Cabarrus

Belly dancing mashed up with heavy metal?

If someone had told the Burrage family in the 1940s that one day their old creamery building would be overtaken by belly dancers, they probably would never have believed it.

But that's what's going to happen June 18, when The Old Creamery on the corner of Church and Peachtree streets hosts "We Will Raq You," Concord's first belly dancing event.

Maybe second in surprise to the news would be the four members of Damhsa Gasra, the show's organizers, who never anticipated that scores of belly dancers from all over the state would reply to their social network page seeking performers.

"We put it out on Facebook thinking we would get maybe 10 responses, and maybe five people would actually want to do it," said Wendy Konzelmann, "In 24 hours time, we had so many, we knew we couldn't have it here."

The troupe meets at Lotus Living Arts Studio of Concord on Union Street, a small rectangular room not big enough for 40 belly dancers who signed on.

"We had to stop it after 48 hours. We had so many people wanting to do it," said Konzelmann.

The appeal, she thinks, comes from the chance to dance accompanied by music not traditionally associated with belly dancing. During "We Will Raq You," performers will shimmy their hips to songs from Slipknot, Iron Maiden and heavy-metal hair bands of the 1980s.

Belly dancing has gained an underground following in North Carolina, with small pockets of dancers in Asheville, Morganton, Charlotte and Concord.

"We're it, in Concord," said Vicki Geros-Holmes, a member of Damhsa Gasra, who also teaches yoga at the studio.

On any given evening, as the sun sinks below the businesses that call it a day on Union Street, a faint hint of exotic music and incense lure the curious through a narrow red door to an upstairs studio.

Inside, yards of sheer fabric filter the fluorescent ceiling lights as dancers draped in layers of skirts move about like leaves in a breeze.

"You don't need prior dance training to do it, which I think is a big draw," said Konzelmann, who teaches belly dancing classes. "It is one dance that fits any body type, any gender, any age, any experience level."

Tonight, the troupe is joined by an adult caregiver, a teacher, and a physical therapist, all who come by for a lesson.

"It's one of the only times I get to lose myself," said Lori Weaver, another member of Damhsa Gasra, who works as an insurance agent during the day. "It's spiritual for me."

"You can get together with other dancers that know this style of improv, and it's just a dancing language," said Stephanie Haugen, a Damhsa Gasra member who teaches kindergarten in China Grove.

Although there are many styles of belly dancing, Damhsa Gasra practices American Tribal Style, which emphasizes improvisation.

Damhsa Gasra has performed everywhere from Catholic Churches and middle schools to film festivals and wedding expos.

"We try to seek out people who would not normally seek us out," said Geros-Holmes. "You're different. We're different. Let's see if this works."

If it does at The Old Creamery, they'll be back again, she said. "It could snowball into us doing something different every year."

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