This week the Herald speaks to Amanda Burke, of The Lovely Dozen, a dance studio located in downtown Grand Forks at 2 N. Third St. The enterprise can be found online at www.lovelybellydance.com.

Q: What’s the meaning of the name?

A: Our name, The Lovely Dozen, is a nod to our roots. We started dancing as a group of dedicated students at the 12 Houses, a metaphysical store that was located in Grand Forks. In fact, for a while, we simply went by “12 Houses Belly Dance” before forming officially in 2012. The name of the store itself was a reference to the 12 houses of the zodiac in astrology.

Q: What are all the different things you teach?

A: Primarily, we are a dance studio, but we do a lot more than that. We have two ongoing weekly bellydance classes, each exploring different styles. We also offer a curated selection of goodies, including candles, stones and handcrafted incense. And, in that somewhat-mystical realm, we also have tarot readings and Reiki sessions (energetic healing) available by appointment. Some of our favorite events are centered on community and discussion, like our crafting meet-ups, speed-readings and book club.

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Q: Who are your customers and why do they attend?

A: Most of our students are women in their 20s and 30s, but, Middle Eastern dance is for all bodies and all identities. I think the common thread between our dance students and our other clients is the desire to understand themselves in a deeper, empowering and creative way. We are all on a big, unpredictable journey in life, and sometimes you need a little support in order to keep moving forward.

Q: Tell us about yourselves and how did you start with this?

A: I (Amanda) began exploring Middle Eastern Dance in 2008 looking for a creative outlet that was physically and spiritually satisfying. I started on my own, with online videos and instructional DVDs at home, but soon found a local class to attend and I dived right in. I am also our in-house tarot reader – the cards came into my life when I was still in middle school. My first deck was handed down from my mother, and I have continued to study and collect ever since.

My dance partner, Kelly Ferguson, came across bellydance when one of our troupe mates was teaching at the YMCA. In her exact words: “I never felt like I could dance but I gave it a shot and fell in love with it because of how inclusive it is for all body types and abilities. I learned how to love and appreciate my body more through dance. I also love how bellydance is a style that fosters community instead of competition.”

We started dancing together frequently for performances and events after being tossed together for duet exercises at a series of workshops. The style of dance we do is called American Tribal Style and is based in group improvisation, so learning it from the beginning together has given us the ability to read each other’s body language in an instant when we dance – no choreography needed.

Q: What’s in store for the future of the Lovely Dozen?

A: Quite a few things are taking shape on the horizon. In the immediate future, we have a new eight-week session of classes starting in October. Further out, I’m looking forward to expanding the retail side of our studio and ideally featuring collaborations with local artists as we continue to build a space for creativity and expression to flourish.