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Roxanne bedazzles Barrow

The festive party season is in full swing and it’s a busy time for belly dancer Roxanne Dinsdale. On most nights she heads off to a private party or corporate event, sometimes with snake and fire-eating equipment to add a dash of glamour and fun to the show.

So who is this sultry lady with glossy black hair, sparkly costumes and seductive veils, who dances under the name Ayshe? She’s a lovely, down-to-earth, married mum-of-two from Groby, and members of the Barrow WI had the pleasure of meeting her at their October meeting when she popped in to talk about the Myths of Belly Dancing.

Roxanne shimmied around tables in the Conservative Club function room, flicking veils and jingling her coin belt, while outlining the origins of the dance and dispelling some myths.

Did you know that the wiggle of the hips and jingle of the coin belt start at the knees? Small swift knee movements get the hips shaking or vibrating, while the upper body is graceful - like a swan, which has fast movements in its legs and grace and poise in the upper body.

Throw in some buttock crunches – “do them in the supermarket queue, both together or one at a time,” she says, to gales of laughter. Roxanne, a dance teacher, says her students wear coin belts in class and if their buttock crunches are correct, the coins will jingle. There is also isolation in certain torso muscles that makes the dance captivating.

With knees going and buttocks crunching, it's time to add hand movements and Roxanne had us rotating our hands and wrists in different styles. Add to this the wonderful sounds of the Zils (finger cymbals) - from face to feet, the belly dancer has a lot to remember.

Belly dancing is thought to have come out of India around the beginning of the 4th century. Through the years, it spread to other Middle Eastern countries, each giving it a unique style. It gained attention in the West at the Chicago Exposition in 1893, when three dancers performed their Beledi or country dance. The word was misheard and the term belly dance was born.

Today the perception is bare tummies and cleavage, but, in many countries, girls were - and are - covered from neck to ankle to wrist.

Her costumes are spectacular. “My first costume was from Egypt, but today you can source costumes from all over the world and customise them. I get beautiful veils and beading in Leicester too!”

Roxanne has an impressive collection of veils, from plain to glitzy, including one she has used for 27 years. They can be flicked, twirled and rippled, adding to the allure of the dance. She demonstrated the use of silver Egyptian goddess wings, pleated like a giant fan. She then dimmed the lights and danced with an illuminated pair, which was spectacular.

A belly dancer for 33 years and cabaret dancer before that, Roxanne has done many newspaper, magazine and TV interviews and has been on TV over 60 times. She now works regularly with her sister troupe of 10 young Bollywood dancers who are in demand not only in the UK but abroad too. She loves the concept of fusion dance and successfully combines Bollywood and belly dance.

She teaches too, from the advanced dancers to women who just want to get fit and have fun. “It is wonderful to see their confidence grow as they learn to dance.”

But what is her life like away from the spotlight?

Very ordinary, she says. Her boys are teenagers and she likes spending quality time with family on Sundays if she is not working, making a roast for everyone to enjoy in the evening. Then there is her 33-year-old python, Pliskinella, to look after and she also keeps chickens.

With three decades of dancing under her (coin) belt, has she had any injuries? “Only when I fell over one of my chickens,” she laughs, as she packs up all the sparkle and heads off home.

Lindsay Ord