Belly dance for fitness?

Greetings all, and I hope you had a lovely Christmas and new year. I’m going straight on to the meat of the post today (is it appropriate for a vegetarian to use that expression?) so consider all pleasantries duly exchanged.

I work for a university, and one of the positives in working for a large establishment is that you get various benefits. Use of the gym and all fitness classes for a very discounted price is one of these benefits, and I try to take full advantage. Anyway, last week I was browsing the university staff website and noticed a ‘free belly dance taster session’ was being advertised. It was taking place during my lunchbreak and, well, it was free, so I thought I would give it a go. I had ascertained that it was not one of the university fitness instructors or sports staff, so that was a good start – an ‘outside teacher’ they said. Who could it be? Not a local teacher, I know them all and would have heard something on the grapevine. But a chance to do more dancing, in my lunchbreak, for free? Yes, yes, yes. I booked a place.

Oh. Oh god. It was appalling. When I arrived at the class some faux-Arabic pop was playing (you know the type, a western dance track with a slightly middle eastern chord progression?) Didn’t worry me initially, it was the kind of music that would make for a good warm up. And to give the teacher her due, we did a very thorough warm up. This is where the good news stops. I have never seen belly dance butchered so mercilessly. For example, did you know that a shimmy is in fact called ‘shakey shakey’? And I’m sure you’ve all heard of the popular move ‘sexy arms’? You know, the one where you run your hands down your body? And crotch thrusting is a valid belly dance move, right? RIGHT?

WRONG. Sweet as she was, this woman was clearly a zumba instructor. I take zumba classes, they’re good fun, but my god do they vomit all over genuine forms of dance. It was her snake arms that gave her away. In zumba you do a similar move, also called snake arms, which is basically the same but involves a really staccato reach to either side. Its much faster and sharper, and it looks ridiculous. You can see a good example of zumba snake arms in this video at about 1:03.

Aaaarrrggggghhh, it was awful. I came away feeling cross, and a bit embarrassed because the people waiting to use the studio after us were all watching through the door and we looked like proper morons. I went back to my desk fuming. However, I have since decided that my problem was more with the way the class was advertised. Ok, it wasn’t belly dancing, but it was belly dance inspired fitness. Why not call it that? Bellyfit, or Bellyrobics, or some other smooshing together of two words. After all, its being offered by a gym. ¬†That way there would be no confusion, no one would come away thinking they had ‘mastered the ancient art of belly dance’ (not my words, ugh). At the end of the class I felt sweaty and a bit tired, so there is no doubt that 30 minutes of vigorous ‘kick the ball’ (hip drop and kick) and ‘shakey shakey’ (shimmy) is a good workout. Is it too much to ask that the differentiation between learning to dance and keep fit be made?


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shiraz Smith
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 11:10:02

    Happens all too often People come away from the classes feeling they KNOW about Bellydance. Oh dear so many misconceptions. Blooming Shakira everywhere!!! Thanks Ellie for this very valid article.


  2. Lilithnoor
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 19:06:01

    Shakey shakey? Oh my Gods.

    I have to admit, we call one of our arm moves (where you sketch a coke bottle/woman’s figure in front of you) ‘sexy lady arms’ but that stemmed from the fact that one of my troupe mates used to sing ‘I’m a sexy la-ady’ to the rhythm of the move, and it stuck. No self-fondling involved!


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