Aphrodites to swing their hips at carnival

The Aphrodite Belly Dance Studio practising in Birkenhead Street, Strandfontein.

Bayview residents in Birkenhead Street were lured to their front gates as the Aphrodite Belly Dance Studio rehearsed for their 10th appearance in the Cape Town Carnival, which will take place on Saturday March 16.

The belly dancers have been performing in the carnival in Green Point since 2010.

They have been preparing for their latest performance for several weeks.

The founder and director of Aphrodite, Stephanie Singh, from Strandfontein, studied belly dancing in Istanbul in 2005.

She started her dance studio in her own home when she came back to South Africa. The word spread after women from the Muslim community in Bo-Kaap contacted her to teach them belly dancing. The school grew from there and Ms Singh, 48, empowered herself by attending workshops.

Ms Singh won the Miss Belly Dance South Africa in the drum solo category in 2012 and placed third in 2015. The Aphrodites were the first belly dancers to take part in the Cape Town Carnival in 2010.

“Every year it’s a new team. It’s amazing to work with them,” said Ms Singh.

Sema Yildiz was Ms Singh’s international teacher and role model in Istanbul. She is the one who inspired her dancing. Ms Singh is also the coordinator for the Mundial Producciones Internationales Danza also known as the CIAD in South Africa, an event hosting all dance genres.

The belly dance studio’s second in command, Valerie Jacobie, 59, from Bayview, has been with Aphrodite for eight years.

“I never expected to be part of something like this, it is such a high when we’re on stage. Some of us are just ordinary housewives who are part of the dance school. There is so much excitement on stage. We are like a family.”

This will be the first time on stage for a few of their members, said Ms Jacobie.

Maria February, 19, from Ottery, will be one of them.

“I have new respect for belly dancers, it takes commitment. There are no counts in the beat, you need to feel this dance. One does not realise that it takes a lot to be a part of something like this. I am excited and nervous about the performance.”

Lezel Albertus, 39, from Strandfontein, saw members of the studio for the first time at the carnival last year and decided to join them.

“I am very excited, this is an amazing opportunity and wonderful experience. This is a wonderful place to be, it’s like a family here. This dance is not only for thin people.”

The neighbours of Birkenhead Street are aware of Aphrodite’s rehearsals every week. The Aphrodites have informally renamed the street Carnival Street, as they prepare for their carnival performance, said Ms Jacobie.

A neighbour in Birkenhead Street, Sharon Williams, 46, said she is never bothered by their rehearsals. “It is refreshing to see them practice in this street. We are aware that they do not have a space like this, so we are fine with it. This street is compatible as the other streets are filled with many cars coming and going,” said Ms Williams.

“I saw a man who was part of rehearsals. I can see it is not only for females. Their group is growing.”

The Aphrodite Belly Dance Studio will be performing at the Cape Town Carnival on Saturday March 16. For more information, contact Ms Singh at 072 317 6139.