Robin Kaehler clapped to the music’s beat as her fellow dancers in the Dans Askina Turkish Dance Ensemble rehearsed.
The 11 members of the troupe lit up the studio. And this weekend, they’ll present their fourth annual “Dans Senlik,” which translates to “dance celebration.”
“It’s been awesome,” Kaehler said of her dancing experience. “For me, it pushes me out of my comfort zone to try something new. I had never danced before."
Dance Caravan and Blue Jasmine will perform this weekend, as well as belly-dancing students from adult classes in the west metro area. Sufi storyteller and musician Mustafa Ali and Minneapolis-based Irish folk band Bardmageddon will also perform.
Amina Beres, Dans Askina artistic director, said the dance festival also acts as a fundraiser. For a $2 discount on admittance, attendees can bring non-perishable food and personal-care items for donation.
“We want to share the love of our dance with the public and help educate, a little bit, that there are different types of music and different types of costuming and dancing than we normally see in the United States,” Beres said.
The ensembles incorporate dancing styles from Turkey, Egypt and the U.S.
Davin Lillegard of Bardmageddon said the band will play in between dance numbers, rather than accompanying dancers.
“I don’t think it’d be particularly easy to belly dance to a jig,” he said.
Aside from showcasing art from multiple cultures, the festival highlights the talents of community education students in the west metro area.
Kaehler’s tale of picking up belly dancing in adulthood is common among the troupe’s dancers.
Beres started the hobby on a whim after seeing a troupe perform at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.
“It’s not only an artistic expression, it’s just fun,” Beres said.
Beres teaches belly-dancing classes in Hopkins, Minn., in addition to running the Dans Askina troupe.
“Belly dancing resonates with a lot of women because you do not need to be a specific body type to do it,” Beres said. “This dance doesn’t care.”
Beres added that the dance style isn’t exclusive to women, though females generally dominate her classes.
While Benjamin Lamb was working at a renaissance fair in California, a belly-dancing troupe caught his eye and sparked a passion for the art.
“The music was always so moving. It makes you feel like exploring your being … was for anyone, whether you’re a man or a woman,” Lamb said.
Grace Watkins-Wright, community education teacher for Bloomington and Richfield, Minn., said there is an unspoken camaraderie between belly-dancing teachers.
“The Dans Senlik is a great example of promoting that camaraderie and cooperation among the west metro area teachers,” she said.
Meanwhile, dancers establish connections through classes and shows.
Kaehler’s high school daughter, Laria, often attends shows and rehearsals.
“These are all my moms,” Laria Kaehler said.
She added she often meets a lot of people from different troupes at shows.
“This is going on right here,” said Amy Snyder, member of Dans Askina. “There’s culture in your backyard.”
What: Dans Senlik
Where: Hopkins Center for the Arts, 1111 Main St., Hopkins
When: 7 p.m. Friday