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Dancers, Musicians Spice Up Market
If you didn't know you were in Escalon, you could have easily just watched the dancing and felt as it you were in a foreign country.

But when the Amtrak train roared past the stage, there was no doubt Escalon was the locale for the performance of the Sierra Spiral Dancers belly dancing troupe.

Still, the nine dancers that took the stage to entertain those attending the Thursday night Market on Main gave a spirited performance, utilizing veils, swords and their bodies to evoke many moods through music and movement.

"I've been teaching for over five years," said troupe leader Betty King, wiping sweat from her brow after the roughly 45-minute performance. "I'm based in Avery and I teach classes in Sonora on Tuesdays, in Escalon on Thursdays, so I drive a lot, I put about 8,000 miles a year on my car."

The Escalon class on Thursday nights meets at the Grange Hall on Main Street and draws participants from throughout the Central Valley area, primarily Modesto, Manteca and Stockton, although one dancer comes in from Discovery Bay.

"We are a fixture at the Calaveras Celtic Fair," noted King. "We took a second place last year at the Christmas Parade in Modesto."

King, who admitted to dancing "over 30 years," said the group planned to have their normal two-hour class on Thursday after performing at the Market on Main.

"It's empowerment," she said of what she believes is the draw of belly dancing.

"When they first come in, the women have the loose T-shirts and the sweat pants on, about two weeks into it, they've tied up the T-shirt and before you know it, they're showing their belly," King explained. "It's about being comfortable with yourself, being comfortable in your own skin."

Nine dancers made up the contingent that performed on Thursday, though not every dance featured all performers. Interspersed throughout some of the dances were vocalizations, which King said were cues to the dancers about an upcoming move.

"At least three of the dances, it's all with cues," King said of doing the various movements. "It's all hand and arm positions ... and lots of noise."

A variety of music is utilized in the performances as well, from the Celtic stylings of The Wicked Tinkers to traditional Middle Eastern and some Gothic rock.