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Belly dancers shake it for Adelphi

Rayhana, a New York City-based belly dancer, performs

Rayhana, a New York City-based belly dancer, performs at a benefit for the Adelphi University NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program in Garden City. (Feb. 27, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

After having knee surgery about seven years ago, Susan Hones’ doctor recommended she take yoga classes to aid her recovery.

She took a few but wasn’t thrilled with the activity or the results. Then her sister-in-law saw a flier for belly dancing lessons. Hones started taking classes at an adult education center and has been dancing ever since.

“People think it’s just dancing, it’s easy,” the Bay Shore woman said. “But you really have to work at it.”

On Sunday, Hones was speaking as a fan and not a dancer. As the Bay Shore woman clapped and cheered at dancers swinging their hips and waving their arms on stage, she was supporting the belly dance community, but also a cause.

Hones was one of about 250 people who turned out for a benefit belly dance performance to support the Adelphi University NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program.

The program, which is run out of the university but offers free services to women from around New York State, recently lost about $300,000 in state funding and is working to close its budget gap, said Jo Marie Cook, special projects coordinator for the program.

Cook said Sunday’s event was the perfect fundraiser, because over the last two years, the program has offered introductory belly dance lessons to women in remission.

She said belly dancing has proven to be the perfect activity for women who want to be active but have to limit their physical activity because of illness or injury.

“The women, first of all, have a great time,” she said. “But they also feel more confident and they feel great about themselves and their bodies.”

The fundraiser came at the hands of Aviva Khadra, owner of Harem Belly Dance Studio in Baldwin, who volunteers her time to teach the classes at the breast cancer center.

Khadra said she jumped to action as soon as she heard about the program’s funding cut. She called on members of her studio and friends in the belly dancing world to perform for the benefit.

Khadra said she expected to raise about $2,000 for the breast cancer program.

Hones said she attended the event because her sister-in-law is a breast cancer survivor, so the cause is close to her heart, but also to support the belly dancing community. She said she was especially inspired by all the older women who performed.

“That will be me,” she said. “I hope I’m still dancing at 80.”

Rayhana, a New York City-based belly dancer, performs at a benefit for the Adelphi University NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program in Garden City. (Feb. 27, 2011)

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