Local belly dancing troupe’s personality shines through performances

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Members of Indigeaux practice weekly at the Lotus in the Pines yoga studio. On front row from left are rhythm drummer Richard Rodgers, Nicole Plunkett, Scotti Rodgers, Cheryl Gianforte and Jessie Parr. On back row are Cyndi Coates, Jamie Anding, Laurie Richard and Glory Deaton.

By Hannah Richardson, lifestyleeditor@natchitochestimes.com

If you have been out and about lately, you’ve most likely seen them before. Donning their vibrant and coordinately mismatched attire and moving with the clattering of their flashy bracelets and necklaces, local belly dancing troupe Indigeaux has performed on several occasions in Natchitoches.

From the Farmers Markets to the Mardi Gras parade to the Natchitoches Parish Library and the Council on Aging, they bring their Tribal Fusion belly dancing style to captivate their audiences. This style of belly dance dates back to the ancient times of Cleopatra and classical Indian, Oriental and Flamenco dance styles. Tribal Fusion was brought to the United States mid-20th century and continues to grow. American Tribal Style (ATS) developed a distinct style of costuming full skirts, pants, cropped tops, ethnic jewelry and more. The Natchitoches troupe, Indigeaux, along with their group for beginners, Begindigeaux, has developed a style that combines styles such as tribal, combo-based, improvisational and, as they describe it, just plain funky!

“In our Tribal Fusion style, we dance as a group typically and the ‘fusion’ means we incorporate many different styles,” said Scotti Rodgers, Begindigeaux Troupe leader. “We bring together American-style and improvisational belly dancing. The neat thing about Tribal Fusion is that you can dance traditional Egyptian music or really modern music. You can dance to just about anything.”

Cheryl Gianforte, Indigeaux Troupe leader, has been dancing since 2009 and Rodgers joined her in 2011. “It had always been on my bucket list to belly dance,” said Gianforte. “I saw a group in Shreveport perform at the Boardwalk and I got their card and started joining a class.” She participated in the class every Tuesday for six years, Rodgers for two-and-a-half years. “You either love it or you don’t, but if you do, you go wherever you can to express it.”

After taking the class in Shreveport and dancing at Bayou Belly, a belly dance festival in Lafayette, for a number of years, Indigeaux was formed in 2013. Gianforte has taught classes on and off at the Natchitoches Parish Library and Northwestern State University but after becoming busy with work, Rodgers took on teaching classes and decided to continue. These students shaped the beginner’s class. The two combine in performances and practice every Wednesday at Rodgers’ yoga studio, Lotus in the Pines, that she runs with her husband Richard.

I sat in on a class recently and spoke with troupe members to learn why they decided to join.

Friends Nicole Plunkett and Glory Deaton, two of the troupe’s newest members, joined after Deaton heard about the troupe through a co-worker and was inspired after getting their belly buttons pierced. Plunkett said she worked out four times a week, but belly dancing has become a very fun workout and she has met many during her time with the troupe. Deaton said she likes how unexpectedly non-traditional it turned out to be and how much fun it has become. “I love the gypsy feel of it, such as the skirts and headpieces,” she said. “At one of the events on Front Street, some little girls came up to me and said I looked like a princess. That was really awesome.”

Cyndi Coats, who works with Deaton and introduced her to the group, said belly dancing is a great form of feminine expression. “Before I joined, I would learn dancing from videos, but with a group, it’s really exhilarating,” she said.

Jessie Parr starting dancing with instructors since a class was hosted via the NSU Continuing Education courses. “I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, but now dancing puts me in such a good mood. It’s really wonderful,” she said.

Laurie Richard said her husband was actually the one that signed her up to learn belly dancing. She said dancing turned out to be an empowering experience that she believes is for everyone. “It’s a sisterhood,” she said. “I love how accepting this is and it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone. We all have different personalities and it shows in our dancing styles and the outfits we choose to wear. I like how the instructors will meet you at your level.” Jamie Anding said she signed up at random with Richard. “I’ve always wanted to try, but it never fit into my schedule before classes started at the library,” she said. “It’s so fun to dance at places like the Farmers Market and at the Council on Aging and have the crowd cheering you on.” She said a sweet moment to come out of dancing was when the troupe performed at the Council on Aging and an older woman told her how beautiful she looked. “We’re all from different backgrounds but we have such a good time together.”

Rodgers said the troupe is looking forward to their next performance, a Halloween-themed performance called the Witches Dance on Front Street Oct. 27, which is quickly becoming a yearly favorite to many members.

She said the troupe will be back doing classes at the library every Wednesday starting Sept. 5. “All of us, even our new members, will be working together to teach visitors our style of Tribal Fusion belly dancing,” Rodgers said.