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One-woman show from belly dancer reflects on cancer fight.

Byline: Barbara Hodgson Reporter barbara.hodgson@ncjmedia.co.uk

ABREAST cancer sufferer who credits belly-dancing for her upbeat outlook on life is bringing her inspiring one-woman show to Sunderland tomorrow thanks to the support of a local dance company.

Yvette Cowles promises dance, colour and plenty of laughter in Sequins On My Balcony despite it covering her ongoing fight with cancer, saying: "When you've spent as much time in hospital as I have, you look for the humour!" It was her first diagnosis of breast cancer in 1996, when she was just 31, that led Yvette to take up belly-dancing full-time and it's made all the dif-difference.

Following a lumpectomy and radiotherapy she'd decided to ditch her stressful job as a marketing director at a publishing company to indulge her passion and says: "Being ill was the incentive to follow my heart."

The vibrant dance has sustained her during repeat battles with cancer which returned in 2006, after she had the 10-year sign-off from the hospital, then again in 2010 when she learned it had spread to her lymph nodes and bones.

Now living with the disease, it's belly-dancing that continues to bring a smile to her face - and to others - as, besides her touring show, Yvette teaches it through courses and workshops. She even created Dance Yourself Happy Classes that combine dance and laughter yoga.

Yvette, from London, says: "A"n increasing number of people are living with cancer, with progress in medical science and early diagnosis and treatment, so there are a lot more people in my position, and of course cancer affects so many people.

"The show is my life story. It's about how I've dealt with it all and for me dance and the camaraderie of other dancers, the women I've met through dance, have really helped me through it.

"I think having that support is just so helpful when you are going through any kind of crisis."

She calls belly-dancing "fun, an opportunity for people to dress up, make friends and have a good time" and attracts "barmy women with an appetite for life!".

Besides inspiring a happy mood, increased by the release of endorphins through exercise, she finds it helps with mobility. "It's suitable for women of all ages, shapes and sizes and it's quite gentle on the body."

Once women realise they don't have show their belly she says con-fidence blossoms and has them reaching for "the sparkliest jangliest costume".

"Life can be very difficult and drab and you need a bit of colour, and fun and for me belly-dancing always provides that."

Yvette regularly brings her work-workshops to Sunderland where next week she be hosting one with longtime friend Kay Taylor who co-runs who co-runs T local company Farida Dance which is sponsoring tomorrow's show at North Shore Theatre.

It was in Newcastle that she trialled an early version of Sequins On My Balcony which has since toured the country, including six shows in London, and has just been performed in Marrakech.

Over that time the show has evolved a lot and Yvette has also published a book, Belly Dancing and Beating the Odds, based on it.

"A" fter the Newcastle show, women got in touch who had breast cancer or had been through difficult times and said 'belly dancing has done that for me as well'," she says.

"I've always had positive feedback from people who say they feel quite uplifted coming out of the show and have had a good laugh and that's the important thing."

Now 50, Yvette, who is also work-working on a new show about self-help, says her mother also had breast cancer but had a very different experience as it was a subject rarely discussed at the time.

But her own down-to-earth approach in the show, addressing such issues as her mastectomies, has found an interested audience in men too who learn from it, while a touch of Benny Hill-like comedy and accounts of dating disasters add the laughs.

Now 19 years on from her initial diagnosis, Yvette says that while the disease isn't something you have control over, you can take charge of how you deal with it.

"I've been living on and off with breast cancer since then, and this is about my experience.

"I've had breast cancer three times and am now living with it - I have secondary breast cancer in my bones.

"It's a maintenance programme now and I go every month to have bone treatment. I'm really incredibly grateful to the National Health Service - it's kept me alive all this time.

"No one knows how much time they have got or what's around the corner, so I think we should make every day count."

Sequins On My Balcony, which will also feature Farida Dance, is being performed in support of Annie's Dreams, a local group fundraising for breast cancer charities, and UK-based Just Because which supports breast cancer sufferers in Egypt.

It can be seen at 2.30pm tomorrow at North Shore Theatre in St Peter's Campus, Charles Street, with tickets available from www.faridadance.com, the information kiosk in The Bridges Shopping Centre and from the theatre on the afternoon of the performance.

I've been living on and off with breast cancer, and this is about my experienceYvette Cowles

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 31, 2015
Words:886
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