Belly dancers make mark in State College
Shannon Bishop and the Black Cat Belly Dancers have been making their mark in State College since 2008. She and her troop, Pepper Lotus Tribal, have become the regular house dancers at Kaarma Indian Restaurant, while also performing around Pennsylvania and other states.
Bishop was introduced to belly dance about 10 years ago by a friend and immediately fell in love. “Everybody that comes to belly dance is from a different walk of life, you know, everybody’s so different and that was really appealing,” Bishop said.
Contrary to popular belief, belly dance is a celebration dance performed not only by women, but also by men and children. “I always say if it’s not family friendly, then it’s not belly dance,” Bishop said.
Soon after Bishop began learning the dance, Middle Eastern dance instructor, Fikriyyah, invited her to teach regular classes in 2006. She then began studying the modern American Improvisational Tribal Style of belly dance and attending workshops with famous performers of the style including Paulette Rees-Denis and Carolena Nericcio before creating her own professional dance troupe, Pepper Lotus Tribal.
Although, belly dancing comes from many countries, Bishop said, her favorite is the Egyptian style, which she says has had a strong influence on belly dancing.
“In a lot of ways Egypt is kind of the mother country,” she said. Bishop plans to train in Egypt next year.
The Black Cat Belly Dancers have performed in front of thousands of people at events such as the People’s Choice Festival in Boalsburg and Rakkasah East Middle Eastern Dance Festival in Somerset, N.J.
“They have a tent and there are hundreds of people,” Bishop said. ‘They always pack in for those.”
Bishop and the Black Cat Belly dancers also donate their skills to charity, performing at events such as “An Evening of Middle Eastern Food and Dance” on November 30 at Webster’s Book Store and Café. The event raised money for Centre County Paws, a local animal shelter. The troupe, accompanied by the Penn State Belly Dance Club, as well as other professionals, performed belly dance styles from Turkey, Egypt, and the United States, and raised over $1,300 for Centre County Paws.
Over the last 10 years, Bishop has become known for her elegance, passion, and professionalism, gaining her more performance opportunities at private parties, weddings, and bridal showers. She teaches six dance classes a week while working full time as a ticket manager in the Center for Performing Arts Downtown Theatre, but even though she’s busy, she wouldn’t change a thing.
Misconceptions of Belly Dancing
Shannon Bishop discusses the misconceptions of belly dancing. She has performed with Setna, a male belly dancer from Lewisburg, PA. Belly dancing is a celebratory dance where men, women, and children perform it. It is a family friendly dance for everyone to enjoy.