Belly dancing: a good way to explore your sensual side

Belly dancing is something I would never think of doing. I’ve been taking dance classes since I was four, everything from classical ballet to Ukranian dance, but all that hip thrusting and belly rolling did not seem to go with my repressed librarian-esque self. Yet given the opportunity to take a belly dance class at the Frank Kennedy Centre for the Manitoban, I decided to take it.

Walking into the room on the first day of class in my ratty gym clothes and dirty hair pulled back in a pony tail, I was not looking forward to looking at myself in a mirror for an hour. I remembered how initially I would meticulously critique every imperfection and awkward dance move I did, while feeling like everybody else must be judging me too. Then I looked around the room and realized that everyone else looked like they felt exactly the same way.

Belly dancing is a very sensual, feminine dance, and if you think you’re going to look weird doing it you probably will. Once I realized that no one in the class was going to harp on me like all those old dance teachers, I relaxed and began to enjoy myself.

Since it is such a sensual dance, I just let that side of myself out. Really, if you can’t wiggle your hips around in belly dancing class, where can you? I’m not really a huge fan of the whole “getting to know yourself” philosophy, but I do agree that sometimes people tuck certain parts of their personality away. The dance looks and feels very sexy, and if you’re looking to explore that side of yourself, I think it’s a great, non-threatening way to do it.

Our instructor is very friendly and extremely enthusiastic. She even took the time to make everyone a take-home CD they could practice to, and brought in someone who sold Arabic dancewear so we could buy coin belts designed for belly dancing if we wanted to. Although she will periodically check up on you to make sure you are keeping up, it doesn’t feel like she is criticizing you. You can just relax and follow along.

The class starts with a few minutes of warm-up, followed by a few minutes of instruction, or a bit of belly dancing history, and then choreography practice. Everything is done to traditional music and everything is oozing with the same sensual nature.

I did break a sweat a few times, but I wouldn’t recommend this as a class to take for losing weight. You do work your core muscles and legs a lot, and — depending on the level of shape you’re in — you might get a better workout than I did. I would advise taking it purely to relax and have a good time. And sorry guys, but I think this is purely a “girl thing.”