Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer
Nancy Loyan Shuemann lives a double life.
Like Superman, she juggles two occupations, and one requires quite a costume.
As a published author, her writing takes up most of her day. At night, though, she grabs her saber, throws on her beaded bra and skirt and shares her love of belly dancing.
As part of the Chautauqua Dance Circle’s weekly lectures, Shuemann will speak at 3:30 p.m. today at Smith Wilkes Hall in a speech titled “Wonders of Middle Eastern Dancing.” She’s one of the first CDC lecturers to discuss a non-ballet topic.
She first began to learn Middle Eastern belly dancing in an adult education class, though she’d rather not say how long ago.
“Nailah” is her persona as a dancer, she said, and her persona has no age; she’s “timeless.”
But she’s no less than an expert. Nailah attended Ahlan Wa Sahlan Belly Dance Festival in Giza, Egypt, the largest gathering of belly dancers in the world. She learned with some of the most renowned Middle Eastern dance instructors, and following the festival, she took a cruise along the Nile.
The cruise didn’t have a dancer, Nailah said, so she and a few others took to the stage. Her fellow dancers quickly left, but Nailah kept moving.
“I just got lost in the moment,” she said. “But afterward when I saw a video of it, I went, ‘Oh my gosh. I did that?’”
Her experiences in Egypt lead her to teach belly dancing in a number of places, including the Institution.
This is her fourth year as an instructor with the Special Studies program at Chautauqua. A man from her church who had applied for the program suggested she also apply to share her knowledge of dance. She did and was accepted, though her friend was not.
“It’s been our joke,” she said.
Nailah’s course was first offered for only one week, but it has now grown into a two-week class. She said she thinks people are often attracted to the dance because it’s so accepting.
“In belly dancing, as long as you can move, you can dance,” Nailah said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny or heavy. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It doesn’t even matter what sex you are.”
It’s all about body acceptance and femininity, she said. It’s whatever you want it to be.
“It allows for a lot of creativity and expression,” she said.
In her lecture, Nailah said, she first will demonstrate a Middle Eastern dance titled “Wings of Isis.” Middle Eastern dancing began as a fertility dance, she said, so she chose “Wings of Isis” to introduce her lecture because it references Isis, the Egyptian goddess of fertility.
She then will discuss a bit of her history with belly dancing, as well as some of the benefits. But of all the points she’ll cover, Nailah said what she most wants the audience to understand is that belly dancing is sensual, not sexual. It’s all about freedom, she said.
She plans to end her lecture with a performance with her signature prop: her saber.