anyone who can’t attend and would like to make a donation can contact Allen at email@example.com. She is also interested in hearing from people who would like to practice for the Salt Spring Shimmy Mob team next year, or would like to take a bellydance class in the meantime.
“I’m hoping it will be an annual thing,” she said.