I have wanted to learn how to Belly Dance since I was 9. A Lebanese family lived across the street from us. From them I learned a few Arabic swear words, learned how to play backgammon, had Lebanese food, and listened to Arabic music. The ladies in the family would occasionally sing and dance. I am not sure if it was Belly Dancing, but they could sure move their hips and arms gracefully. I actually enjoy listening to Arabic and Egyptian music. I had my first taste of modern Arabic ambient music at The Buddha Bar in Paris. There is something about it that makes me want to move and sway.
Belly Dancing has always been perceived as entertainment for men. I have always thought of it as a way of getting to the core of a woman’s femininity and expressing that through the music. Kind of like the Goddess Diana when she would dance in the woods under the full moon. Or like the way Isadora Duncan would interpret music in her dance.
Having been scuba diving in Egypt a few times now, I have witnessed various styles of Belly Dancing. I have seen the skimpily clad young ladies performing in restaurants for the tourists. They always seem to focus on the men. I have also seen Egyptian Folk Dancing at the hotels where the women dance with men, in traditional clothes. Their movements are just as complicated and yet they seem more graceful and entertaining. They also look like they are enjoying themselves more.
When going into the local markets, I always have to steer clear of the shops that sell Belly Dancing costumes, such as the sparkly bras, jingly scarves, harem pants, etc. Once a shopkeeper sees that you might be interested in his wares, you are practically dragged into the shop and then it is very difficult to leave without purchasing something. For me, looking at the costumes was like looking at beautiful shoes, except that I didn’t know how to do the dance that warranted buying the clothes!
On one of my Salsa nights at The Fishermen’s Club, The Sea Gypsies entertained us with a few numbers before the Freestyle started. I had been talking to one of the dancers earlier in the evening. She was a beautiful, tall and ample woman. Apparently, having a bit of meat on one’s bones is an advantage in Belly Dancing. The dancers were women of various shapes, sizes and ages. To me, they all looked beautiful in their diversity. They looked happy and confident and I think that is what really matters and contributes to being a good dancer.
I went to my first Belly Dancing class at the Natural Fitness Centre last Sunday morning. If I said it would be easy, I would be lying, and that was the beginner’s class! Alison is a great instructor and she paid attention to what I was doing to make sure I was comfortable. Most of the women in the class had been doing it for awhile and all had a jingly scarf tied around their hips. (I knew I should have bought one in Egypt when I had the chance!) Apparently it makes it easier to know if one is doing the hip movements correctly if you can hear the jingle. It also makes the class more fun!
The class started off with stretching exercises to get us all loosened up and then we worked on some hip and arm movements. Body posture is completely different to Tango and the butt is definitely to be tucked in. Focus is put on isolating various muscles and moving them in a different way. We worked on snake arms, body rolls, and hip movements. As it was all so new to me, I just tried to keep up and do the best I could. I have already forgotten how to do some of the moves.
To make the class more interesting, they are working on a routine that they have been practicing for the last 5 weeks. I am not my best with choreography which is one of the reasons that I have stopped going to a lot of dance classes and is the same reason why I can’t bear aerobic exercise classes. I am not great at remembering the routines and is also a reason why I stopped going to line dancing classes many years ago. (I actually enjoyed it, but as soon as I managed to get one routine down, they would start on another one and I would end up forgetting the one I learned previously!)
I tried my best to follow along and try and do the shimmies and arm movements. I got lost a few times but got back into step. I can’t say that I was graceful or doing everything right, but I gave it a go. Although Belly Dancing is a dance of improvisation, I can see how it helps to learn a routine or two when dancing as a group.
After we practiced the routine, we followed that with a cool down and more stretching. I can certainly say that I have used muscles that I never knew I had! Unfortunately, there is no class this Sunday and I will have to wait another week. I am really looking forward to it. There is also a beginner’s course taught at the adult college and all the information can be found at The Sea Gypsies website. I have to say I really love the name, The Sea Gypsies. I think I might well fit in. 🙂
Now, I just need to order one of those jingly hip scarves. What colour do I get?