Belly dance for fun and fitness

October 13, 2015

Tips on learning to belly dance: an ancient art for fun and fitness

Belly dance is an alternative name for the traditional dances of the Middle East. Some choose to learn belly dance for fun, others for physical activity and others to master the subtle techniques of an ancient art. With some background knowledge about its history and modern belly dance classes, anyone can use belly dancing to get in shape while having fun.

Belly dance for fun and fitness

1. History & culture

  • The phrase "belly dance" is the English translation of a French phrase "danse du ventre," which was originally used in the late 19th century.
  • The term "belly dance" encompasses several folk and performing art forms that have existed in the Middle East and North Africa for centuries. For example, Raqs sharqi and beledi are Egyptian styles whilst raqs shaab is a Tunisian dance.
  • Some cultures separate women from men, whilst other cultures do not.
  • Styles also differ by venue (nightclub, cultural fair, wedding etc.).
  • Dances are usually casual and impromptu. They can be performed in homes by mothers who want a giggle from their young children, at weddings with family members or on the stage at a five star hotel.

2. The belly dance class

  • The most common type of middle eastern dance taught in a class is raqs sharqi, or "Egyptian Nightclub."
  • Each belly dance professional runs class differently, but most classes follow a set protocol. Class will begin with a warm-up, designed to make the body limber for the technique portion of class.
  • Next, technique focuses on the repetition of specific dance movements in order to perfect their execution. The repetition of these moves generally brings the heart rate up; here, dancers may break a sweat.
  • The third segment brings several techniques together to form a choreographed dance. These combinations often entail travelling across the dance floor in a vigorous -- and hopefully elegant -- manner.
  • Class ends with a quick cool-down. The instructor will lead students in reducing their heart rate and stretching major muscle groups before dismissing the class.

3. What to wear

Novice dancers should not allow flashy nightclub costumes from the movies to intimidate them. They can wear modest workout clothes to class such as:

  • yoga pants or other close-fitting athletic bottoms
  • snug t-shirt or tank top
  • coin scarf, hip scarf or fringed shawl; anything that could wrap around the hips.

Belly dancers are supportive and welcoming. The new dancer should choose comfortable clothing that will allow the teacher to check for proper body alignment.

Belly dance offers its students the best of both worlds: physical activity in a creative and welcoming environment.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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