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The last time I was in a formal dance studio was before I turned 13. It was my 10th and final year of dance lessons when I inevitably shifted into the musical world, playing bassoon in the pit orchestra with dancers onstage. Still, I like to think that I have a basic knowledge of dance. However, as I walked into the dance studio of Dillon Gymnasium, I reminded myself that belly dancing is very different from ballet.

I had decided to audition for Raks Odalisque, the University’s only belly dancing troupe. I knew I was in the right place when I spotted some girls wearing gray tank tops saying “Shimmies.” After all the girls auditioning signed in, the Raks girls went around, starting with president Angela Wang ’16, and introduced themselves. I was delighted to see that all the girls in Raks had different shapes and body types, replacing the original idea of a belly dancer I had in my head.

Wang is a former associate news editor for The Daily Princetonian.

Next, it was finally time to learn the choreography for the audition. While artistic director Michelle Park ’16 taught the choreo step-by-step, other Raks girls walked around to assist us if we had any questions with the details of the individual movements. When first watching Park perform the choreo, I couldn't help thinking: “How did she move her hips like that?” “Are they not connected to the rest of her body?” “Oh, THAT looks amazing,” and finally, “Hey, she’s winding!”

Now, although I have not had any experience belly dancing, because I am of Caribbean blood, I have had many experiences doing the Dutty Wine, or “winding.” From winding, I vaguely knew how to isolate my hips from other parts of my body, so somehow, I found all the moves taught at the audition understandable. Even when I did not know how to do a move at first, it was exciting to figure it out and see my body twist in new, cool ways in the mirror.

After learning the choreography, those auditioning were given some time to go over the routine before performing it in groups of five. I loved this part of the audition because we got to bond over our inexperience with belly dancing through the process of learning the dance.

We had practiced for a couple of minutes before it was time for us to audition in our groups. Mercifully, we got to perform the dance twice in a row, and only the second time was recorded. I had a blast watching myself in the mirror, dancing and winding to the music. Belly dancing allows your body to move with the music, following the rhythm and the melodies exactly, while still allowing for some degree of artistic interpretation.

Moreover, the different forms of belly dancing, including Egyptian and Turkish, have different styles that emphasize lyricism and accentuated, sharp movements, respectively. In this way, you can learn more about Egyptian and Turkish cultures through belly dancing.

All in all, I had an amazing time auditioning for Raks Odalisque. Although I didn't get into the troupe, I loved every minute of the audition, and will definitely be back next year after taking belly dancing classes. This was an amazing and enjoyable time not only because of the welcoming nature of the girls, but also because there is truly no experience needed to audition and have a good time; the only things necessary are a willingness to smile, move your body and have fun.

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