Ladies shake their hips to save lives

“You’ll see lots of stretch marks, lots of C-section scars . . . Then you see everyone is just like you,” - Crystal Weran

Belly Elegance troupe out of Red Deer performs an intricate dance complete with real candelabras and costumes made out of wedding dresses imported from China.

Hips are shaking to a new beat, the beat of women’s health care advancement.

The belly dancing hafla, which raised more than $7,000, was organized by Ponoka’s Read My Hips dance troupe, featuring five other troupes from central Alberta who came together, Sept. 28, in support of the Royal Alexandria Hospital Foundation’s campaign fundraiser.

The foundation is in the midst of raising $3 million for a da Vinci Robotic Surgical System for the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

Having the less invasive surgical system for women’s use in oncology and gynecology fields means less blood loss on the operating table, less scarring, reduced recovery times, and in many instances, women leave the hospital with a good chance of being able to have children in the future.

“The option to have the da Vinci robot as a part of her treatment may be the difference between open surgery and getting on with her life,” said Elise Cerny, the director of communications for the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.

“This will be our robot, the first robot in Canada specifically designated to women’s health,” explained Cerny.

The hafla, which took place at the Kinsmen Community Centre, not only featured the six dance troupes and an acrobatic pole dancer but vendors and a silent auction to entertain the 200 women who attended the event.

Just over $1.5 million has been raised. “We’ve accomplished a lot, but we need some very big strides,” said Cerny.

Cerny, representing the Royal Alexandria Hospital Foundation, was honoured by the vision of Read My Hips and their commitment to educate themselves and others on the da Vinci Robot and what it means for women. “I think the fact is that these women understand that this is their hospital too,” said Cerny.

The hospital foundation has a mantra: community support builds great hospitals and the outcome of Ponoka’s hafla was more than Cerny had expected.

“It’s incredible to see this kind of turnout, it’s inspiring,” she said. “This event tonight will make a huge difference, not only in funds but in awareness.”

Cerny, as well as the dancers involved appreciate how a belly dancing event — a celebration of femininity — will reach beyond the goal of the robotic surgical system to touch other aspects of women’s health, including mental and body image.

“I think it’s great. I think it’s something women need to see; all the diversity, different styles and sizes,” said Crystal Weran, a dancer with the Belly Elegance troupe out of Red Deer.

Weran says it’s good for women’s mental health to socialize and let go of their negative body issue and inhibitions through the dance. “You’ll see lots of stretch marks, lots of C-section scars . . . Then you see everyone is just like you.”

For fellow troupe member Lorelei Miner, participating in the hafla and educating herself on the cause is a reminder to take care of herself, something she says many women need.

“The thing with women, especially married women with kids, you’re so busy taking care of everyone else you forget to take care of yourself. So there’s that extra little reminder out there to take care of yourself, that’s huge.”