Heather grew up in O'Neill, but as a young child, her world became 'deliciously' broadened by her travels with her father who delivered bulk health foods to communes and restaurants throughout the United States and Mexico. It was at these locations that she first became aware of the beauty and mystery of the dance she refers to as "an expression of your soul"..."a universal language". She explains that one can be anywhere in the world, and communicate through this dance despite the language barriers.
When I first met Heather, I could sense that this was a woman who was unique and interesting. She has her own sense of style which is reflected in her dress, jewelry, and presence. The home she shares with her husband and two children, is decorated in warm, spicy colors with exotic elements that convey a Middle Eastern atmosphere --- imagine a mysterious Moroccan setting with luxurious fabrics and strange sights and fragrances, and Heather would very comfortably be in her element!
Her dancing skills are a combination of self-taught, and what she has gleaned and learned from other dancers in her travels. She has also studied under the Zafira Dance Company based in Pittsburgh, PA, that has traveled in India and lived and studied with the Gypsies, and Fat Chance Belly Dance from San Fransisco, CA, who are known for their American Tribal style of dance. The different styles of dancing --- more commonly referred to as 'Belly Dance', are: Egyptian, Turkish, Arabian, and World Fusion which is Tribal mixed with Tango and other dance styles.
An equally important element of this mode of dance, are the beautiful fabrics and beaded and shiny adornments that are worn and displayed by the performer. Heather created a hand-embroidered belt and a hand-beaded costume top as part of her striking outfit.
Dancing is part of who and what Heather is...she calls it her "oasis in the middle of the dessert". She states, "I'm the type of person who decides to make the best of wherever I am living...I bring my love of culture wherever I go." She emphasizes that this style of dance helps women build confidence, self-esteem, and is a great toning exercise. She herself has performed for wedding celebrations, and at various conferences and ethnic festivals in Kansas, and Lincoln, NE. She has been teaching for six years, and currently instructs a class (which includes balancing an actual curved sword on her head) here in O'Neill two nights a week.
After observing a class performance, I was impressed by Heather's skill and the gracefulness and sense of intrigue this dance conveys. I admire Heather for her dedication in learning and practicing, and sharing her art --- we are fortunate to have her in our community.
Photo credits: Full costume shots by Heather Jergensmeier.