Belly Dancing: Sway Anything

Introduce yourself to a new, fun and interesting workout. We'll provide you with an intimate look into the alluring world of belly dancing, and show you how to make it a part of your fitness routine.
Belly Dancing: Sway Anything

What thoughts go through your mind as you watch dancers plying their craft? "How long did it take them to learn those moves?" "How are they not tripping and stumbling?" Perhaps, "That's what I'd like to do to get in shape."

Ontario-based belly dancing instructor Tahira Badre is here to help us explore the benefits of this exotic, challenging and rewarding fitness activity.

Tahiras advanced students show a little personality.

Tahira's advanced students show a little personality.

Myth shattering

Contrary to popular opinion, belly dancing does not obligate women to bare their midriffs in front of an audience. The only wardrobe requirement is clothing in which you feel comfortable and can move freely.

Originating in the Near, Middle and Far East, this art exists in a few different forms, including raqs sharqi and raqs baladi. When first introduced to North America, some dancers opted for bare bellies and the dance became commonly referred to as "belly dance."

Plus-size perfect!
As a means of weight loss, the popularity of dance overall has never been greater. Belly dancing, by definition is a natural fit for curvaceous women. "That's the part my students love the most," says Badre. "It really helps when your body has some shape."

Success Stories Megan and Carrie use belly dancing as a way to stay in shape. Carrie originally promised herself a professional belly dance costume for when she reached her goal. "But I decided I didn't need to wait, and designed my own teal and silver bedlam set [a two-piece outfit worn by belly dancers]. For the first time in my life, I feel comfortable showing off my belly to the world!" Carrie's next goal is to perform in a restaurant. "With a little more practice and toning, I know I can do it," she said.

The physical workout is far more thorough than one might think. It offers everything from toning and firming to general aerobics. The movements are all fluid and gradual, involving no sudden movements or jolting of any joints or extremities.

The challenge is training those extremities and body parts to move independently of one another. "It's a dance of isolation," explains Badre. "You have to learn how to isolate different parts of the body, making some move slowly while others move faster, or keep some parts still while other parts move. Both sides of the body get equal exercise."

Trimming tunes
The music is predominantly Middle Eastern. Since the purpose of any dance is to share a full story, you'll discover a vast range of moods within one piece. Some notes float along with ease and melancholy, while others crescendo in a powerful tempo change. "These days, there's more and more modern Arabic pop, and that's great for getting the younger generation involved," Badre continues. "It's not uncommon for me to get phone calls from young women who want me to teach them to dance like Shakira." Shakira, a Colombian pop singer of Lebanese decent, incorporates belly dancing in her music videos and on-stage performances.

Taking the stage
Traditionally, belly dancing lessons build to a recital which showcases varying ability levels. Students taking private one-on-one lessons perform on their own, while the classes perform as groups. The solo performances are typically more advanced. Due to the safety-in-numbers factor, group dances are the most common starting point for beginners. They do, however, involve their own separate challenges, requiring participants to synchronise their movements thus truly making them part of a team.

Often, newbie dancers question whether they possess the balance, dexterity, finesse and coordination necessary to learn a demanding dance form. Badre offers these words of encouragement to anyone facing the shyness hurdle:

Tahira's Tips
  • Belly dancing is fabulous for all shapes and sizes.
  • If you're in doubt, just go to a recital and see what it's all about. You'll see what a unique and beautiful performing art form it is.
  • If you're nervous at your first class, don't think about what you look like! Just feel the music and have fun.
  • Don't try to be perfect. Each movement is going to look different depending on the person doing it. Embrace your uniqueness.
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