How does it work?
Belly dancing is a unique way to work out and get in shape. With the focus being on the pelvic and hip area, it requires little or no dance experience to get started so whether you’re already a dancing queen or you’ve got two left feet, you can start belly dancing your way to fitness. With its elegant and fluid movements, it’s all about using different parts of your body to ‘draw circles’ parallel to the floor, and learning to isolate muscle movements. Hip lifts and drops are performed to the music’s rhythm, while the shoulders and the arms are used in undulating movements.
The best outfit to practice belly dancing in is bare feet, a tight fitting vest and loose, flowing pants (‘harem pants’) or a long skirt. Many (brave) people choose to wear a vest that shows off their tummy to better track their movements and leave the waist free to perform belly rolls – the good kind. As you progress and gain confidence in your dancing skills, you will get to accessorise in a haze of silk, henna and silver. During performances, dancers often wear ankle bracelets, finger cymbals, flowing scarves and hip belts, with dramatic make-up.
Is it for me?
A non-impact form of exercise, belly dancing puts minimal stress on knees and feet; as such, it’s considered a good form of exercise for people of all ages and shapes. Traditionally considered a female dance, it’s ideal for mature bodies of both sexes, but has been shown to help women prevent osteoporosis and reduce menstrual pains. Great for mobilizing the abdominal and pelvic region, it strengthens the lower back and helps improve posture. A sixty-minute belly dancing class can burn as many calories as light jogging or swimming, and as you practice, you will find and choose your own rhythm and the intensity of your workout. It’s a good form of exercise for women in early stages of pregnancy and after childbirth. Plus, it’s a great way to burn some calories and have fun while re-discovering your feminine side and staying proud of your curves.
Good to know
The oldest known form of dance, belly dance is the western name for Raqs Sharqi (literally Oriental dance), and it came to us all the way from ancient Babylon. A solo dance, it’s based on a lot of improvisation to convey the emotions evocated by music and rhythm. It’s seen by many as a dance that celebrates the sensuality and power of mature women, and some of the most famous Egyptian dancers are well above the age of forty so it really is never too late to get your belly-dancing shoes on.