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BW Businessworld

Belly Benefits

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Ah, those belly dancers with their shimmies and undulations and their impossible looking moves! Can you imagine the work that goes into acquiring some of those jaw-dropping skills? 
 
That’s if you want to dance professionally, of course. There’s also a school of thought that believes in using belly dance basics for a good whole-body workout. Other than being great exercise, belly dancing has the advantage of being a lot of fun, building in its own motivation — something we all need to keep our daily dose of exercise going. 

While belly dancing is more a woman’s domain, there are well-known male dancers who do an exceptionally good job with it because they have the muscle strength to drive some of the more difficult movements. As far as exercise goes, something else will undoubtedly work better for men. For women, it’s considered a natural fit and there are some who believe that belly dancing in Middle Eastern culture was also a way of increasing a woman’s ability to bear children without a hitch. That may well be part of the reason why any woman who really gets into this form of dancing begins to feel more powerfully feminine. They soon also discover that it’s as much about mind and soul as it is about body. Women feel more confident and happy with themselves, more centred and able to view themselves positively. 
What you get out of belly dancing
• Flexibility
• Toning and sculpting
• Muscle strength
• Stamina
• Posture and grace
Weight loss? Only if the choreography involves considerable footwork and some larger arm movements
 
If you can’t get yourself to a class, you do have an alternative: learn by video. Entirely possible, as long as you have a few essentials:

But it would be correct to say that there’s nothing simple about belly dancing. One needs to learn moves the correct and safe way and practice a great deal to get it to look good. The challenge, and its bit-by-bit mastery, also adds to how great one feels as each milestone of achievement passes. If you can find a belly dancing class nearby and learn under the watchful eye of an instructor, you are in luck. One of the more fun things to do in a group, it draws you into another world, where oriental charm and atmosphere takes over. 
  • A well-selected collection of videos
  • A small dance area where you have some freedom to move about
  • A mirror to check on your proper form 
  • A yoga mat for preparatory exercises and warm-ups
  • Anything you can wear to approximate a belly dance costume — use a scarf for a hip belt
Choosing A Video
A gentle workout, low impact but sustained over 45 minutes and very graceful, is Neon’s ‘Luscious’. This video reviews the basics as well, so you can opt to just use this one, and then strings things together into workouts and even choreography.  If you want to move to a more active workout as you learn, consider Jillina’s ‘Shape Up and Hip Out’. In this video, the workout involves moves that are introduced in instalments. The same moves get faster and faster over three workouts. You need two types of videos to belly dance for fitness: videos that teach the basic moves and those that take you through a workout. There are a number of videos for beginners that are easy to follow as the instructor breaks down each movement carefully and takes the learner through several rounds of practice. There are constant safety reminders and posture checks. One excellent basics video is a two-disc set, ‘Instant Belly Dancer’ by Neon of World Dance New York. This set of DVDs, translated into many languages, is a great way to learn the fundamentals because Neon not only explains every move carefully but has a graphic overlay to show the exact trajectory of the move. This technique makes it easy to visualise the move in your mind and you internalise it and will stay safe from the start. 
 
 
You can do all three for a full workout that starts slow, acting as a warm up, and then moves into high gear. 
 
You can get videos easily on Amazon, eBay and other stores, or even directly from the dancer if you know what you want. Some of the videos from World Dance New York are available as downloads on iOS. And daturaonline.com offers online classes starting from as low as $2 to rent a short lesson online for a month or $35 for access to a huge bunch of videos, instantly, for 30 days. 

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 17-09-2012)