The joy of belly dancing knows no age limits with members of the Northern Shimmy Sisters ranging from six to 74 years young.
When Karren Sibley joined the Northern Shimmy Sisters back in 2007 she never imagined she’d stick with it.
“I was somewhat overweight and a bit depressed after the birth of my second child when I decided to give belly dancing a go,” she says.
“I was silently thinking it wouldn’t last long and turned up to class in my leggings and an oversized shirt because I wanted to hide my body. To my surprise, I soon let my guard down and the class was over before I knew it. I’d worked every muscle in my body and felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders – I was happy.”
Karren has been hooked ever since and says belly dancing has done wonders for her self-esteem.
“Belly dancing puts a smile on my face and gives me the confidence to be who I really am,” she says, adding that she became an instructor in 2010 and the principal instructor of Northern Shimmy Sisters in 2013.
The troupe practices at the Performing Arts Block at St Anthony’s Catholic College, Joanne Street, in Deeragun, with Beginners and Intermediate/Advanced classes for teenagers and adults, a Juniors Class for primary-aged students and two workshops each year where they learn new styles such as Bollywood and Burlesque.
“Our classes have a strong focus on fun in a warm and encouraging atmosphere,” Karren says.
“We believe every woman can learn to dance, no matter her age, shape, size and fitness level.”
New students are welcome at any point during the term and classes are offered on a casual basis with the first class free.
Seventeen-year-old Chloe Sibley has been with the Northern Shimmy Sisters since she was eight.
“I was very shy when I was young and found it difficult to not only make friends but also express myself,” says Chloe.
“Belly dancing changed all that. Suddenly I was the centre of attention, surrounded by a glamourous world of hair, make-up, beauty and luxurious costumes, all while having fun dancing.
“Performing is an amazing adrenaline rush and, although it may seem scary, dancing can also be very therapeutic and a great stress relief.
“I think being surrounded by an empowering group of ladies growing up has helped me develop a strong confidence about myself.”
When Pat Smiley listened to her hairdresser talk about her belly dancing class she was intrigued.
“As a rather mature woman, the balance of fun, dancing and not-too-strenuous exercise appealed to me,” Pat says.
“And the fact you don’t have to wear shoes also had me sold!”
The 74-year-old has been with the Northern Shimmy Sisters since 2008 and loves the grace and beauty of the veil dances, the sauciness of cane dances and the chance to bash the tambourine and click the zills (finger cymbals) in harmony.
“I’ve met so many ladies through the troupe who I now regard as friends,” Pat says. “We share funny stories, laughter, sadness, ups and downs, and all are encapsulated in the meaning of ‘Sisters’ in our troupe name.”