Christina King is more than a belly dancer. She lives and breathes all that it entails.
King grew up immersed in the Middle Eastern and North African cultures where it flourishes. And she has come to realize it's about much more than the performance. It's not "adult-oriented entertainment" -- it's for everyone.
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She espouses that philosophy from the Eastern Groove Studio she runs at 221 E. Chicago St. in downtown Elgin. She makes her own costumes, too, and likewise passes along that expertise to her students, who number about 50 and come from as far away as Chicago and Beloit, Wis.
Belly dancing, King says, is "accessible to any age, at any fitness level, from any walk of life, any culture ... There are really no exclusions."
A former music teacher in Chicago, King started teaching belly dancing at park districts throughout the suburbs. She opened the Elgin studio in 2008. But her love for the art dates back to when she lived as a child in Turkey while her father, an Air Force officer, was stationed there for three years. Returning home, she saw her first performance at age 12 at a renaissance faire.
But after 20 years of dancing, she's come to realize there's more to it than just learning the moves as well as "all the superficial things that go along with learning a new art and all the fun stuff like that. As I've grown as a dancer, I have come to really appreciate more what it does for me and others on the inside ... There's a deeper sense of what's going on. It's really become a part of me and it pervades everything in my life."
She'd also like to change some of the misconceptions about the dance.
"Sometimes there's a perception from members of the public that what we are doing is adult-orientated entertainment -- and it's not," King says.
"It really is celebrational, and it really is a beautiful thing, and it has grown into so many different corners of the world of dance and the world of our society, and it's really nice to see that broadening has brought us more acceptance."
Several types of belly dancing are taught at King's studio, and there's a performance troop as well. King teaches the Tribal Fusion classes, which she describes as "a more modernized, Westernized form of belly dance."
She also offers the traditional Egyptian belly dance, a drills and techniques class, and yoga for belly dance.
"It's wonderful to see all of that and the commingling of those people, and everyone bringing to the dance what they can and getting from the dance what they need."