By PATRICK HILL/Montana State News

Mary Powell is not what you would expect from a belly dancer. As a former tire saleswoman who spent the majority of the day covered in vehicle grease, she made the transition to that of a woman dancing in a hand-sewn costume. It goes without saying, such a transformation requires a leap of imagination.

“I got into dancing because I was curious and I loved it from the first moment I tried it. I realized I could express myself through this,” said Powell. “My palate of emotional strata in movements – in layers – comes from my daughter, Rayven, my family and friends. The root of my heartbeat is made of emotions, music and dreams.”

It was in 2003, on a self-described “double dog dare” when Powell joined an existing local belly dance group in Bozeman, called Lotus Fire. Five years later, she branched off to teach others what had originally inspired her: the spark and the passion that existed within every woman to dance.

“Dance is an ancient, connective form of communication that comes from the past and expresses into the future,” said Powell. Bellydance takes that further and reaches out to the existential woman. A lot like meditation, it gets to the core of identity. “No matter how I feel at the start of the day, I can always dance and feel as if a great circle has been completed.”

“I began to experiment with different forms and styles,” said Powell, “transitioning into deeper emotions and expressions.” Individualities and personalities show through each person in a different way, Powell believes, allowing each dancer to express things differently in an emotional sense.

Unlike sitting meditation, dance is the outward expression of the body coming into focus with the center. Powell says this is the birth of rhythm and harmony. “This movement is my favorite, when body and mind are one. Think of the start as the mind is red, the body moves in violet. That point where there is union expressed as a rainbow,” said Powell.

Powell says choreography becomes a matter of working to make the music fit to the personal style and also working to fit stylistic dance moves into the tune of the musical piece. These pieces come together in each piece of choreography, becoming synergistic with the music, dance, and audience.

The hand-sewn costumes become a focal point with the movement of the dance.  Each costume is hand crafted for an event and tailored to the particular dancer, many by Powell herself. “My favorite part about costumes, is that I can make them become a part of the vision within the inspiration,” said Powell. “There is a type of personal ceremony behind each costume. They have a deep historical meaning with the dancer.”

Powell says that she has been inspired by the art form and that she wishes to openly give that art to those who would seek it, the ability to move the Earth with each shimmy, being a true woman with the power to help others become “sparkly and glittery” with their inner strength and to grasp the Goddess within and make the loudest ROAR is an experience like none other.

“I wish to expand and strengthen my charitable drives,” said Powell. “To be a local awareness engine and take it to the next level.” Learning from the demands of those she teaches encourages her to become a student of others, reaching out to the greater dance community for guidance and support.

“I will dance until the day I can no longer move. I danced all the way throughout my pregnancy and Rayven [my daughter] started there, in the womb,” said Powell. Rayven is now taking tap and ballet at the Main Street Dance theatre. “She loves to dance.”

Powell’s goals for dancing are to become better than the day before and to spread it around. “Teaching anyone that can think outside of the box, anyone that can get into a song and feel the goose bumps of an emotional release within using their experiences in the paths they have walked.”

The music never stops.

– Edited by John Kirk Vincent

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