Hoxton play: “How belly dancing has helped me fight cancer”

Yvette Cowles, photo by Bill Knight

Yvette Cowles, photo by Bill Knight - Credit: Archant

A play exploring how to remain a confident woman in the face of cancer is being performed by a writer battling the disease to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Sequins on my Balcony is written and performed by Yvette Cowles, a survivor of three bouts of breast cancer, and someone who still lives with the illness.

It is an inspirational and vivacious celebration of life.

The performance is a personal perspective of cancer, femininity, belly dance and the everyday experience of staying alive.

Yvette was introduced to belly dancing in France where her North African friends used to dance as a social activity.

She said: “One of the themes in the show is that I try to debunk this Orientalist western image of belly dancing. My previous experience had been seeing it in James Bond films or a performer in a local restaurant.

“But in France I saw it as something women did together and this feeling of sisterhood and camaraderie, which is something that has really helped me through cancer.”

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Yvette said when she returned to England belly dancing had become an obsession.

After leaving a high-flying publishing job of 20 years to receive full-time cancer treatment, she started teaching belly dance to promote positive body image ideas and confidence in other cancer patients.

She teaches and trains teachers for Dance Yourself Happy classes at St Paul’s Church, Stoke Newington Road, supporting breast cancer charity Cancerkin.

Yvette said that people with cancer-related depression or body image issues blossomed in her belly dancing classes, thriving in the inclusive environment.

“Wherever I have gone, I have also met great people who open up after the show,” she said. “Sometimes people don’t find it easy to talk about cancer – their own or of a loved one. I think the play almost gives permission for them to open up as it is forthright and funny.

“One of the highlights for me was when one woman said to me it was the first time she laughed since she was diagnosed.

“That was just wonderful for me, to know you can make people laugh. I think that is so important.”

Yvette has written a book called Belly Dancing and Beating the Odds which will be on sale at the show. There will also be a collection for a nominated breast cancer charity at every performance.

n Sequins on my Balcony is showing at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, Hoxton, until Sunday. To book, visit rosemarybranch.co.uk.