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Belly Dance `Snub' Sparks Wrangle

Following Spring Festival decision

Don't mess with belly dancers!

Following a decision by White Salmon Spring Festival representatives not to bring in Dezadera -- a belly dancing troupe based in The Dalles -- for this year's festival, controversy erupted.

Dezadera was featured at the 2009 and 2010 Spring Festival, and one of the dancers said the decision upset her and her fellow Dezadera dancers.

"I want to dance in my hometown," said Fern Johnson, who now lives in Lyle. "They just said they were `going in a different direction,' nothing else. I don't know what that means. I think they may have invited a Hood River group instead -- but why did they switch, and why can't we all dance? Maybe they'll change it back."

Johnson posted the information about Dezadera's exclusion on her Facebook page, and the news garnered a storm of negative and angry reaction. Several supporters of the Dezadera group expressed surprise and disappointment with the Spring Festival's decision.

"That's just stupid! Why not?" questioned Gina Randall-Thornton, who added that she was writing an e-mail to the Spring Festival Committee to ask them to reconsider.

"It's not the same without you guys. I may have to boycott," added Jose Juan Escobar.

Ted McKercher posted a simple comment: "Boo!!!" he wrote.

However, Spring Festival officials stressed that belly dancing has not been eliminated from the entertainment lineup of the annual community festival. The festival's entertainment manager simply decided to book only the dancers from Scarlet Thistle Studio in Hood River for the 2011 lineup.

Spring Festival representatives pointed out that in 2009, the Spring Festival hired both belly dancing troupes to perform. Then, in 2010, the festival booked only Dezadera.

"Belly dancing is a big part of the show. It has been part of the festival for a long time," explained Amanda McDonald, a member of the Spring Festival Committee. "We're not trying to cut anyone out. There is no negativity toward anyone. We hired a Hood River group to perform this year, but there are no hard feelings toward The Dalles group."

Snowden resident Scott See came up with a creative way to allow Dezadera to perform at the Spring Festival this year.

"What's to stop you from dancing?" See suggested. "One boom box. A bunch of belly dancers. Done deal. Go for it!"

"I like Scott's idea," said Jenine WhiteCastle, who owns a home adjacent to Rhinegarten Park, where the festival is held each year. "Maybe you can just do it in my front yard! We can have our own Spring Fest entertainment -- and I bet you'd draw a crowd!"

Johnson said she and her fellow dancers from Dezadera like that idea -- and they are also considering getting a vendor's booth so they can dance in the park anyway.

This year's Spring Festival is set for June 3-5.

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