Tag Archives: YWCA

The Secret of the Shimmy

January 5, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Inhale. exhale.

The slow Middle Eastern music increases in tempo.

The ladies’ hips sway side to side in rapid repeat. All three wear black spandex pants and V-neck T-shirts. Scarves, loosely wrapped around their waists, accentuate their movements. Bells jingle in time with the rhythm of the beat.

“Don’t give away the secret,” Carol Wright warns as her hips pop. “If they want to know the secret to the shimmy, tell them to come and see Della.”

The other two women laugh as their torsos undulate. Wright closes her eyes in a losing-herself-to-the-music moment, hands on her rolling and rippling hips.

“Is this too fast?” instructor Della Bynum asks from the side of the room. She has been watching this improvisation for a while, a half-smile on her face, relishing the freedom and artistry of the belly dance.

“We will have to find out,” Wright says.

“This is where you just have fun exploring,” Bynum explains.

Anna Lewis, 22, struggles for a moment, “Which way should I go?” 

Lewis has been shaking her hips for about a year now. At 6 years old, she watched her mother and Della’s group perform for her Girl Scout troop. 

“My mom is re-inspired whenever she comes to visit and will always make sure she comes back to Della’s class,” Lewis says.

Bynum steps in to help Lewis and demonstrates a front and back roll to add to the dance. The women continue as a solid unit.

It isn’t the shimmy that is the secret, but it is this connection of women coming together to celebrate themselves and each other. Feeling that connection is one of the main reasons why Bynum stays in dance. Bynum, 67, believes belly dancing creates a bond regardless of age, ethnicity, or size.

bellydancingShe should know. She’s been dancing since she was 8 years old and aging hasn’t stopped her. It is a vivacious, beautiful, and uplifting experience.

“It makes you aware of your senses—how you see, hear,” Bynum believes.

Bynum began with traditional ballet, then shifted to modern dance. She moved from Baltimore at 19 to begin school at Creighton University. A business degree wasn’t important to Bynum. 

“Dance classes were my love,” she says. “But unless you are teaching dance, you are not assured a position to support yourself.”

She continued taking dance classes and studied ethnic forms of popular dances of the 1970s, including African, Polynesian, and belly dancing. In addition, she performed modern dance with the UNO Moving Company. In 1980, Bynum started teaching her first classes at the YWCA and continued to do so for the next 25 years. 

When Bynum retired seven years ago from her day job as a timekeeper for the Omaha Fire Department, she needed…well…something more.

“You need to move more as you age, not less. If you don’t move, you aren’t able to move as well,” Bynum believes.

“You should open up a studio,” a long-time friend and fellow dance instructor told her.

“Hmm…that’s what people do when they are young,” Bynum replied.

With some help from her friend, Bynum did the unthinkable by opening her first studio. After three years, Bynum realized the ceiling was too low for the wavy and slinky arm movements of belly dance. After searching, she discovered a spot in the Center Mall on 42nd Street. After that, it was just a matter of finding economical ways to create a studio.

Bynum teaches four days a week and her crew puts on performances for The Durham Museum, Omaha Performing Arts, Renaissance fairs, and other organizations. The women sew their own costumes for a variety of different styles including tribal, folkloric, and Oriental belly dancing. 

A six-year attendee, Michelle Widhalm, 50, says Bynum is holistic in her approach. It is emotional and spiritualistic.

Bynum’s mantra: breathe. 

“When I tell people I belly dance, it is interesting to see their reaction. Eyebrows raise,” Widhalm says. “Western culture sexualized the dance. For me, it is about the female connection.”

Widhalm was surprised the older generation seemed more open to the idea, commenting only on how it must be a good form of exercise. In fact, a 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported social dancing lowered the risk of dementia in the elderly by 76 percent—more than reading. It also reduces stress, releases serotonin, and improves overall physical health.

Bynum’s parents passed away in their 50s, which has motivated her to keep exercising. If someone likes it, he/she will keep active. Belly dancing is multi-generational. 

“It’s more of an ageless environment,” Bynum says.

Her oldest client started when she was 80 and quit at 90 due to arthritis.

When Shakira entered the scene in the 2000s, shaking those hips that don’t lie, the belly dancing industry boomed.

So what about those ripped abs?

“I had those when I was young,” Bynum says tapping her black-stockinged feet on the floor to the beat of the music. “But it isn’t about that for me anymore.”

