The ‘ancient and gorgeous’ dance

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The ‘ancient and gorgeous’ dance

Story and photos by Sherry Mazzocchi

Video by Sherry Mazzocchi

Belly dance instructor Lucy Alia Turull (second from left) with her students, says belly dancing is about “womanhood”.

Belly dance instructor Lucy Alia Turull (second from left) with her students, says belly dancing is about “womanhood”.

Tucked away in a room on the second floor of the United Palace Theatre, Lucy Alia Turull demonstrates a series of movements to her class.

An arched foot makes hip rolls easier and a shimmy more inviting.

Arms extended, she shows the women how to do snake arms.

The secret, she explains, is in the wrist and the hands.

Turull teaches her style of fusion tribal belly dance—a combination of ancient Middle Eastern choreography with elements of martial arts, hip-hop and flamenco—on Tuesdays and Fridays at the United Palace.

The classroom is large. The floor is covered with a green carpet. Large windows let in natural light. The tops of the trees on Broadway are visible, lending the feeling of dancing in the treetops.

Belly dance, Turull said, is perfect for women of all ages and sizes.

“You’re never too fat or too old to belly dance,” she said.

Norga Mendez, 67, has been dancing with Turull since 2008.

“It makes me feel good,” she said. “It makes me feel sexy and love my body.”

Women in the class nodded.

Giselle, 19, said, “When I’m dancing, I feel free.”

Turull knows that feeling. She loved dancing as a child. At 17, she was teaching ballroom at Fred Astaire Studios. But she loved disco, too.

“I was a Hustle queen for a long time,” she said.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s, she danced in clubs downtown. Always innovating, she was the first female dancer to Vogue. At Webster Hall, she and her partner—a 145 pound reticulated python—were easy to spot.

Dancers during Turull’s class are actively involved in every step, and twist.

Dancers during Turull’s class are actively involved in every step, and twist.

After becoming pregnant, she stopped dancing in clubs. She stayed home to take care of her family. But she missed dancing.

“I was like a panther in a box,” she said. When an opportunity arose to rent an adjoining room in her building, she snapped it up to open her own dance studio.

When she turned her attention to belly dance, she became obsessed.

“I just fell in love once I started,” she said.

Belly dance offers an endless amount of self-expression through choreography. Turull is constantly adding and perfecting her craft. She enjoys adding flamenco arm movements and hip-hop steps to the traditional undulations.

There are a lot of misconceptions about belly dance, she said. “People out there think it’s a sexual dance,” she said. “It’s not.”

“It’s a sense of womanhood and rejoicing of life,” she said

It’s also an opportunity for women to control all parts of their bodies. “We’re dancers,” she said. “I dare anybody to get up and do what we do.”

Mendez agrees. She loves all forms of dancing—including Salsa, African and Zumba, but belly dancing is her favorite.

When she’s dancing she feels a connection to something ancient and mystical. “It transports you to another zone,” she said. “And you feel gorgeous.”

To experience Turull’s class, please visit http://bit.ly/MT_035