Langley talent show nixes bellydance audition

Nicole Whitney was waiting to find out her audition time for Langley Has Talent 2014.

The local bellydancer had filled out her application and been accepted. She said the orgnizers had asked for and were satisfied with her explanation about her double sword dance. They are decorative (not sharpened) and balanced on her during the dance.

“This is something I’m proud of,” she said of her dancing.

Instead of an audition time, 51-year-old mother received an email saying she could not be part of the amateur talent contest hosted by the Rotary Club.

“All the other dancers can come, just not me,” she commented.

Whitney said her style of bellydance reveals little and noted that other forms of dance, such as modern dance, have much skimpier costumes.

“Where are they going to draw the line?” she wondered.

Rotary has use of the Christian Life Assembly church which said it would not allow bellydancing.

“I guess my act isn’t good enough for God,” Whitney said of her disappointing news. “They assume I’m doing something seedy.”

Langley Has Talent, now in its fourth year, is a vehicle to raise funds to construct a performing arts venue in Langley.

“The fact is the church gets to make the final call and the perception is that belly dancing would be questionable among their membership because it shows more skin than they are OK with,” organizer Lisa Luongo-Smoth wrote in her email to Whitney. “We have to respect the rules of the church as we are guests there.”

Peter Luongo is chairman of the show’s committee and said the 1,500-seat Christian Life Assembly church is the only facility in Langley big enough to host the contest.

“The church has stipulations on what can go on inside (the building),” he said of the rental deal. ”We have been asked by the church to please honour this sanctuary. I’m in a position where I want to make sure we don’t offend our hosts… We are not trying to censor anyone, it is honouring our hosts’ wishes.”

The rental of the Christian Life Assembly will cost $2,000 to $3,000, said Luongo.

Both an administrator with the Christian Life Assembly and pastor Brent Cantelon didn’t respond to repeated Province calls for an interview.

Whitney said she was shocked about the assumptions made about this ancient form of dance and said people need to be educated about the true nature and history of bellydance. It celebrates and honours womanhood and dance, she said.

“It’s the most family friendly thing I’ve probably been involved in,” Whitney said.

She admits she knew little about it when she started about eight years ago.

“I started with my daughter on a dare,” she noted.

They signed up at a recreation centre. Whitney said in addition to helping her lose weight, it’s improved her health and fitness. The troupe she dances with performs at events such as Canada Day, charity fundraisers, and the occasional wedding. She teaches informally and has students ranging from children to seniors.

“It’s literally all ages and backgrounds,” she said.

– With files from the Vancouver Province

For more Vancouver Province stories, click HERE.

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