Belly dancers bring a flash of colour to the Quadrant Shopping Centre

Zahira dance group performing at the Quadrant Shopping Centre. L-R, Ronnie Kerswell-O'Hara, Sonia Eaton, Gill Francis, Chio O'Leary and Teresa Bradshaw with centre manager Ian Kirkpatrick (middle) Picture: ©Adam Davies | All Rights Reserved 2015


A troupe of colourful belly dancers shaking their stuff brought a busy Swansea shopping centre to a standstill.

The five ladies arrived at the Quadrant Shopping Centre in a swirl of shimmering sequins and entertained shoppers as part of a week-long schedule of fundraising activities for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Passers-by were delighted and stopped to admire the Zahira dance group, which meets every week at Swansea YMCA, while visiting the mall.

Star performer for the ladies, Chio O’Leary, brought the troupe in to the Quadrant to combine her two passions – belly dancing by night and volunteering for the Guide Dogs by day.

The 44-year-old who is originally from Ecuador said: “I have been helping the Guide Dogs for a few years now as I have always been interested in them and the work they do with blind and partially sighted people is fantastic.

“And I have been dancing with Zahira Belly Dancing for two years so this was a perfect way for me to combine the two.”

The Zahira ladies performed four routines, the final one being a solo Arabian Flamenco by Chio who was so nervous beforehand she nearly opted to dance hidden inside the guide dog suit she often wears when out fundraising.

She said: “I quite often wear the dog suit and I love it. But I’ll do anything I can to help them so get involved in all sorts.

“At New Year we have a big event where volunteers have a dip in the sea on January 1st to raise money. It’s a great occasion with a brilliant atmosphere but I make sure I’m the one wearing the suit instead for that.

“It’s a great way to start the New Year though and an amazing thing to be part of.”

Ian Kirkpatrick, Manager of the Quadrant Shopping Centre, said: “We do our best to make a shopping trip to the Quadrant that little bit special and Chio and her dancers have certainly done that.

“It’s been a very spectacular show that they’ve put on and I’m sure it went down very well and it’s raised money for an excellent cause as well.”

As this week was National Guide Dog Week, the Quadrant team had welcomed a whole host of activities and entertainment as well as numerous dogs and puppies.

The charity needs to fundraise constantly to support its work as it costs £50,000 to pay for the lifetime of one guide dog alone.

Not only is Chio a committed supporter of the cause, she has her family involved too and both sons, aged 10 and eight, are keen to turn 16 and volunteer too as soon as they can.

“They can’t wait,” said Chio, who met and married her Welsh husband in Ecuador, returning with him to live in Sketty, Swansea in 2012.

With a background in tourism, Chio stopped working full time when she had children and now runs a small cupcake business in her spare time as well as studying creative writing, volunteering with Guide Dogs and of course, belly dancing.

She said: “Zahira is a lovely group. My background before that was salsa and samba – that’s what we do in the Latin countries – but the belly dancing we do here is a great mix.

“It’s quite earthy – a kind of gypsy, folky fusion and we do a lot of charity events but also private functions and performances.

“We always wear our big skirts and show our bellies and often our bras are full of coins so it is very swirly and jangly,” Chio added.

For more information on the belly dancers visit their website at or find them on Facebook and for more on Guide Dogs Cymru go to and on Twitter to