Cork’s talented belly dancers

This weekend, belly dancing workshops take place in Shandon. MARIA ROLSTON talks to the coordinator of the event, Jane Heffernan
Cork’s talented belly dancers
Suadela Troupe from Cork.

DANCE has become something that Cork woman, Jane Heffernan, says she couldn’t live without.

The 30-year-old pharmaceutical analyst, from the city, practices a variety of dance forms — ballet, contemporary dance and capoeira — but she has a particular penchant for belly dancing, in its tribal fusion form.

It’s a practice that has seen her travel across Europe, to Australia and all around Ireland and now, 12 years since she started dancing, Jane and her fellow dancers in the Cork-based Suadela troupe are bringing internationally acclaimed bellydancers to the city for a series of workshops and a performance showcase in the Firkin Crane this weekend.

The series of two hour workshops which take place on November 4 and 5 will be delivered by world famous U.S belly dancer, Ashley Lopez, who will teach tribal fusion classes to dancers of all experience and levels.

Jane, who is coordinator for the event, says it’s a great opportunity to showcase the hidden talent of Cork’s belly dancers and she hopes it will attract new dancers to the troupe.

“I started belly dancing back in 2005 with a Cork-based troupe taught by an American woman but they’re not going any more,” said Jane. “I moved away from Cork for a few years for work but I kept dancing and explored some other dance forms which I also really enjoyed. But when I moved back to Cork in 2012, I joined Suadela, who were doing small gigs around the city,” she said.

Suadela was founded in 2011 by Cork dancers, April Elder and Briona Ryng.

“Suadela was already doing lots of small shows and events around the city when I joined,” said Jane. “We were involved with Camden Palace when it was located along the quays and we were using the rehearsal space there for a while, but we now have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Olympic Karate Club on Shandon Street.

“We practice tribal fusion bellydance which is a contemporary form of belly dance that incorporates other dance forms into it. It’s always evolving and changing and I just like the aesthetics of it, the appearance of it, the shape and form of the movements.

International fusion bellydance expert Ashley Lopez.
International fusion bellydance expert Ashley Lopez.

“The dancing itself is very intensive and being part of the troupe is like having a second job but in the most positive way. There’s a core group of about ten of us now and we all have proper jobs. I’m a pharmaceutical analyst and we have an engineer in the troupe as well, so dancing is a good creative outlet for most of us. It’s completely different to my day to day job but I love dance; I’m completely addicted to it and I couldn’t live without it at this stage.

“It’s hugely enjoyable, it’s a great escape and it’s extremely good for maintaining your mental health. I’ve also been really fortunate to meet people from all walks of life through belly dancing and to go on tour to places that I might not otherwise have seen,” she said.

Jane and other members of Suadela have toured with Cork- based folk musicians, the Underscore Orkestra on three separate occasions. They’ve also staged some major Irish shows including performing at the Electric Picnic Music and Arts festival in Stradbally in 2016 and 2017 and have performed on stage in front of a large audience in Cork Opera House.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to tour all around Ireland and across the UK and Europe to France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Switzerland with the Underscore Orkestra and we also spent a month touring the east coast of Australia with them, which was amazing.”

Jane started teaching about a year and a half ago.

“I’m not a professional dancer but we’re constantly training and going to other workshops and we’re all very aware of body mechanics and the mechanics of movement and dance.

“Belly dancing can be quite powerful, both to perform and to watch. I started dancing when I was quite young and I know I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it wasn’t for dance. It gives you confidence and it’s hugely enjoyable and I’d encourage anyone, male or female, to try it out.”

See www.suadelabellydance. com for more info on the Tribal Republic showcase.

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