BRATTLEBORO -- "I felt ... I felt like I was stepping into time. Those dancers bridged me to the ancient tradition of bellydance. It felt sacred."

That was one of many quotables from the Goddess Rising Bellydance Benefit that took place on Saturday, Jan. 18. Despite the less than ideal weather conditions, the event attracted 100 attendees. Goddess Rising, organized by three women, Kelsey Captolia Indziniak, Cyndal Ellis and Shanta L.Evans-Crowley, was a day-long affair including two interactive bellydance workshops and a night of 22 performers from all over New England. The many highlights of the evening included live Hindustani classical music provided by Bada Raga and a ceremonial closing that included a gong sound bath led by Gongmaster Stephan Brandstatter, who was joined by other musicians tabla player Ned Blume, cellist Sol Schneider and classical violinist Nevab Bigelow.

The evening included diversity in performer age, bellydance styles and techniques and costumery. The evening opened with a formal invocation to the Goddess lead by Kelsey Captolia Indziniak. Veils, large ostrich feathered fans and a well-balanced tray of lit candles were a few of the visual delights provided. Aural treats also filled the Stone Church as event attendees witnessed bellydance performed to Arabic, Turkish and Egyptian beats, seductive beats and lyrics selected from the world of French music, dub step, hip-hop and a classical selection (yes, as in Mozart!). The evening closed with a bellydance piece that incorporated a combination of bellydance, storytelling through movement, and a medley of 1960s music.

Event participant Brenda Lynn Siegel, director of the Southern Vermont Dance Festival and IBIT Dance Company stated, "It was wonderful to have the opportunity to show my work amongst so many other talented dancers. The excitement, the costumes and the welcoming atmosphere were all incredible aspects of this event."

Bellydancing duo Christina Beam and Jessica S. Navarro from Massachusetts shared their experience of the evening stating: "The evening began with an invocation, a blessing of the dance floor and then a poem about the strength and individual power that each woman carries with her. That's what got me, right from the start: seeing how meaningful this night was for so many different people, who all understand that strength, each in their own way. It was truly a celebration of life, of love, of self-worth, and of support. It was so exciting to see such a diverse group of dancers, women of all ages, dancing together and individually. I felt truly blessed to be a part of it and I left feeling completely inspired."

The day's activities of fundraising totaled $916. The Goddess Bellydance benefit raised $543, matched by a contribution of $100 from Vermont Woods Studio, all benefitting the Women's Freedom Center. The workshops held before the evening event yielded $273, which was donated to Heart Thoughts Midwifery. The videographer, artists, performers, and photographer Kiqe Bosch all donated their time and skill as their contribution. Local businesses such as Grafton Cheese, Cabot Cheese, Brueggers Bagels, Price Chopper Hannaford, Amy's Bakery, Mocha Joe's and the Brattleboro Food Co-Op also contributed various food items for the event.

Organizers hope to do another benefit in the future. To find out more, visit www.facebook.com/TheGoddessRising.