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Old Dance, New View

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By Katie Saltz

When Nycole Huber had a friend perform at her wedding in Lawrenceburg almost four years ago, the reaction was not what she had hoped for.

"Some guests got up and walked out," Huber said.

The performance was belly-dancing, something Huber, 27, has been doing since she was 14. Now she is hoping to shed some light on the controversy of the dance form.

Growing up in Lexington, Huber always wanted to take dance classes, like ballet and tap, but her parents could not afford them. So when a friend's mother offered an affordable dance class, Huber decided to try it out. The class taught belly-dancing and Huber ended up joining the dance troupe, "Phyllidia's Desert Dancers."

Her love of belly-dancing led to public performances, including some at her high school. Huber said she has performed for minor celebrities such as former University of Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith and former Gov. Ernie Fletcher, and made a fair amount of money doing so.

"It helped put me through college," she said.

Huber went to Kentucky Tech and earned a diploma in medical assistance. After her husband, Sgt. Travis Huber, was deployed to Iraq three years ago, she decided to move to Lawrenceburg to be near her in-laws.

After the guests' reaction to the belly-dancing at her wedding, Huber said she was unsure if she would ever be able to teach or perform in Anderson County. She took a break from performing while pregnant with her son, Tristan, 17 months, but a group of women in town encouraged her to start teaching again.

Three local women will start performing with Huber soon, she said. Her troupe, Dani Rose and the Psychobellies, has its first performance Friday, July 4 for PNC Bank in Lexington. Huber hopes to bring at least two performances to Lawrenceburg in the fall so she can prove that belly-dancing is not as provocative as people would assume, she said.

"It's difficult when you use the word 'belly-dancer,' " Huber said. "The main thing is it has been really difficult to break that stereotype.

"Dancers across the country are trying to legitimize it as an art form, and I just want for people to give us a chance."

The traditional music for Egyptian style belly-dancing is called Raks sharki. Huber said she loves to dance to American music also, and her troupe in Lawrenceburg wants to mix 50's style with belly-dancing.

The costumes may seem risqu, Huber said, but they are actually very heavy. The traditional costume is usually a skirt with a "bedlah."

"It is a big, heavy costume," she said. "There are several layers and it is really hot."

The support from her family has been encouraging, Huber said. Her father-in-law is a preacher at C.A.L.M. in Anderson County, so Huber said she was nervous about how her in-laws would react to belly-dancing.

"Once they saw (a performance) they thought 'Oh, well this is okay,' " she said. "They are extremely supportive."

Huber's husband is currently stationed in Alabama and won't return until December. When he is home though, Huber said he is helpful during performances. "He switches from husband mode to manager mode," she said.

While the money from performances is nice, and dancing is great exercise, Huber said the biggest appeal of belly-dancing for her is the friendships.

"It's the camaraderie," she said. "There is no cattiness."

Huber's dance teacher from Lexington is now 70, Huber said, and still travels and performs with a group of friends.

"My friends and I are now like, 'We want to be like that when we're older,' " she said.

Another stereotype Huber said she wants to break down through her classes is the idea that dancers have to have a certain body type. She said she has seen dancers become more confident as a result of learning to belly dance.

"Too often in society we flip through the magazines and think 'I don't look like that,' and as a result cower away from things and don't push ourselves because we think we're not good enough," Huber said.

"I know I've been guilty of it, but through this dance, girls of all backgrounds and body types can come together without judgment of one another and do something that they love, and to me that is beautiful."