Back in the groove: Local mom offers artistic fitness alternative with belly dance workshops

Ashley Moore started practicing and teaching yoga in early 2000. She was the only certified instructor in her small town of Waycross, Ga.

“I visited with a mentor, once in a while, but was pretty much on my own,” she said.

Serendipity put her on the path to a dedicated study of the art of belly dancing. She discovered a fitness DVD called “Tribal Fusion: Yoga, Isolations and Drills,” and she was on her way.

Ashley Moore has performed at numerous workshops and events since she began belly dancing in 2009. (Photo provided)

Ashley Moore has performed at numerous workshops and events since she began belly dancing in the early 2000s. (Photo provided)

“I devoured the DVD,” Moore said, adding that she also sought out the limited number of videos featuring the instructor, Rachel Brice, on YouTube.

That same year, Moore also attended one of Brice’s intensives — a class or series of classes designed to give experienced dancers more focused training — in Orlando.

Moore soon was performing at various belly dance workshops and events.

“MySpace even hired me, in 2006, to perform at one of their famous sponsored raves,” Moore said.

She operated a private yoga and dance studio in Georgia where she also taught belly dancing, but she became discouraged by the lack of opportunity for the art form in her rural hometown.

“I wanted to perform more and be surrounded with women that didn’t need convincing to dance with me or to accept a gig. So, I moved to Columbia to start dancing with a friend that I had made at a workshop in Texas.”

Her friend, Natalie Brown, had an active belly dancing troupe called Delirium Tribal Bellydance Company. Delirium became a mainstay at Art Bar on Park Street in downtown Columbia. Delirium later evolved into a performance troupe called Columbia Alternacirque, complete with fire spinners and aerial artists.

In September 2013, the popular performance troupe disbanded. Some members continued on in South Carolina as Soda City Cirque.

Moore took a hiatus from her belly dancing practice when she returned to college. She pursued other hobbies and interests but says she really missed dancing and, after several years of inertia, felt the pull to return when she learned she was pregnant with her daughter.

“All the magic and wonder came rushing back,” Moore said. “I thought about the matriarch of the Atlanta tribal scene, Ziah, who directs a dance company, Awalim, and hosts a huge event called TribalCon every year. I remember watching her nurse her baby while some famous belly dancer was teaching a workshop in the ballroom of a Holiday Inn in Decatur. She seemed so confident and there was all this feminine energy all around us. Her daughter got to grow up surrounded by this rich culture. All these women who kept in touch, online, and got to grow their practice by leaps and bounds, every year, catching up with each other’s’ personal lives.”

Moore plans create her own space for local women to engage with what she calls the feminine divine. She’ll be hosting a belly dancing workshop at Tapp’s Arts Center at 1644 Main Street this week.

Moore will share the benefits of belly dancing in an upcoming workshop. (Photo by Brindy McNair)

Moore will share the benefits of belly dancing in an upcoming workshop at Tapps Art Center. (Photo by Brindy McNair)

“Ashley Moore knows there are many types and forms of health, and she encourages all of them in her work,” said Shigeharu Kobayashi, programs director at Tapp’s. “In addition to the creativity of choreography and challenging body movements, an hour in Moore’s class is likely to include quotes from American literature and reflections on motherhood.”

Participants will be shown how to target very small muscle groups with isolated movements. A group-dance exercise called “shadowing” also will be taught. Class will include choreographed combinations and emphasize personal expression.

Dance has many benefits, for new moms in particular, according to Moore, who explains that it increases coordination and keeps muscles supple.

“A belly dance practice can bring strength and control back into the abdomen, stability in the hips, and can restore integrity to your pelvic floor,” Moore said. “This form of dance is restorative on so many levels. Just the act of practicing helps draw you away from the rest of your work week, stress, life, whatever bogs us down on the daily. When they walk into my class, I want my students to feel comfortable and just be themselves.”

Moore’s upcoming workshop is sold out, but she will be hosting another in the near future. She also will have an open studio during First Thursday this week at Tapps, and visitors are welcome.

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