Give Violette Rose a good beat and her moves will inspire even those with two left feet.
Rose, 39, a petite, blue-eyed pregnant mother of two, leads a weekly class in the sinuous art of belly dancing.
As she dances, her body moves in a fluid and effortless motion. She shakes her hips to the music’s tempo and stretches her arms up above her head. Her hands twist and turn. One drops to her cheek as a wide smile spreads across her face.
Rose began teaching belly dancing in 2005 when she was asked to take over a class she had been attending for some time. She continued to teach for the following four years until she enrolled as a student at Viterbo University to become a registered nurse. In 2009, she put teaching on hold to focus on school, but soon after graduating in October 2011, she began teaching classes once again.
“Dancing is a joy,” she said.
Around 2 p.m. on a recent Sunday afternoon, five women, along with Rose’s daughter and her friend, prepare themselves for this week’s lesson. They begin warming up by practicing basic moves as they watch their reflections in the vast mirrors covering the wall.
The Moonlight Dance Studio, located in La Crosse, Wis., offers a variety of dance classes, including ballroom, tango and merengue. The interior of the studio’s light blue walls are candied with vintage black accessories. Copious amounts of shoes, jackets and bags fill the entry room while class is in session.
Whitedeer, Rose’s husband, along with two others, fill the studio with middle-eastern melodies as Rose leads her class. Their instruments include a Tunisian darbuka drum, the erhu, a Chinese violin, and an accordion.
Jessica Leinberger, a belly dance instructor from Viroqua, Wis., has been dancing with Rose for five years and said she makes the trip to La Crosse to take advantage of the music.
“You never see that around here, the live music. It’s convenient because she’s married to the drummer, which I’ve always been kind of jealous of,” Leinberger joked.
She said that most belly dance classes practice to music from recordings.
Rose tied a traditional hip scarf covered in decorative coins around her waist before taking her place in front of the class. The scarf matched the shiny armbands and bracelets that decorated her arms. Her light brown ponytail stretched past her waistline.
When she was 23, Rose was in her fourth year of college at the University of Michigan and would soon graduate with a degree in nursing. She had recently moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, and worked as a part-time nursing assistant at a nearby hospital in between classes.
She had been playing the string bass for six years and moved her way up to a faculty position in the International Youth Symphony Orchestra spending summers touring and performing. But Rose needed a change of pace.
Her experiences working in the hospital made her doubt her goals to become a nurse, and after spending the past few years running the same routine, she suddenly didn’t want to keep up the pattern.
“I needed to get my head together,” Rose said.
Rather than going on tour and performing like she normally would in the summer, she attended a Pagan Spirit Gathering music festival in Wisconsin with some friends.
Rose camped out in a tent by bonfires and participated in workshops and other festivities the fair had to offer. She listened to rock and folk music, and exposed herself to a brand new lifestyle.
That’s when she met Whitedeer.
With little effort they hit it off and when her musical background came up in conversation, he asked her to join him on tour with his band.
So Rose dropped out of college, quit her job at the hospital, and dumped her boyfriend to travel the country with Whitedeer.
“It was a complete 180,” Rose said. “It was exactly what I needed.”
Rose began leading the class through slow, fluid stretches, then moved into basic “vocabulary” of belly dancing as she lifted the hem of her skirt to demonstrate the proper foot movements.
“Now pretend the circle around your hips is a clock,” Rose instructed, moving her hips around in a circle motion. The coins on her hip scarf lightly jingled as she swayed.
She kept a steady pace as the dancers mimicked her movements.
Darla Jereczek, 40, said Rose was patient and kind. It was her first time belly dancing.
“I’m extremely insecure, but I’m not giving up,” she said firmly.
Rose has practiced the art of belly dancing for more than nine years. She began dancing as a means of losing weight after giving birth to her first child.
When it comes to teaching the art, Rose said she has to remember to follow a pattern in order to avoid confusing her students. Her lessons; however, encourage personal expression and the importance of being able to dance in the moment, with the last segment of her lessons dedicated to improvisation.
“How do you teach someone to improvise with grace?” she asked. “It takes guts. A lot of dancers get trapped by choreography.”
As she guided the class, the smile on Rose’s face was unmistakable and there is no denying the pure happiness she feels while she dances. Her movements are fluid and mesmerizing.
As the class neared its end, Rose looked up for five more minutes.
Twenty minutes later she was still dancing.
“It’s very therapeutic,” she smiled. “It keeps life rich.”
Bell Dancing Facts:
-Belly dance was created at the World’s Fair in Chicago, not in the Middle East.
-Tourists were drawn to the Middle East and wanted to see belly dancers. Not wanting to disappoint, women were taught to dance what is considered a ‘traditional’ form of belly dance called Cabaret style, which uses proper, conservative motions.
-Some of today’s belly dancers have modified the art and use more modern music.
-Rose classifies her classes as an open American style.
For more information on Rose, her class, and belly dancing, visit http://www.themoonlightdancestudio.com/bellydancing.html
Moonlight Dance Studio location: http://tinyurl.com/72c9v67