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Dance like everybody's watching

"Once we face an audience, I become this other, sexier, younger, woman."

Belle, Todd, and Lys. Belle isn't afraid to show a bit of leg
Belle, Todd, and Lys. Belle isn't afraid to show a bit of leg

Another lunchtime, another sandwich and coffee in the park. Horton Plaza, where the sunken space is now strewn with Parisian-style park tables and chairs. It feels oddly underemployed, even though lots of folks are out here snacking, scrolling their iPhones, or writing a paper on their laptops.

Suddenly, these people get up and start dancing

But then music pipes up. “Volare!” and one man in black and four ladies in Moulin Rouge-style multi-colored dresses and bright headgear step out in sensible shoes and just start dancing their feet off. Not highly technical ballet, but easy swing stuff that you’d actually like to try yourself.

For a moment, you wonder if it’s one of those secret pop-up dance happenings that became the craze in railroad stations worldwide. But now the ladies are actually encouraging people to leave their laptops and join, with lots of yelps straight out of the Folies Bergère.

Belle Martin

“Of course!” says Belle Martin, obviously the principal dancer, when I sidle up to see if anyone can join in. “That’s the whole idea. And anyone can join our troupe. Don’t need experience. I’ll teach them.”

I have to watch it, or one of her arm swings could lay me right out.

She hands me a large card. “Flavor Co. Cultural Dance Fusion.” La Mesa. They do everything from private events to theater shows. Even après race celebrations at Del Mar.

Meanwhile, Belle’s pulling up her skirt in mock flirtation to the suits in the seats who are definitely all watching, and tapping their toes, or at least their fingers along their laptops. And yes, one part of me, too, longs to throw my legs and arms and butt around as they are, in full abandon. A couple of the dancers aren’t spring chickens either.

Getting airborne

“Belle gave me back my life,” says Rosa Burger, the one dancing nearest the upside-down skyscrapers painted on the western wall. “They call me Señora Hamburguesa. I’m a retired pharmacy tech. Worked inside, no view, all those years. With Belle, we’re outside, we’re dancing, in front of different live audiences, doing styles from everywhere, and I have learned that you can try something new and daring at my age, and show off your body. I am naturally so shy but once we face an audience, I become this other, sexier, younger, woman. My two sons love it. And we inspire other people. We go to weddings, festivals, rest homes. One place we go to in Rancho San Diego, La Vida Royale, we have a 100-year-old woman who dances from her chair with us. I think we keep her going.”

Then suddenly it’s one o’clock, and Belle’s packing up. Horton Plaza drops its fairy dust and returns to its role as a strangely empty heart of this town. But they’ll be back in a month.

I’ve got one question: can men join?

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Belle, Todd, and Lys. Belle isn't afraid to show a bit of leg
Belle, Todd, and Lys. Belle isn't afraid to show a bit of leg

Another lunchtime, another sandwich and coffee in the park. Horton Plaza, where the sunken space is now strewn with Parisian-style park tables and chairs. It feels oddly underemployed, even though lots of folks are out here snacking, scrolling their iPhones, or writing a paper on their laptops.

Suddenly, these people get up and start dancing

But then music pipes up. “Volare!” and one man in black and four ladies in Moulin Rouge-style multi-colored dresses and bright headgear step out in sensible shoes and just start dancing their feet off. Not highly technical ballet, but easy swing stuff that you’d actually like to try yourself.

For a moment, you wonder if it’s one of those secret pop-up dance happenings that became the craze in railroad stations worldwide. But now the ladies are actually encouraging people to leave their laptops and join, with lots of yelps straight out of the Folies Bergère.

Belle Martin

“Of course!” says Belle Martin, obviously the principal dancer, when I sidle up to see if anyone can join in. “That’s the whole idea. And anyone can join our troupe. Don’t need experience. I’ll teach them.”

I have to watch it, or one of her arm swings could lay me right out.

She hands me a large card. “Flavor Co. Cultural Dance Fusion.” La Mesa. They do everything from private events to theater shows. Even après race celebrations at Del Mar.

Meanwhile, Belle’s pulling up her skirt in mock flirtation to the suits in the seats who are definitely all watching, and tapping their toes, or at least their fingers along their laptops. And yes, one part of me, too, longs to throw my legs and arms and butt around as they are, in full abandon. A couple of the dancers aren’t spring chickens either.

Getting airborne

“Belle gave me back my life,” says Rosa Burger, the one dancing nearest the upside-down skyscrapers painted on the western wall. “They call me Señora Hamburguesa. I’m a retired pharmacy tech. Worked inside, no view, all those years. With Belle, we’re outside, we’re dancing, in front of different live audiences, doing styles from everywhere, and I have learned that you can try something new and daring at my age, and show off your body. I am naturally so shy but once we face an audience, I become this other, sexier, younger, woman. My two sons love it. And we inspire other people. We go to weddings, festivals, rest homes. One place we go to in Rancho San Diego, La Vida Royale, we have a 100-year-old woman who dances from her chair with us. I think we keep her going.”

Then suddenly it’s one o’clock, and Belle’s packing up. Horton Plaza drops its fairy dust and returns to its role as a strangely empty heart of this town. But they’ll be back in a month.

I’ve got one question: can men join?

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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