The College of Siskiyous offers oriental dance lessons on Zoom
A woman from Lake Shastina brings her contemporary style of oriental dance to students as far as Boston.
Classes started this week on Zoom for Robyn Vandiver, a dance teacher at the College of the Siskiyous (COS).
Vandiver’s program merges traditional belly dance moves with modern rock and world music.
“The movements themselves go back to the Middle East and Africa (dance traditions),” Vandiver said. They are from Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Lebanon.
Although her music is modern, the rhythms are the same as found in Middle Eastern music, she said.
Vandiver has been teaching oriental dance at COS since 2007, she said.
When classes switched to an online platform after the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown that followed, she began to see students from as far away as the east coast attending her classes.
Vandiver records each class session so that students who miss a class can catch up, she said.
Transferring her lessons to Zoom is the last challenge of her 24 years of belly dancing in Siskiyou County.
Vandiver fell in love with oriental dance in the 1980s. “I saw a troupe of dancers at a Renaissance fair,” she said. “It captivated me.”
But it took another decade before she started dancing.
Originally from Sacramento, she moved to Siskiyou County in 1996 to teach English at Yreka High School.
It was in Yreka that she met oriental dance teacher Chris Dahl and signed up for classes. “It was myself and four or five other women dancing (together),” she said.
The class gathered at Nature’s Kitchen boutique restaurant in Yreka. They moved the chairs away and danced, then put them back after class was over.
“We didn’t play except for each other until we had a fundraiser for Hospice at Yreka Elks Lodge in 2000,” said Vandiver. “It was really telling to a lot of people (in the audience). They were delighted with the joy of the dancers and the color of our costumes.
Requests to perform at private parties and weddings started to arrive. Reservations followed for public events, including the Siskiyou Golden Fair and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Dahl moved her troupe to a studio around 2002, where she taught until her retirement in 2006, Vandiver said. Vandiver and other longtime members of the troop continued to teach and share workouts.
Vandiver also offered free after-school belly dancing lessons to her high school students before retiring from teaching English in 2020, she said. She and her students played to raise funds for animal rescue, fire relief and breast cancer research.
Now her troupe, called Pyrate Technics, includes both fire dancers and belly dancers. The core members include 10 dancers and five security technicians.
“I still take classes every week and intend to be a long-time movement arts student,” she said.
It also offers private lessons.
Vandiver’s class at COS meets Thursday afternoons until May 27. It is open to all ages, genders and skill levels. Call 530-859-3405 or visit the website at www.siskiyous.edu.
Jessica Skropanic is a trade journalist for Record Searchlight / USA Today Network. It covers science, the arts, social issues, and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get out! Nor Cal Facebook recreation group. To support and perpetuate this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.