The beat thumps, and an exotic, melodic voice fills the room. The jingle of coins being struck together in time with the music crescendos, and it is a sound Golden Nugget retail supervisor Carol Deberardinis finds very soothing.
Ten women stand in the next room, each eager to learn the art of belly dance. Deberardinis knows the feeling well.
The Las Vegas resident has been coming to Cultural Fusion Belly Dance Center, 3111 S. Valley View Blvd., for more than a year. She started as a student and loved the place so much that she began volunteering at the center during her free time.
"This is where I come to get away from the stresses of everyday life," she said. "There's something about belly dance that is so primal and peaceful."
Deberardinis will be one of the women featured in the center's upcoming hafla, a celebration of Middle Eastern culture featuring belly dancing, live drummers, fortune tellers and Mediterranean appetizers and desserts. The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $15 at the door.
People 16 or older are welcome. Seating is limited. For more information, call 227-3030.
The center holds such galas approximately every eight to 10 months, according to owner and professional belly dance instructor Collette (a name she uses professionally).
Deberardinis said she gets very excited before shows.
"There's such an energy in the air," she said. "It's more fun than I can even describe accurately. There's this feeling that takes over me, and I just want to be able to show people what we can do. There are a number of very talented ladies who are involved with our group, and it's always exciting to be able to show off a little bit."
Collette said the store specializes not just in belly dance lessons for all skill levels but also has a retail component that excites many of her students. Classes range from $10 to $15 per lesson.
The store sells exotic and colorful tribal belly dancing costumes, hip-coin scarves, silk veils, tights, dance wear for children, jewelry and Middle Eastern-themed knickknacks.
"I've worked hard to build quite a collection of belly dance dresses, and I'm proud of what we offer," Collette said.
Collette said many of the dresses are authentic Egyptian costumes, some of which are for display only.
Outfits range in price from about $100 to $1,000.
The instructor began to learn belly dance more than four years ago and decided to open the store to raise awareness of Middle Eastern cultures about three years ago.
"I was unsettled by all that's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan," she said. "We're fighting people that don't really want to fight us. This is my way of promoting peace and tolerance."
Collette said that during the event the store will be completely transformed, with retail display racks being moved to a back room and huge pillows lining the walls.
"We work very hard to create a mood and ambiance," she said. "The mirrors in the dance area are covered, and we have special lighting. It's really a sight to behold."
Collette said the store can hold only about 50 show patrons and encourages people to buy tickets early.
"We don't want anybody to miss out," she said.