Bynum steps in the front of the class in black leggings with a bright orange scarf tied to her waist, a dark blue shirt, and a whole lot of confidence.

Bynum works with the three women on choreographed moves based on an old saying she modified. 

Walk forward, beauty before us.

Walk backward, beauty behind us.

It continues with the side, upward, and downward until the climax.

Beauty within us.

Wright squeals at the end in time with the music, arms raised, and all of them laugh together. 

Oh, and the secret to that shimmy?

Bending the knees, breathing, and relaxing.

Visit delladancing.com for more information.

TOYO! 2016

April 5, 2016 by
Photography by Contributed

Outstanding is a word that is used often to describe an ideal situation or person. The Omaha Jaycees uses it to describe the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans (“TOYO!”), individuals between the ages of 21 and 40 who have exemplified the ideals of their communities and exhibited extraordinary leadership qualities.

Visit omahajaycees.org to learn more.

01Heidi-MausbachHeidi Mausbach

President and CEO, Ervin & Smith Advertising
and Public Relations

Mausbach has won such awards as Midlands Business Journal’s 40 Under 40, the Silver Beacon International Award for excellence in financial services advertising, ADDY Awards from the Nebraska Advertising Federation, and several awards from the Public Relations Society of America’s Paper Anvil Merit and Excellence Awards. Passionate about helping women and children, she has served such non-profit organizations as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Go Red for Women, Habitat for Humanity, YWCA, and ICAN. She’s developed new programs at Ervin & Smith to keep women in the workplace and transition them into leadership roles and is a mentor for several organizations that are committed to the advancement of women.

02David-ArnoldDavid Arnold

Managing Director, Straight Shot

Arnold serves on the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Board of Directors, the Omaha Public School’s Career Education Advisory Council, the Advisory Board for The Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic at the University of Nebraska College of Law, as well as the Metcalfe Park Neighborhood Association. In 2012, after serving as deputy communication director for the Omaha Mayor’s Office, Arnold joined MindMixer–a civic tech startup founded by two Omahans. As account manager, he helped create and lead the company’s Client Services division. He saw Straight Shot, a business accelerator, as an opportunity to combine community building and new venture creation, becoming Managing Director in 2013.

03Shonna-DorseyShonna Dorsey

Co-Founder, Interface: The Web School

Dorsey is currently involved in Web Developer Training at Do Space, Flywheel, the Omaha Public Library, and various other venues, as well as managing website development for Nelson Mandela Elementary. She also coordinates the website and web application development for local nonprofits and small businesses via students of Interface: The Web School. Interface helps people build skills for the web, supplying startups, small businesses, and corporations in the Midwest with technology talent. In addition to her TOYO! award, she has also been recognized by the Midlands Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 (2014) and as an AIM Tech Community Builder of the Year (2015).

04Mosah-GoodmanMosah Goodman

Corporate Attorney and Business Development Parter, Gavilon

Goodman serves on the board of directors for the Child Saving Institute, is a co-founder of 24 Hours of Impact, served on the metro area board for TeamMates, and is a graduate of Leadership Omaha. Upon graduating with a J.D./MBA from the University of Iowa, Goodman accepted an offer to join Gavilon, where he currently serves as counsel. He has managed the construction of the company’s downtown headquarters, supported various business development efforts, and has worked on a variety of legal and compliance issues. Goodman is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and a former nationally ranked chess player.

05Roger-GarciaRoger Garcia

Student, Theology

While at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Garcia became involved in various leadership opportunities, earning him the Senior Vice Chancellor’s Leadership Award and the Student Leader of the Year Award. He has also been involved in the Nebraska Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Family Violence Council, the YWCA, and Justice for Our Neighbors—Nebraska. Garcia has been working in the nonprofit and public sector for more than 10 years and is now serving as the executive director of Centro Latino of Council Bluffs, Iowa. He also has served within public office as a member of the Metropolitan Community College Board of Governors since 2013.

06AndresTorresAndres Torres

Engineering Project Manager, Valmont Industries

Torres is actively involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers and has held different roles, including President of the Nebraska Section and co-chair of the Younger Members Group. Since 2013, he has also served as Council Member for the Greater Omaha Young Professionals and is one of the founders of the Valmont Professional Network. Torres received the Greater Omaha 40 under 40 Award in 2012 and ASCE’s Young Engineer Award for Professional Achievement in 2014. As an engineer, he designs tubular steel structures that are used to support transmission lines, highway lighting, and traffic lights for customers in more than 25 countries around the globe.

