When I heard that there was another bellydance studio in town, I was surprised to learn that it was located in Kaisertown. At the same time, I was excited that Kaisertown was, once again, getting some well-deserved attention and love from a diverse community of businesses and cultural groups.
This particular bellydance studio, aptly called House of Hips, is owned and operated by Mandy Poreda and Hayati, both of whom perform and instruct. They first opened their studio two years ago, wondering what the Kaisertown Board would think about a Bellydance studio moving into the neighborhood. Mandy grew up in the neighborhood, and always lived in close proximity, so she knew that this was where she wanted to open the studio.
“The board was so excited to have us,” said Mandy. “They said that they were thrilled to have something that was so new and different, which meant a lot to us. It was super refreshing, because sometimes bellydancing can have a negative connotation. But it’s a very positive and inclusive dance that is empowering for people. The first year that we opened, we had 100 students take classes, many of which are still with us.”
Of course one of my first questions for Mandy was how she embarked upon the road to become a bellydancer. “A friend of mine owned a coffee shop on Hertel, and had bellydancers come in to perform. I really enjoyed watching the dancers. Then, a friend of mine started taking classes. I ended up going to her first performance and was taken with her grace, beauty, and power. So I took my first class. That was 16 years ago.”
As for Hayati, she began dancing around 2007 and has been concentrating on getting her certifications in different prop forms, including veils and candles… she’s a also Level 5 (our of 6) in sword dance, certified at Bohemian Belly Dance in Washington, DC (the teacher was certified from Bellyqueen School of Dance in NYC).
“I am known as The Queen of Props,” Hayati told me [laughing]. “I’m originally from Bulgaria and am practiced in indigenous dance. I got my formal training in the US. I’ve been dancing all of my life – ballet and national dances. Bellydancing encompasses such a fluid form, and I am able to incorporate my other dance training into this type of dance, including burlesque, modern, ballet, and Latin. I also incorporate some of my own sensibilities into my dance routines, such as the parasol. Like any art, my dance style is built upon the foundational blocks – learning the history, the current movements – having a broad world view allows for creating my own routines.”
Hayati (Hayati Dance) mentioned that she and Mandy (Zuut Bellydance) complement each other’s dance styles – Mandy is more tribal (stage), while Hayati is more fusion (participatory). Both Hayati and Mandy said that what they love so much about the dance form is its inclusiveness, no matter body shape, dance experience… even some men take the class. It is interesting to note that in Western culture, this is not viewed as a manly-man pastime, but that some of the best choreographers and dancers in the Middle East are men… so don’t be shy guys!
When it comes to bellydancing, there is no down side. Aside from being inclusive and ageless, there are mental, physical, and emotional benefits that come along with learning the routines, whether it’s a drop-in class or choreography session. There is also a social aspect to the dance, where group participation is a revered part of the dance.
In 2020, Mandy and Hayati plan on giving back to the community in charitable ways. They will be doing this by participating in events such as the Global Hafla for Humanity on Saturday, February 22 (see Facebook event) and Shimmy Mob 2020 (see Facebook event).
It’s a new year, and you might be looking to get in shape or learn something new. Maybe it’s time to meet new friends, expand your horizons, or all of the above. If that’s the case, then House of Hips is awaiting your arrival, friends.
House of Hips | 1863 Clinton St, Buffalo, NY 14206 – Side Door | (716) 218-9212
Now offering beginner classes, intermediate/advanced classes, choreography classes, and single day workshops