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Belly dancing and more in Pequot Lakes Jan. 14

Vespertine Tribal belly dancers Stephanie White (in yellow), Jessica Bleichner (down from White going clockwise), Meggan Shepard and Noelle Bastian will headlines the next Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts event scheduled Jan. 14 in the Pequot Lakes High School theater. Photo by Billiejo Olson

PEQUOT LAKES—Vespertine Tribal headlines the next Greater Lakes Area Performing Arts event as one of three ensembles to be featured at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 14 in the Pequot Lakes High School theater.

Joining this Brainerd-area dance troupe for the event are the Slavic choir Sestri based in Little Falls, who will be performing Eastern European music; and Lady Slipper, a Duluth-based dance and acoustic world music troupe.

Their style of belly dance, American Tribal Style, is a modern art form with ancient roots in Africa, the Middle East and India.

"Imagine a time in history, a long time ago, when the bounce and sway of a woman's hips was considered so beautiful that they set it to music and made a dance out of it," Carolena Nericcio, creator-director, stated in an email release.

The dance will be a modern style of dance that blends classic Egyptian, Folkoric and other influences. Many devotees are young people living alternative lifestyles showcasing body adornment popular since 1974 in San Francisco.

Current Vespertine members are Jessica Bleichner and Stephanie White, with featured solo dancer Meggan Shepard included in special moments.

Bleichner has studied and practiced American Tribal Style the longest. She started so she could learn dance movements that would lend well to fire dancing with palm torches, scimitar, fire bowl, fire staff and fire fans.

White, a Certified ATS dance instructor, teaches at Franklin Arts Center in the Spirit Movement Dance Studio. She is known for her theatrical skills in the Brainerd lakes area and now has fused her dance styles and prepares theatrical belly dance skits to amuse audiences.

Shepard is a Shidouin in Matsumura Kenpo Shirin Ryu Karate and a Certified Group Fitness instructor and teaches classes, workshops and private lessons. She loves telling stories through dance with the help of Hugh, her sword. She also uses props in such as scimitar, veils and feather fans.

Sestri, "Bulgarian for "sister," is devoted to the study and performance of women's Slavic folk music. Sestri is the brainchild of musical director Celo V'ec. Celo founded the Yale Slavic Chorus in 1969, a similar women's group which still enjoys great popularity among Yale choral ensembles.

Sestri performs music originating in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia as well as music of former Soviet republics Georgia, the Ukraine and Latvia.

Members are Vicki Spofford, Gayle Nielsen, Roxie Flicek, Becky Nelson, Muriel Poehler, Carol Christiansen, Dorothy Koopman, Judith Hecht, Ann March, Voni Larson, Sue Gustner, Jolene Goodrich, Diana Poehler, Linda Weiss, Claudia Petcu, Neree Jackson and Kathy Bzdok. Abra Hawley, who has also been with Vespertine, leads the group.

One recent reviewer said of Sestri: "I was completely amazed at the sound that came from this quiet group of women. The music was unlike any I heard before, but as a woman, it spoke to my soul."

Some dance troupes are at the mercy of whatever world music is found on random, scratched-up, third-generation mix CDs. Lady Slipper is not one of those troupes. Tribal belly dancers Denise Hooper and Deanna Erickson bring along their own group of real, live musicians.

Guitarist John Hooper and percussionist Eldon Lindamood provide the acoustic jams while creating synergy with the dancers. This relationship between the physical and the aural is a conscious, living response to a virtual world controlled by too many digital mediums.

The musicians of Lady Slipper draw inspiration from various genres, while maintaining the rhythmic roots of the Middle Eastern beats that their dancers love. The dancers improvise and communicate with each other through cues and gestures, changing as leader and follower as they endeavor to best express the music.

Lady Slipper was a featured ensemble at the 2016 Duluth Homegrown Festival.

Tickets are $14 adults, $12 seniors 60 or older, and $10 youth 18 and under.

For more information and to purchase tickets online go to www.glapa.info or call Pequot Lakes Community Education at 218-568- 9200.

The performance is sponsored by Central Lakes College Theatre.

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