By JOHN KIRK VINCENT/Montana State News

Painters and sculptors are no longer the only artists in town.

In recent years, contemporary dance has become more and more popular among Montana residents. What was once a general activity has become a respected art form in numerous communities, flooding creative arts festivals and other stages.

Several troupes of dancers have begun to take shape statewide.  Although the demand for professional dancers has skyrocketed, these groups have also encouraged beginner participation.  Dance isn’t just for the stage anymore, but can be practiced by any able-bodied individual.

Mary Powell of Bad Asp Bellydance says, “Anyone who can shed their inhibitions and really put themselves out there has a place in the dance community.” Powell is a dance guru and longtime teacher of the physical art. The multi-talented dancers who make up the company have had a distinct presence in the Bozeman area since 2003.

Although they are anchored in the Gallatin Valley, Bad Asp is not the only dancing troupe in Montana. Located in the heart of Billings, Spiral Skies Bellydance troupe has hosted the Yellowstone Valley Bellydance Festival—the largest in the region—for five years running.

Bad Asp has in the past performed at the festival that will take place for a sixth consecutive year from Aug. 16-18. According to its official announcement, the festival promises to “display the many diverse cultural styles, exciting music and ornate costumes of belly dance.” Montana dancers and spectators alike have more than one opportunity to either showcase their abilities or witness the creative performances of their peers.

The Bozeman area is home to its own events, including the annual “Revolutions” performance at the historic Ellen Theater. Funded by the IndepenDANCE Community Dance Project in 2008, the event was created after the realization “adult dancers and choreographers in the Bozeman area had no venue to showcase new choreography or to spotlight talented dancers.” The volunteer-based project is promoted by its members and local community.

The dance revolution is underway in the state of Montana and shows no signs of slowing down. The people have spoken and they have demanded that dance have a place among the arts.

– Edited by Patrick Hill

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