Belly dancing event fights disease |

Belly dancing event fights disease

Ryan Salm Photography

In 2002, Christine Karnofsky lost her brother to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a degenerative condition better know as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

This weekend she’ll produce a belly-dance extravaganza to raise money to benefit local residents affected by the same debilitating illness.

Karnofsky will host “An Evening at the Casbah” at Sawtooth Ridge Cafe in Tahoe City Friday and Saturday nights. All the proceeds from the event will go to the Expressions for Life Funding Foundation, which assists families who are impacted by the neurological disorder.

Karnofsky started the Mediterranean-themed event over a decade ago, but got sidetracked with other demands in 1997. This time around, Karnofsky has ulterior motives.

“We’re hoping to raise $10,000 if we can. I know it’s not a lot, but it’s a good way to start. And we can help some people with that,” Karnofsky said. “We’re here to pay a bill, pay a mortgage, provide cleaning, child care ” just the daily needs that are so affected by this.”

Karnofsky has been a dance teacher and a dancer herself for decades. Of Greek heritage, she is particularly interested in belly dancing. She moved to North Lake Tahoe 20 years ago and has taught belly dancing in the region ever since.

“I love dancing and I’ve seen it all my life. [Belly dancing] … is really a dance of life. It’s very passionate and expressive. It’s really a celebration of life. And that’s what this event is, too, a celebration of life,” Karnofsky said.

A handful of local residents and businesses are helping Karnofsky with her cause, including Sawtooth Ridge Cafe, which donated the venue.

“I’ve been very impressed with the pageantry and the dedication and the hubbub that’s come along with the rehearsal for the production,” said Nanci Davis, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband. “It has been very impressive.”

North Tahoe resident Kristen Mann has been taking belly dance classes from Karnofsky for about two years. When approached with the idea of dancing in a fundraising event, she jumped on board.

“Of course all of us said yes. It’s nice to be able to do a fundraiser for the community ” and it stays in the community,” said Mann.

Mann said she and fellow dancers spend at least six or seven hours rehearsing for the show each week and many of them have donated their time in other ways, including with decorations and publicity.

“We’re dedicated,” Mann said. “It’s exciting ” there’s a lot of energy.

ALS is a neuro-degenerative disease affecting the spinal cord and brain. Leg and foot muscles are controlled by motor neurons in the lower spinal cord. Arm, hand and finger muscles are controlled by motor neurons in the upper spinal cord.

Speaking, swallowing and chewing are controlled by motor neurons in the brain stem.

Karnofsky’s brother was just 44 years old when he discovered he had ALS and died within two years of his diagnosis.

“In my brother’s case, he was a strapping guy,” Karnofsky said. “He basically suffocated to death at the end. His heart was still strong but he couldn’t eat or drink. It’s always fatal, there’s no cure.”

While there are no known local support groups for ALS, Karnofsky said people here are indeed affected by the incurable disease ” a Kings Beach resident died of ALS last year, she said.

Karnofsky said she intends to continue hosting the Casbah event to raise money to benefit community members impacted by Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

“I know funding for research is critical, but the immediate needs of the family aren’t necessarily met [by national foundations]. I wanted it to be for the community we live in. For people to be able to pay to see this event and know that the money if going directly back into our community, I think is really important,” she said.

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