Midrifts and a Middle Eastern Art
Candice Frankland
Performing Arts

Midrifts and a Middle Eastern Art
Candice Frankland on swapping business analytics for belly dancing

From the Middle East to the North Shore, belly dancing is enjoyed as a form of artistic expression, physical exercise, a social activity and a celebration dance. One of its local purveyors is Candice Frankland, who swapped a career as a business analyst for belly dancing. The Birkdale resident spoke to Channel about why she's passionate about bringing belly dancing to the Shore. 

Channel: What sparked your interest in belly dancing? 

Candice Frankland:  I remember being a young girl, maybe 12 or 13, attending a friend’s birthday at an Arabian themed restaurant, that had this show with a belly dancer. I’d never seen one before, but this dancer glided out like she was moving through water. She was so graceful and happy, and she looked so effortlessly comfortable in her movements - I knew I had to try it! It was years later, though, that I actually attended my first class - thanks to my then boyfriend (now husband) who found a belly dance flyer. I was addicted from the first lesson!

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been a student of Middle Eastern dance for about 14 years, and within a few years I started teaching beginners under the direction of my wonderful teacher, Angela Anzilotti. My previous career as a Business Analyst, primed me for creating my own start-up company, and for the last seven years I have owned and operated Phoenix Belly Dance in Auckland, which has grown to be one of the biggest belly dance schools in New Zealand, and I couldn't be more proud. 

What are the main benefits of belly dancing? 

Definitely self confidence and friendship, first and foremost. Belly dancing has benefits physically - students see improvements in posture, breathing, body awareness, and muscle development in the abs, glutes, pelvic floor, back and arms. Emotionally, students use it as a way to de-stress, by focusing on something physically creative it empties their minds allowing them to find joy in the moment. We promote body positive ideals - women of any age, size, race, or ability can attend classes and feel good in their own skin. Socially, belly dancing is an easy way to find friends! And it culturally, students develop an interest in the cultural origins of the dance. 

How has the popularity in belly dancing grown in this country? 

Belly dance in New Zealand is growing each year, but is still relatively small compared to other countries. Having said that, I have not experienced a more passionate and supportive community anywhere else in the world. This allows for a lot more collaboration and sharing of information. 

What inspired you to organise the recent Shimmy Mob World Record attempt? Please tell us about this event.

This is a project that I get so excited about! Thousands of Belly Dancers from around the world aimed to make Belly Dance History by learning the same choreography and performing it around the globe on Saturday, May 13th. “Shimmy Mobs” appeared randomly at various locations across 172 cities, including Auckland, to promote World Belly Dance Day and help raise funds for Women’s Shelters. I have been working with the North Shore Women’s Centre for the last four years to raise funds and awareness for the work they do with women in our community, and this just seemed like another perfect opportunity to do the same. (www.nswomenscentre.co.nz)

Who would you most like to belly dance with and why? 

This is going to sound so soppy, but it’s true: my Gran. I started belly dancing not long before she passed away, and I am so grateful that she got to see my first performance. I was probably awful - actually I know I was - I’ve seen the video! But she was so proud of me, and I remember her saying “finally another dancer in the family” - I hadn’t even known that she was a dancer. She got quite sick soon after that, and passed. It’s one of my strongest memories of her.  

Any amusing / memorable moments you’ve experienced whilst belly dancing?

I’m going to sound like such a dimwit with this story, so I hope your readers are forgiving...I was asked to perform at an Arabic family wedding celebration, to do a traditional Egyptian wedding Zaffeh performance, which involves the dancer leading the bride and groom into the reception. Before the performance I was chatting to the bride and groom, and the groom mentioned he was quite tired from a big rugby match he’d played the day before. I thought: “Who would play a game the day before their wedding?!” So I asked which team he played for and the couple gawked at me as if I was crazy, then replied: “The All Blacks.” I wanted to disappear into the holes in my sequins, I was so embarrassed!

Find out more at www.phoenixbellydance.co.nz or PhoenixBellyDanceNZ on Facebook and Instagram @candicephoenixbellydance.

Open classes are held on the Shore at Massey University Recreation Centre in Albany on Saturdays at 10.15am.

By Heather Vermeer

Channel Magazine: Issue 78 July 2017