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After undergoing a series of intensive surgeries to strengthen her abdominal wall that had been compromised during childbirth, Cecilia Rinn began belly dancing. “I was hoping it would help me heal,” she said.

And it did. But at first, Rinn was embarrassed to dance what is more properly known as “Raks Sharki” (pronounced rock sharky) because the surgeries had also left her with a star-shaped scar around her belly button. Soon, however, she came to see it as a badge of honor. She even named the dance school she and her husband Chad Rinn started 12 years ago after it — the Starbelly School of Dance. Students feel empowered by her star, Rinn said.

“It’s an inspiration to other women. It gives them permission to celebrate their bodies regardless of any scars or stretchmarks they may have.”

And as much as she loves to teach dancing, Rinn also tries “to teach positive body imaging and to celebrate the body you’re in.” Dancing, she said, “is not just for the young, the able bodied … it’s for all of us.”

To that end, Rinn and a few of her dancing instructor friends are presenting the Starbelly Arabic Folkloric Dance Celebration, a free family dance event, from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21 at Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park.

“One of my favorite things about Arabic Folkloric Dance is that everyone can participate, no matter your age or ability,” she said. And, “after such a long period of isolation (due to the pandemic), I wanted to create an event to learn, to dance, and to celebrate together.”

Recreating the movements of folkloric dances within our bodies is the truest and most engaging way to “walk in the footsteps of other cultures,” Rinn said.

They will be teaching four Middle Eastern dance styles at the event: Saidi, Khaleeji, Debke (a line dance), and Shaabi (popular club dancing of Cairo).

Rinn has another reason for putting on the free dance day. She hopes that when people come to the event, which is supported in part by a grant from the Boise City Department of Arts and History, it will help reduce people’s fear of Arabic people and their culture “and further bind our community together,” she said.

“The politics are not the people. In our hearts we all are connected; that’s what connects all of us — our hearts.”

Jeanne Huff is the community engagement editor for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at 208-465-8106 and follow her on Twitter @goodnewsgirl.

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