17 September

Two Worlds Come Together In A Beautiful Way. Maria’s Belly Dancing Group Comes To The Mansion

by Jon Katz

I had the touching and beautiful experience of seeing two worlds important to Maria (and me) together in the loveliest and most meaningful way today at the Mansion Assisted Care Facility.

Maria is a member of the Bennington Beledi Dancers, a belly dancing group composed of devoted friends who have danced together for years.

This dancing has been informative for Maria; she and the other dancers support one another in essential ways. Julz Irons, her teacher, has patiently and lovingly taught Maria – who thought she could never dance – to dance beautifully and grow steadily.

I’m posting two videos I took at the Mansion today; the first one is 17 minutes long and can be seen through this YouTube link. Because belly dancing is blocked in some countries, I can’t post it directly on my blog, but you can see it here.

You can see the second video – seven minutes long – by clicking here.

Maria asked the group if they would perform at the Mansion, and Maria and four of the dancers agreed and came to the Mansion today. I volunteered to take videos of the dancing. It was beautiful, uplifting, and inspiring.

During the pandemic, the dancing group struggled to get new members for a few years; new dancers are showing up and seeking to learn this beautiful and ancient art, the first known dancers ever done by women.

I’ve never seen the residents love anything as much as they loved the dancing today, and Maria was nearly in tears at the idea of bringing these two worlds in her life together.

She loves teaching art at the Mansion, and they love her. Bringing these worlds together meant a great deal to her.

I could stand up for 45 minutes to take the video, which was encouraging. I had to crash this afternoon to make up for it.

Julz, a chef, businesswoman, blogger, and belly dancer for 20 years, talked about belly dancing and showed the residents how to make some moves. They ate it up. Irons’ love of the dance is powerful and infectious.

Seeing this coming together was a gift; the residents were beside themselves with admiration, appreciation, and fun.

Belly Dancing has opened my eyes – and hers – to Maria’s inner strength and devotion, an affirmation dance for women, not men, and the power of a great teacher to change a life. I’ve been told that many women tried to join the group but were discouraged by their husbands, boyfriends, and fathers.

That is changing. The Belidi dancing dancers are strong and proud.

In dancing, Maria learned who she was, not who she was told, and taught who she was. She has grown steadily from there.

I hope you enjoy the videos as much as I enjoyed taking them and seeing this connection. When I woke up from my rest, Maria and I sat and watched them twice. We might do it again tonight. I could watch them a hundred times. Maybe I will.

I’m grateful to know these remarkable women, who are true friends and supporters of one another. They touched something deep in the Mansion residents; I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

See the first video here.

See the second video here.




  1. wonderful! So happy to see them dancing for such an appreciative audience….something new for the Mansion and probably for the dancers as well! Just awesome and well done on all parts. This made my day!
    Susan M

  2. This was just beautiful and Maria has come so far not just in her dance maneuvers but in the joy and confidence she portrays. Viva!

  3. I’ve never watched belly dancing before, other than a sexualized version in movies. I found this mesmerizing. I would have never guessed that Maria was new to this art form.

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