Kay Rawson-Conley

Kay Rawson-Conley

Photo By Anna Solano

Kay Rawson-Conley is a belly dancer who teaches classes to beginning students at Encore, a local dance studio. She teaches the basics of belly dancing, and her classes are meant to help the students feel comfortable dancing in a freestyle form. As a member of the troupe ASHA, she dances at many events and helps teach a performance group at Truckee Meadows Community College. Rawson-Conley is offering a free class at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at Encore, 214 California Ave. For more information, call 356-5878.

How did you get started in belly dancing?

I started eight years ago when my best friend made me take a class at a parks and recreation center. I went on to dance with a troupe at Renaissance fairs. I was the half-sister to the sultan and a seller of scented oils. I even had a manservant.

Are there any misconceptions about belly dancing?

Belly dancing is not the dance of the belly. It is actually a dance that uses a lot of hip movement. People tend to think that it is a strip tease. It is actually a dance form that is thousands of years old. The women of the Middle East still teach their daughters today. Belly dancing is a family show, and anyone can do it.

Is belly dancing popular in Reno?

Yes, there is a good-sized belly dancing community, and it is getting larger.

What type of dance do you do?

Tribal. There are several types of belly dancing: tribal, gypsy and cabaret. Tribal is very earthy; the costumes are full-body and have head coverage. The most recognized [style] is cabaret. [The dancers] wear the little bra and skirt and lots of sequins. Gypsy is a combination of the two.

Do you have a stage name?

Saahira; it means witch or sorceress. My husband swears I cast a spell on him when we first met.

What is your favorite move?

My best move is a back bend, where I can see the audience, if you can imagine that.

What has belly dancing done for you?

It has given me greater body awareness, flexibility and self-confidence. The nice thing about belly dancing is that you don’t have to have a certain body type to perform. People of all age groups and sizes can enjoy it.

Where do you dance?

Our group, ASHA, dances at many charity events: the Multi-Cultural Fair, Strange Bedfellows, and this will be our third year at Artown. Sticky Fingers in Sparks has an open belly dance night the third Sunday of every other month, where people can come and watch or even join in and dance.