Members of Pacifica Dance Troupe perform a fundraiser for the SPCA at the Port Theatre.

Members of Pacifica Dance Troupe perform a fundraiser for the SPCA at the Port Theatre.

Cause to dance

Pacifica Dance Troupe performs at the Port Theatre to help raise money for the Nanaimo SPCA

Stories of animals in distress spurred a group of dancers in Nanaimo to help.

Reziah Khan remembers one of her fellow dancers in Pacifica Dance Troupe, a bellydance group, would come to rehearsal with stories of animal neglect and abuse.

She worked as a veterinary technician and would share stories about treating animals or having to euthanize the ones too sick to survive.

“We were horrified,” Khan said. “She would come time after time with these stories.”

They decided to help and organized the first Belly for the Beast, a bellydance performance to raise money for the SPCA, at Cedar Hall in 2004. It sold out that year, as well as the next.

The performance is an annual fundraiser – save for last year – and returns Oct. 1 at the Port Theatre. Since inception, the event has raised more than $12,00 for the SPCA.

Pacifica will be joined by Nath Keo and his Sacred Dance Company from Victoria, which incorporates traditional Cambodian dance into their performances.

“We’ve asked him to do a Cambodian-fusion piece,” Khan said.

Blue Lotus dance company from the Comox Valley will also perform, plus a Middle Eastern-style drum group from Errington. Local bellydance teachers will also perform as guest dancers.

“There’s a lot of variety of Middle Eastern dance,” Khan said.

The dancers will also be joined by musicians performing the dancers’ music.

“Every performer in the show is volunteering their time,” Khan said.

Four women make up the Pacifica Dance Troupe with varying levels of experience. Khan began bellydancing more than 15 years ago after a friend surprised her with a dance on her birthday.

The bellydancer wore a glamorous costume and made a show of presenting Khan’s birthday cake. She remembers the dance as graceful, sensual and elegant.

Khan, who taught hip hop classes, took bellydance lessons and found them challenging. She would often try the moves at home where she felt comfortable before returning to class.

“You start to loosen up and feel much more comfortable,” Khan said. “You let part of that self-consciousness go.”

It’s the music and the dancer’s connection to it that kept her going back. The music becomes almost meditative as it does in yoga classes.

“It’s almost like an awakening,” she said. “The music fills you.”

Pacifica Dance Troupe performs at Belly for the Beast Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $25; $15/students.

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