Friday, August 1, 2014

Belly Dance at Move Studios

For a very long time, I had a secret dance wish:

I wanted to take a belly dance class.

I have long admired belly dancers at Mediterranean restaurants and at Heritage Fest for the intricate and hypnotic way they move their hips and torsos to the spirited music.  They dance with such confidence, strength and grace - they make it look so effortless! And they always seem to be having a great time. Who wouldn’t want to try that?

So I tested the waters by requesting a belly dance class to be part of my stagette last June. My bridesmaids came through in a big way when they found an instructor to lead us in an hour-long, crash-course of belly dancing at the southside location of Move Studios, a dance studio that specializes in belly dance, tango, Bollywood and fitness.

Mandate: Move Your Mind, Move Your Body, Move Your Soul.

I am a firm believer that time speeds up in a dance class, especially when the style is completely new and exciting to the participants. That hour flew by as we did our best to learn the basics of belly dance and it was ridiculously fun to dance with my best ladies, as I knew it would be. I was hooked after that, so I watched the Move Studios website closely for a beginner class that fit into my schedule and I was so excited to finally register for an 8 week session on Thursdays. I was excited for the opportunity to learn more but also slightly nervous since this time, I would on my own, not surrounded by people I knew and already felt comfortable being uncomfortable with.

But I needn’t have worried since our instructor was the incredibly welcoming, positive and knowledgeable Marie Habib, and the ladies in the class were so supportive and game to try everything. Marie’s approach, with encouragement and positive energy, was to give us as many variations of traveling steps, turns, arm movements and footwork as possible, all while breaking down the finer technical aspects of belly dance, which in my opinion, can be summed up in three key concepts: isolations, weight transfer and accents.

The amazing Marie Habib, belly dance instructor

Belly dance requires intense isolation of different parts of the abdominal muscles, such as the oblique muscles. I was surprised to learn that the obliques were responsible for lifting the hips and that simply alternating bending my knees could create that classic belly dancer shimmy. Slight weight transfers between the feet, even different parts of the feet, create smooth transitions between the movements of the abs and hips, like my personal favorite, the figure-8. This was an important understanding for me because I am much more accustomed to bigger weight transfers, such as shifting/balancing from two feet to one foot, not the smaller, more subtle transfers, like heel to ball of the foot. It seems like a small thing but to me, it made a big difference in how I understood the movement.

Marie also taught us to listen closely for the different accents in the music, which then would signal a new ab/hip isolation or weight transfer. In the process, we danced to many different instrumental songs for belly dancers. It was a challenge for my ears and brain as much as for my body and it felt great to work out my dancer-brain.

Also – belly dancing in an amazing ab work-out! After the 8 weeks was up, I definitely felt my core to be stronger and I saw more definition to my abs. It’s hard work and I have a new appreciation for the strength of this style of dance.

Learning to dance means taking risks, trying new styles and being open to new experiences - this is exactly what taking part in Beginner Belly Dance at Move Studios did for me. I had a blast being in a new, supportive setting with great people and learning from a fantastic teacher. I’m thankful I got to explore this beautiful and challenging new style and I look forward to trying it again someday.

Move Studios Beginner Belly Dance class, Spring 2014.
Thank you, Move Studios, for a great experience! My secret dance wish is fulfilled. I have taken a belly dance class and I loved it. 

Now, go fulfill your own secret dance wish, whatever it is!