Minnesota Belly Dance History

Troupe Banat Beledi

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Banat Beledi, or ‘Country Women’, was an outgrowth of a group of ad hoc Minnesota Renaissance Festival bellydancers called The Habibi Dancers. Banat Beledi’s artistic director/founder was Anne Farrington (Amira). Amira had been developing choreography for local dance students, and had performed with the Habibi Dancers, when she proposed the idea of a more permanent bellydance troupe. 

Banat Beledi’s style was primarily a combination of Egyptian raks sharqi and Egyptian folkloric (raks shaabi) styles, and also included Saidi and American styles. The troupe performed primarily to pre-recorded music and choreography which was either developed by Amira or taught to the group by Amira from choreographies she learned at different bellydance workshops she attended.  Improvisation was not a primary component of Banat Beledi’s performances, but the choreographies could change over time.

Fifteen years is a long time for a dance troupe to be consistently performing, and over that time frame Banat Beledi had many different dancers: Fran Anderson, Lisa Bah (Inaki), Terry Brennan, Anne Farrington (Amira), Jan Geisen (Jana), Jocelyn Gorham, Kay Marszalek, Corinne Olson, Wendy Peterfeso (Majidah), Kathleen Shovelain, Barb Tate-Lunde (BaBaRa), Mary Turgeon, and Helen Volker (Elena), There were usually between 3 and 4 people in the troupe at any one time.

Some of the dancers had successful solo careers in addition to their performing with Banat Beledi. Amira and Jana danced at Giliana Jema restaurant, which was located on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. Other company members performed for local fundraising events and ethic festivals.

Many thanks to Anne Farrington for providing the information in this article.