Sweat and Tell: Belly Dancing

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Belly dancing. It’s not the most approachable form of exercise.

From my perspective, belly dancing is associated with crop tops, colorful silks and a certain sultriness that I most definitely do not possess. For the sake of fitness and this column I went to a beginner level class at Alegria Dance Studio at Emerald Ball-room anyway. The experience was interesting to say the least.

I’ve heard that belly dancing is a great workout, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The class began with a warm up, focusing on isolations. I was used to these kind of exercises from when I danced, so nothing too crazy here.

The real challenge was trying not to laugh when I caught glimpses of myself in the mirror and made awkward eye contact with the class regulars. 

I thought I would be learning to be slinky and, dare I say, seductive, but the technique focused on posture, keeping proper alignment and matching your rhythm to the music.

I talked with the instructor, Maria Palacio, and she told me that a lot of people have misconceptions of what belly dancing actually is.

“It’s for anybody, any age, any size, I don’t care how old you are, or what shape you’re in,” Palacio said.

Palacio focuses on traditional folkloric dance in the beginner class, which is more of a social form of belly dance that people perform at weddings or special events. Basically, to the Persian Gulf region, it’s what shagging is to the Carolinas.

This isn’t necessarily an intense body sculpting session, but it’s a fun choice for an active recovery day if you have one in your workout schedule. 

As expected, I did feel my ab muscles targeted in a new way and surprisingly, some of the arm movements started to burn my shoulders because of the repeated and continuous isolation movements performed throughout the class.

Is belly dancing my newest obsession? I think I’ll just stick to my barre classes when I need my dance fix. I will say it was a good way to connect to a different culture in a unique way, while branching out of my comfort zone.

I thought I would look completely ridiculous — and I did — but there was something really interesting about a group of people trying something completely foreign to them just for the sake of learning something new.

Plus, it’s just fun. So grab your silk scarves, a buddy and be ready for lots of laughs. At the very least, you’ll get some great photos.




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