Belly dancing her way to happiness

Rosalina Pang teaches women from all walks of life how to belly dance. Taranaki Community News caught up with her to find out about this ancient form of movement.

Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m Rosalina, and I am an entrepreneur with a dance and digital marketing company.

My entrepreneurial journey in New Zealand started in 2008 as a dance performer and instructor, using my talents and love for dance to connect and build a community of dance sisters here.

On special festivals and occasions, I transform into a stilt walker as the Peacock Ladies. I’m also hens and birthday party dance entertainer, and a choreographer for wedding couples when I get asked.

Can you tell us more about your belly dancing?
I have been oriental dancing since the age of 8, and I discovered a lot of similarities in Middle Eastern and Oriental style of Belly dancing in 2004 when I hired professional belly dancers for shows and performances in my Events and Promotions Marketing profession back in Singapore.

I thought that the fluidity, grace and happiness of the dancers with their delightful costumes and music with articulation was mesmerizing, and that dancing to live music and drumming was really joyful. All the audience loved it and participated and interacted with the dancers at some stage. I decided that I could do the same, so I learnt the art of belly dance and was hooked.

My favourite thing about it is that after learning the fundamentals, the spirit of belly dance continues to evolve and you can take it into your own essence of style and versatility, as with how classical and folk music evolves with eastern and western influences.

Where does belly dancing come from?
Belly dance is a western term for “Dance of the East” or “Oriental dance”.

The art of belly dancing originated from the Middle East and other Arabic influenced regions such as Egypt and Turkey and spread by cross-culture exchange with travelling gipsy dancers centuries ago.

For women, it was practised as a celebration of life, embracing femininity, fertility and womanhood. Male belly dancers were the first entertainers. Turkish and Lebanese men trained and dance it as a form of classical art and culture. Men were the first performers as it was not in the past socially accepted for women to dance in public.

Since the late 1890s, it became popular in western countries, and we have since come a long way. With modernity, society recognizes belly dancing as a celebration of life and we are lucky to be liberated to practice this art form in both private and public settings.

You also teach belly dancing. What impact does learning to belly dance have on your students?
I teach belly dance a multi-ethnic group or women from different backgrounds, shapes and fitness levels.

So really, I see us as being dance sisters in the fitness of life through movement and culture.

We call ourselves 5th Element Dance sisters, who meet once a week on a Thursday evening at Fitzroy Golf Club Hall.

My philosophy and format are that we take the time to connect with each other through dance, music. We get nimble and build better posture through the art of belly and hula dance.

A big part is to focus on being present in our own body, release any tensions that we are holding, and then build confidence by being positive and supportive to each other.

We travel the world through movement and music, with wellness embodied through the mind, body and spirit inspired from Water (Flow), Earth (Grounding drum beats), Wind and Air (floating) and Spirit, to share insights with each other.

Do you have any favourite belly dancing memories/stories?
There are many. Through serendipity, I had the opportunity to be on Country Calendar in the first year with Lyn Webster’s interview in one episode in 2009, and New Zealand’s Got Talent on a winter morning at 7 am by the Wind Wand, for Breakfast with two others trying to keep warm with our mid-riff showing. (By the way, we don’t have to bare our midriff to belly dance. It is not a prerequisite.)

I have travelled with a few of my dancers outside of Taranaki for shows and to conduct dance workshops, while connecting with other dance groups in New Zealand. 

The most rewarding thing is seeing the transformation of my dancers from being shy and quiet, or uncertain and disconnected with their body to one who is shining and helping other dancers in class and outside with friendship fostered.

When someone has had a challenging week, at work, relationship or kids, they come to class and just concentrate on being them and connect with fellow dance sisters and they leave feeling much better.

What comes to my mind poignantly is when we are being asked and given the opportunity to perform on stage. We get together to practice and the joy that comes from starting out not being able to dance and then being able to dance and smile on stage while you perform to the public is a rewarding accomplishment.

You can contact 5th Element Dance on Facebook and through their website.