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Inter­na­tional Club hosts Mediter­ranean Feast on Thursday. Courtesy | Monica Dar­lington

Faculty and stu­dents line up to serve them­selves pastitsio and Greek salad after con­ver­sation over Arabic tea. German, French, and Spanish can be heard over a cheerful din of laughter and exotic music. Members of Hillsdale College’s inter­na­tional club rush to greet guests and set up for a kind of exotic per­for­mance that Hillsdale stu­dents rarely get the chance to observe. A stage is made out of a string of small yellow lights.

On Thursday, Feb. 7th, Hillsdale College’s inter­na­tional club hosted an authentic Mediter­ranean dinner, fea­turing cuisine from the nations of the Mediter­ranean and a per­for­mance and lesson by a pro­fes­sional belly-dancer.

Club Pres­ident Nico de Enrique said that the food was “more from the eastern side” of the Mediter­ranean, con­sisting mostly of “Libyan and Greek food”. It is “very usual for mediter­ranean coun­tries to have music and dancing while you’re eating,” De Enrique added.

Stu­dents and faculty mingled and ate while members of the club waited to introduce their guest, a pro­fes­sional belly-dancer from South America, who goes by Rommyna.

“First she’s going to dance and show what she does, then she’s going to teach, to show us what she does,” de Enrique said.

Former club pres­ident Nour Ben Hmieida, orig­i­nally from Libya said the goal of the dinner was to bring part of the Mediter­ranean culture to campus.

“We’re very iso­lated here at Hillsdale. We wanted to bring a piece of home. It’s good and fun to expand your exposure to cul­tures. It’s good to reach out of our comfort zone,” Ben Hmieida said.

After dinner, guests observed and were able to take part in some tra­di­tional Mediter­ranean belly-dancing.

“She’ll be giving a 15-minute lesson toward the end for people who are inter­ested in learning,” Ben Hmieida said.

The cuisine was familiar to several of Hillsdale’s inter­na­tional stu­dents, some of whom helped prepare the menu. De Enrique said that he helped cook the “pastitsio” which he described as “like lasagna.”

“I cooked a little bit of that, so I’m kind of proud of that,” de Enrique added.

Hillsdale senior Eliz­abeth Palmer described the cuisine: “They had a pasta dish that Nour explained is from Greece and Italy and is a recipe that her mom uses. We also had some feta and spinach squares, which were really good, Arabic tea, and some Greek salad.”

Palmer dined with friends and col­leagues and said that events like these make her want to travel more.

“Taking part in the belly-dancing lesson is some­thing I might try tonight,” Palmer added cheer­fully.

Rommyna, who is Brazilian-Peruvian, said the variety of music in South America sparked her interest in belly-dancing.

“We have access to all sorts of music from the Middle East, and Morocco, and Tunisia. It was very trendy. I felt like I wanted to learn to dance and learn about their culture. Then I moved to the United States and started taking lessons,” she said. “It’s an art: there is a beauty, there is a lot of work in that, to manage the moves. It required a lot of practice.”

When asked what dis­tin­guishes belly-dancing from other styles of dance, Rommyna said it comes down to iso­lation.

“When we move the hips we nor­mally don’t move the upper body. When we move the upper body we don’t move the lower body. Iso­lation is very important, but some­times we move the whole body like a ser­pentine,” she said.

Palmer said she thinks it’s important to have events like this at Hillsdale to help broaden stu­dents’ per­spec­tives.

“Hillsdale can kind of be a very homogenous school in a lot of ways,” Palmer said. “It’s a good learning oppor­tunity for everybody.”

By the end of the night, many stu­dents had gathered alongside Rommyna on the makeshift stage, to belly-dance as a group. The lesson went longer than the antic­i­pated 15 minutes, as stu­dents requested more music be played for mul­tiple rounds of dancing.