07Julie-Sebastian-(1)Julie Sebastian

President and CEO of New Cassel Retirement Center

Aside from New Cassel Retirement Center, Nebraska’s largest assisted-living community and a nonprofit provider of services for the aging person, Sebastian also founded the Franciscan Adult Day Centre, one of few adult day service programs in Nebraska. She has volunteered with youth at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church for nine years and also serves as chair of the board at LeadingAge Nebraska, where she participates in LeadingAge’s national public policy congress. In her leisure time, Sebastian mentors young people she met through St. Andrew’s youth group, including spending a week each summer on the annual high school mission trip.

08Eric-WilliamsEric Williams

Natural Resources Planner, Papio-Missouri River NRD

In 2008, Williams founded the Omaha Biofuels Cooperative to recycle used cooking oil into local biofuels and reduce the use of fossil fuels in our community. His work with nonprofit organizations includes helping found the Dundee Community Garden, serving on the boards for the Green Omaha Coalition and Mode Shift Omaha, and serving as chair for Earth Day Omaha in 2014. Williams is president of Nebraskans for Solar for 2016 and has worked with the Office of Sustainable Development at the City of Omaha on climate legislation. At Papio-Missouri River NRD, Williams manages trail construction for active transportation and recreational access to natural resource areas, as well as urban stormwater management projects.

09Beth-MorrissetteBeth Morrissette

Treasurer, Westside Community Schools Board of Education (WCS BOE)

Morrissette recently left her position as executive director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Network, a collective impact that works with community partners to provide a continuum of care for individuals with mental health and substance abuse needs. In 2013, the network received the NACo (National Associations of Counties) Achievement Award for the Alternatives to Incarceration project. Today, Morrissette continues to provide consulting and strategic planning services serves as the WCS BOE representative on the Learning Community Council. Since 2013, Morrissette has served on the United Way of the Midlands Community Impact Cabinet and is a member of the Women’s Fund Circles.

10Butch-Burgers

Butch Burgers 

Associate Athletic Director, Creighton University

Mark “Butch” Burgers is involved with Special Olympics of Nebraska, the American Heart Association, the Kyle Korver Foundation, Community Health Charities, Angels Among Us, the Omaha American Cancer Society, the Knights of Aksarben, and the Jaybacker Executive Board at Creighton. Before returning to his alma mater, Burgers served as associate athletic director at South Dakota State University for two years. At Creighton, he assists with day-to-day operations and oversees the operating budget, donor relations, and various sports. Creighton became the only university nationally to have top-10 attendance in soccer, baseball, and basketball and has reached record numbers in corporate sponsorship sales, season ticket revenues, and Jaybacker support.

Nostalgia: Ain’t What it Used to Be

April 17, 2015 by

Originally published in May/June 2015 edition of 60-Plus in Omaha.

Peony Park was where you danced indoors in the Royal Terrace Ballroom and under the stars in the Royal Grove.

Remember meeting the amusement park’s mascot, Peony the Skunk? (Some people called her “Stinky.”) Or playing Dodgem? Or KOIL Radio’s dance party in the Royal Grove? Or splashing in the Peony Park swimming pool?

You have been around at least 50 years if you remember never seeing women on the Omaha City Council. Betty Abbott blazed the way in 1965. Of course, Omaha finally has its first woman mayor. And it only took 160 years after the city’s founding.

Your first escalator ride was at the downtown Brandeis store on what was the city’s first escalator.

Come to think of it, you remember when there was an actual Brandeis store, a place where shopping became a social event.

Younkers’ stores were called Kilpatrick’s.

Your “health club” was a YWCA or YMCA.

And the YWCA was actually called the YWCA, not the Women’s Center for Advancement.

Horses, not college students, were housed in the Ak-Sar-Ben area. The college students are only slightly less messy than the horses were.

Ak-Sar-Ben horse racing was a live video game you played before there were video games.

Warren Buffett was yet to make his first billion. Remember when you could afford to buy a share of Berkshire Hathaway?

The idea of “Omaha” extended only about as far as 90th Street. Today, that’s more like midtown.

The Henry Doorly Zoo was called Riverview Park. There was a lone, forlorn bear and two moose.

The sprawling University of Nebraska-Omaha was then the smaller University of Omaha, called disparagingly by some “West Dodge High.”

Remember when Elkhorn was a city? Oh, wait…that wasn’t so very long ago!

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