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bELyVIS! The King dances

By Lisa Li

Belly dance is a very old and respected form of dance. It has been passed down from generation to generation to modern times. There are many teachers that argue who has the most authentic form. That is true here in Japan. But a lot of us have forgotten that it is also suppose to be fun, that's where bELyVIS! comes in.

Mark Tovsen is an ex movie stuntman and actor who came to Japan to teach chemistry to students at a local college. In his spare time he took some Japanese and Salsa dance classes at my culture salon. My school is the largest for Belly Dance in this area of Japan, he made friends with me and some of my dancers. He was always acting like a Belly Dancer to make us laugh, so I suggested he take some lessons in the hope of attracting other men. Well, the classes never took off and he ended up learning along side women. While he enjoyed the company of all the ladies, I could tell he was a bit uncomfortable.

In October of 2006, we were preparing for our first "Sahara Festival" dance show and workshop. Before September, Mark had an idea for taking part in the show, he didn't want to be the only male dancer, so he proposed bELyVIS!

bELyVIS!, was kept secret until show time. The day of the show was very nice, cool but sunny. A crowd of over 300 people filled the amphitheater to watch many local students, teachers, my group "The Sahara Queens", and of course the big mystery bELyVIS! dance.

The people enjoyed the day, but the big question was "Who is bELyVIS!?" I had put Mark's act next to last to make sure people didn't leave early. Then, the time had come. The music blaring from the speakers was "Burning Love" and out comes Mark dressed as Elvis Presley with a hip scarf on! The crowd went wild with laughter as he shimmied and danced around throwing in some moves The King would have loved. The crowd loved him.

Over the next few month, bELyVIS! did many shows and has been on T.V. here a few times and in Europe. Also, he has been in many magazines and newspapers here and in the United States. Mark never takes it too seriously. He loves hearing the people laugh and he has made many fans throughout the World. He is very surprised at his success.

"It's easy to be noticed in Japan. Be a crazy foreigner and everybody looks," he said. "I love Belly Dance and watching the ladies who are serious dancers makes me appreciate it more. But we all have to laugh sometimes." We are Mark!