14 November 1998 Harbour City Star, Nanaimo By Goody Niosi
The Spice Girls may have Girl Power, but Nanaimo’s own Earthfire has Woman Power; a force that’s gathering enthusiastic fans wherever they perform.
Earthfire is a troupe of women who dance together with joy, energy and exuberance. And although they perform folk dances from all parts of Europe, they’re probably best known for their Turkish gypsy dances, popularly called belly dancing.
The dancers are Lynette Harper, Faith LaFave, Serap, Sahira and Taissia Sinclair. When they aren’t dancing they are students, a researcher, a computer nerd, a counselor and a teacher. Their backgrounds are Russian, Turkish, European and Middle Eastern. They share a passion for the dance.
Lynette Harper describes gypsy dancing as a wonderful, exuberant, free, dynamic dance style.
Harper has been teaching this energetic dance form for 20 years when the troupe came together.
“These people all either came to my class or were performing themselves. Every one of them has a dance background and most of them have already been professional dancers. So we’re just putting our energies together.”
Earthfire’s first performance as a troupe took place Nov.6 at the Wild Roots Café to a sold out house. To say they were greeted with enthusiasm would be an understatement. In the words of one spectator, “the audience whooped and hollered and stomped and whistled their approval.”
“We generate the energy among ourselves,” Harper says. “And then it comes back from the audience. So people come and say, ‘I’ve never got so much entertainment for $5 in my life.’ And women will say, ‘You know, we’re so serious about our bodies in North America, whereas you’re just celebrating and having fun.”
Woman Power – Earthfire revels in it. Their bodies would never make it to the cover of Vogue magazine – and they wouldn’t want them to. These are women’s bodies with delicious curves, rounded softness and grace.
Faith LaFave calls it being comfortable and grounded in their bodies. “Women in our society today are taught to feel either guilty about their bodies or to beat themselves into the media’s image of what a woman should be to be beautiful. I think what this troupe has given us is an ability to accept and love our bodies as they are.”
The Earthfire women use their bodies in their art. Women’s bodies shake – it’s how they’re made, LaFave says. “And more than anything else the comments we get when we’re performing are, “Wow – you have so much feminine power’.”
The message behind Woman Power is that it’s OK to be a woman and to be sensuous. You don’t have to be thin to be beautiful. You can be rounded and womanly.
For Serap, dancing with Earthfire is a chance to celebrate, to play and to be creative with other women.
The Earthfire women range in age from 21 to 44. Dance is ageless, Lynette Harper says. A troupe of woman dancers from Denman Island range in age from eight to 78 years.
A woman recently approached Harper and asked her to teach her four-year-old daughter. No one is too young or too old to dance and play, Harper says.
The popularity of gypsy dancing is catching on like wildfire and Earthfire stands out among the troupes on the West Coast. The women have performed in Seattle, Vancouver, Courtenay, Tofino, Victoria and Quadra Island. And although all of them have different life goals, they all want to tour and perform in Europe and the Middle East.
“We’re constantly creating new dances and challenging ourselves,” Harper says. “There are people in Vancouver who are urging us to tour. Other professional dancers who have been to the Middle East all have very, very positive things to say about our troupe. I think it’s because we are bringing a lot of different dance experience to this.”
What makes Earthfire unique is that they are exploring this as an art, not just as a dance, Harper says.
For Earthfire the dance is World Music – and a joyful, abandoned expression of Woman Power.