Community of women encourages confidence
The sound of gold coins jangling from hip scarves fills the studio as students at Austin Bellydance take their places before class begins.
The room lulls to a silence as dance instructor and studio owner Betsi Robins glides to the front of the room to teach students how to move their bodies in a fluid motion.
Robins said anyone can enjoy and participate in belly dance, even without previous dance training. Robins, who also goes by the name Bahaia, opened Austin Bellydance in March 2013. Classes are geared toward women age 18 and older with a maximum of 20 students per class. Each one-hour class is $15.
"It's really something anyone can learn," Robins said. "I think that everything I teach is attainable with practice. Your success has nothing to do with your age or your shape or your size. Some of my most beautiful dancers might not be the people that you expect."
Robins said her students participate in belly dance classes for different reasons, including for exercise and for self-expression.
Student Kimberly Jordan moved back to Texas, her home state, in early summer and began taking classes at Austin Bellydance shortly after her return. She said belly dancing is a way to unwind and brings joy to her life, partially because of the supportive atmosphere women in the classes provide.
A belly dance instructor since 1997, Robins is originally from Houston. When she was 15 years old, a friend introduced her to belly dancing at a Greek festival. Robins said taking classes gave her the self-esteem and confidence she said she needed as a teenager.
"Belly dancing appealed to me because it is a solo dance," Robins said. "It was exotic and had mystery to it. It has put me in a community of women who support one another, who are very positive and want to see each other succeed."
Robins said she performed at many venues in Houston where she also met a band she later hired to record custom music for her classes. The CD and other items are some of the retail Robins hopes to offer in 2015 at her studio.
Customers at Caf Darband can see Robins perform every Thursday at
10:30 p.m. The hookah bar is located at 9112 Anderson Mill Road. On the second Saturday of every month, Robins offers a ladies night, which includes a potluck, a belly dance show, henna tattoos and music.
"I want [my students] to have a good time," she said. "I want them to achieve their own personal goals. I want them to feel safe, that they can let down their guard and maybe tap into a side of themselves that they've been wanting to bring out."
Austin Bellydance, 8650 Spicewood Springs Road, Ste. 104, 512-401-0202, www.austinbellydance.com, Hours: By appointment and Mon.–Fri. 6:30–9:45 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m.–noon