Shimmying my way to a new body

Mysterious. Sensual. Seductive. No, I am not talking about the latest Desperate Housewives episode. I’m talking about belly dancing. This surprisingly underrated form of dance and movement is not as easy as you may think

On a rainy night in January, I trekked back into the city from my Delaware County home to try Belly Dance I at Studio 1831 with locally renowned belly dance performer Valarina, who is also the owner of the studio.

I have taken every dance class you can think of: ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, hip hop, and modern. Needless to say, coordination is definitely my friend thanks to the thousands of dollars my parents spent on these lessons. (Thanks mom and dad!) With my background in dance, I was pretty confident that I’d pick up the movements of belly dancing quickly. So, even though I was nervous to try something new, I was more excited than anything else.

The class was made up of seven women, including myself. All of these ladies were different ages, shapes, and sizes, which showed me that it doesn’t matter what your body type is. Anyone can belly dance! All of the girls wore comfortable clothes, some with decorative hip wraps. Fortunately, Valarina had extra hip wraps so I didn’t’ feel left out!

After warming up, we worked on isolating our hips, shoulders, chest, and stomach. I’ve done this before in jazz and ballet class, but the technique in belly dance is slightly different. The idea is to control your muscles so you are only moving one part of your body at a time, or to make two different parts of your body do two different things. For me, it was difficult, to be trained one way and try to retrain your body to do something else. Valarina told me quite a few times that I looked “too hip hop.”

At times I felt like I looked completely silly. My brain was telling my hips to move and my shoulders to stay still but it wasn’t working. Valarina was very patient with me and came over to give me some extra help. In fact, when I realized she took the time to help each girl, I didn’t feel as bad.

The truth is you are supposed to feel silly at first.

Your body is moving in ways it may never have before. Valarina and some of the other participants say that practice makes perfect when it comes to belly dancing. Two of the girls, who I had noticed during the class were more advanced, said that they looked a lot like I did in the beginning. But they are actually really good now.

Valarina is pretty amazing at what she does. Her isolations are the best I’ve ever seen and her technique is pretty remarkable, too. You can tell how much she loves it. Her movement exudes joy, which made me love my time there, too. I didn’t want the class to end.

I highly recommend trying Belly Dance at Studio 1831. It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced dancer or have never taken an exercise class; everyone starts out on the same page. It is challenging, but that’s what makes accomplishing a hip shimmy that much more satisfying. Then, the next time you’re at a wedding or dance club, you have awesome new moves that I bet no one else can do!

Is belly dancing something you’d be interested in trying? Check out the IBX facebook page for a great deal on this class and more at Studio 1831!