Belly Dancing

Posted at Jun 14, 2013 12:20 am

I took a belly dancing class last week. 

It was a fund raiser for Out on a Limb Dance Company.  I’m on the board.  But that’s not why I took the class.  It was a fun get together. 

Picture a dozen women wearing sweatpants or yoga clothes.  Two were in loose dresses.  (Maybe not the best clothes for doing Downward-facing Dog.)  We ranged from mid-twenties to mid-sixties and were all body types.  We had coin-encrusted scarves wrapped around our hips, attempting to move them in figure eights.  The three young women in their twenties who dance with the company made it look easy.  But some of the class members really picked up the hip action.

Although I had taken belly dancing decades ago, that was when I was a fit college student.  I still remembered some of the moves, but let me tell you, the body doesn’t always do what you want it to do.

The worst for me was snake arms.  I don’t know if I was using my biceps, deltoids or triceps.  But whatever the name of the muscle group on the top of my upper arm, by the end of the class it ached.  And here I thought all that gardening and yoga planks would keep me in shape.  That apparently works the forearms and not the upper arm.

We shimmied.  At first we did slow hip pops, one with each beat of the music.  Think hip twitches.  Feet close together, knees bent, a controlled shaking of the booty.  Then the pace picked up.  The jingle of the coins on the scarves added texture to the eastern music playing.  Finally the teacher had us shimmying as fast as we could shake it.  The instructor insisted we shake everything that could jiggle, because we were glorious women.  Shake the belly, the butt and those thighs.  Now the coins were a steady ching-ching-ching filling the studio with bright sounds.  (Almost covering our groans.)

We did a shimmy circle, walking and shimmying at the same time.  Thanks goodness we weren’t also trying to chew gum.  Our circle wasn’t round and our shimmies were offbeat, but our laughter was musical.

Since the class took place in a yoga studio (Tula Yoga and Wellness in Saint Paul) we cooled down with yoga breathing, shoulder stands and stretches. 

After class, the woman who had donated the event hosted a wine and food hour.  The food and wine were wonderful, but made even better by the graciousness of our hostess, Ann Blackburn and a community of women who celebrated being women. 

Writing is such a solitary endeavor; I sometimes forget to get out of my office.  Writing conferences provide that for me, but to be a well-rounded writer, I need to stay open to all sorts of stimuli.  Even though my shoulders and lower back were aching the morning after, I’m so glad I went!  And some heroine just may take a belly dancing class in my next book.

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