Fourty Years of History
In the late seventies, three of the local Middle Eastern Dance teachers decided to band together to promote belly dancing in North Alabama. Marles (Jan Barker), Julena (Judy Parker) and Rabasha created a group based on one in Michigan where Marles had been living before coming to Huntsville. The ladies decided the new groups name would be the Beledi Club. Their students were invited to attend the Beledi Club meetings at Marles’ studio on Governor’s Drive where the interstate is now. Rabasha dropped out, but her students came.
The Beledi Club held shows for the local talent to give them confidence and to improve their stage presence. Advanced and performing students were the original membership foundation. Marles had been and arts/dance major at school; Julena had years of organizational experience and her daughter was a theater major in college. With these three leaders, and a group of willing performers, we began holding our shows at the Playhouse (before it unionized). When we moved from there we acquired the lights, sound system, and the controls for each. Our shows became three act plays of dance.
The Beledi Club won a contract with the Army and traveled to other bases to perform. For years we had two big shows a year, in conjunction with a seminar. At one time we had as many as four seminars, two with a major talent and two with dancers from close by.
We then started having dinner shows. We built sets, made props, and dressed up our friends, family and beginning students to be ‘prop people’ – they carried the golden litter for the princess, stood guard around the court, and were ’street people’ in our plays. We choreographed to music we had never heard before, to fill 20 minutes of group numbers, duets, trios, and solos. Everybody we knew, many we worked with, neighbors and our children’s friends’ parents were in shows or attended them.
When Julena and Marles left town to follow their husbands’ careers, others started teaching in their place. This kept the club active and busy with a blend of ‘old’ and new members, who worked even harder going all over the country enabling the members to be better dancers and teachers. More than fourty years later, we are still the Beledi Club!