An exercise class based on Mid-Eastern (belly) Dance is one of the more unique activities senior citizens have available to them in the Rim country.
Offered through the Payson Regional Medical Center's Senior Circle, the class is open to women of all ages, Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.
The class is taught by June Rusch, who has been doing Mid-Eastern dance since 1977, where she took her first lessons at a YWCA in Hale's Corners, Wis.
"I was 47 at the time," she said. The art form took her all the way to the Super Dome in New Orleans, La. for the 70th annual Supreme Session of the Daughters of the Nile in 1986.
"I developed, and taught, Mid-Eastern Dance exercise while spending winters at Desert Shadows RV Park," she said. This was in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the mid-1990s she started spending her summers in the Rim country and teaching dance exercise class at the Houston Creek RV Park in Star Valley.
"Since September 2002 I have been teaching continuously at the Senior Circle," Rusch said. Now 74, she continues to dance and teach.
Dancing is an elemental, eternal form of human expression, she said.
"To dance, at its simplest, is to let the body express itself rhythmically," she said.
Rusch said movement is our first language and "It communicates from the innermost soul that which cannot truly be expressed through words."
"A good ‘Mid-Eastern' dancer can express life, happiness, love and anger, but above all, she must show this with dignity," Rusch said.
"We do interpretive dance -- that means I teach them the moves and they do whatever their body wants to do. We don't do cabaret dancing -- not sexy dancing -- it's woman dancing. It comes from within you. It helps you forget about everything else. I have students that tell me they look forward to these classes because it helps them escape.
"It is not hard to step over the line that separates theatrical and scintillating from garish and tasteless," she said. "Belly dancers must make a special effort to avoid any suggestion of vulgarity in their dress or manner."
She added the dance costume need not be too revealing and there are many options for modesty and camouflage.
The dances of the Mid-Eastern countries are among the oldest known to man.
"This form of dance ... represents the qualities of poise, grace, stamina and femininity, with movements natural to a woman. It is characterized by an Asian subtlety in which various parts of the body are moved while the performer is confined to a relatively small area. The hands, arms, hips, torso and legs are all used in the movements, plus the act of dancing increases the heart rate and breathing and requires stamina, making it a complete exercise," she said. "Basically we keep the spine straight, we don't do a lot of the hip wiggling so people don't have to worry about hurting themselves."
"We don't only do Mid-Eastern dancing, we also do Pakistani, Afghanastani, Greek, Roma (gypsy), veil dancing. We dance to music from various cultures, but we also do veil dancing to Strauss, Mozart, Bach, and even traditional church music."
The added benefits of dance exercise, and all other exercise include:
- Keeps your mind and memory sharp
- Helps control your weight
- Protects your cardiovascular system
- Helps you beat stress-related disorders
- Gives you greater freedom of movement
- Builds bone strength and density
- Keeps diabetes in check and reduces chances of developing adult-onset diabetes
- Helps you get a good night's sleep
- Makes you feel happy
- Provides and energy boost
"It is a great challenge to free creativity with movements natural to women. You'll be surprised at how much you can do in a short time," she said.
Rusch is available to speak and demonstrate the value of exercise for all ages. She can be reached at (928) 474-8210. To register for the class, call PRMC Senior Circle at (928) 468-1012.