B.C. BellyFest set to gyrate Gyro Park in Penticton

Swinging hips, torso articulation and twisting hands will be shaking Gyro Park this weekend for the inaugural B.C. BellyFest.

Celine Blais from Penticton's Get Bent bellydancing group.

Celine Blais from Penticton's Get Bent bellydancing group.

Swinging hips, torso articulation and twisting hands will be shaking Gyro Park this weekend for the inaugural B.C. BellyFest.

The new festival and conference held in Penticton will have oner 125 belly dancers and instructors from throughout Western Canada attending the three-day event from May 31 to June 2. Get Bent Belly Dancing in Penticton, Western Canada’s largest belly dance school, hope to make it an annual event.

“B.C. has a huge bellydancing community and our touring society travels across the province doing shows partnering with different groups but there isn’t one big event that pulls everyone together,” said Get Bent owner Wendy Goudie. “It just made sense to bring everyone together here. We are really excited to have another festival for Penticton on the shoulder season.”

B.C. BellyFest offers three main events; a conference, performance festival and marketplace. The event will offer the public the opportunity to watch many of Western Canada’s top belly dance groups perform live onstage at Gyro Park from 4 to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Organizers invited the public to bring their family, friends, lawn chairs and blankets to kick off the event. The performance aspect of the festival is free to the public and appropriate for all ages. It will kick off with a youth show from 4 to 5 p.m. a collective show from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and group performances for the rest of the evening. The BellyFest Marketplace will be open in two locations (Cannery Trade Centre and Gyro Park) on Saturday and Sunday featuring food, apparel and jewelry.

The two-day conference also features over 30 workshops teaching a range of belly dance styles including Egyptian, tribal fusion, Bollywood bellydancing, ATS, goddess and BellyFit classes. Yoga, massage, nutritional counselling and a one-on-one healing sessions will also be available at the conference. Workshops will be held in the Get Bent dance studios at the Cannery Trade Centre on June 1 and 2 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Goudie said the unique thing about the bellydancing community in B.C. is that they are built on a friendly foundation that isn’t competitive. She said that, combined with bellydancing become more mainstream, has helped it grow.

“It is just another viable dance option now. It is like going to a dance class, or to the gym, it fills a niche as a recreational activity and is now also an accepted activity for kids. It is something that has been compared to ballet shows because it has lost some of the questionable sides to it. People think it is not a family event, but bellydancing has become westernized and lost some of those negative traditions,” said Goudie.

For example, Get Bent has a youth component where they have a strict policy on what the kids can wear to keep it appropriate and have changed some of the moves to omit the sensual feel to them. Goudie said the kids program is growing because of they restructured it and the past five years Get Bent has been travelling teaching workshops so other groups can introduce the program to youth. Get Bent also has Good Karma day camps starting July 9 for 8 to 12 year olds that introduces them to dancing and learning how to be leaders in the community by doing good deeds for various groups, seniors centres around the city.

Goudie said she is really excited to bring some of the top talent to Penticton this weekend including Luciterra, a group of four Vancouver women who are full time professional bellydancers.

“If you have seen bellydancing before you have to come and see this and if you have never seen it before you need to come to experience and see it all. It will be interesting and colourful with different styles of dance, costumes, music and movement from kids at the recreational level, soloists, teachers and bigger group performances,” said Goudie.

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