“Anybody, any body” is the motto of Bedouin Beats co-owners Michelle Kaplan and Stacie Clarke.
“It doesn’t matter what body size or age or ability, belly dancing can work for you,” said Kaplan.
But that’s a tough sell these days. Clarke recently posted on their Facebook page: “With registration and sales at record lows, we are not sure how long we can sustain this business as we hoped we could. If you had been considering taking a class, now is definitely the time to register.”
Clarke said the drop in business could be attributed to the fact that interest in activities like belly dancing tends to go in cycles.
“Belly dancing really took off 2008 in North America. In some respects, it was kind of a fitness fad which has started to wear off the past couple of years. People need to appreciate that belly dancing has something that brings richness to their lives at so many levels. It is certainly a way to get fit, but also an exotic way to learn about your body and express it with rhythm and beauty,” said Clarke.
Kaplan added, “I don’t know how many times women have come up to me and said, ‘I could never do that,’ or ‘I don’t have the right body shape to dance in public.’ The unique thing about belly dancing is that there is no right body shape. Everything works. It is an art form, a mode of self-expression. Everybody is unique and everyone expresses themselves uniquely.”
Clarke said another problem may be that dance isn’t as prominent or culturally significant in Canada as it is in other countries and cultures.
“Belly dancing comes from the Middle East with a unique style of music. It took me a while before I grew to love it,” said Clarke.
The owners say Alberta Avenue has been a good place to operate a business.
“Community support has been tremendous. Very encouraging. We love being part of all the festivals like Kaleido and SkirtsAfire. There are four studios in Edmonton, but we are the mothership. No competition; co-operation. [We] participate in each other’s shows. Edmonton is special in that way. We value working together rather than being in competition,” said Clarke.
That said, more arts would make Alberta Avenue more business friendly.
“It is a challenge to make a viable business in dance,” said Clarke. “We have developed into a spectator society. We would rather sit back and watch someone do something fabulous on TV than get up and do it ourselves, put in the effort. It certainly takes time to learn to dance.”
While it can be a challenge to learn to dance, Bedouin Beats can help with that.
“I teach basic music courses on how to recognize a down beat, which has to come before even learning how to move your body,” said Kaplan.
Bedouin Beats will also be holding a student showcase featuring all levels of dancers on April 8 at the Westbury Theatre at the ATB Financial Arts Barns.
“We hope to remain open for a long time. The studio has evolved into an incredible and loving place for dancers to eventually and openly call home. It has become our home as well,” said Clarke.
11805 94 St
Mon to Thurs, 4:30 to 8 pm
Sat 8:45 am to 5 pm
Visit www.bedouinbeats.com or their FaceBook page.
Featured Image: Bedouin Beats has been part of Alberta Avenue for a long time and could use some increased business. | Kazoo Productions