The Fun of Belly Dancing
A Way to get Fit at Home
I have recently been searching for a good way to re-start a fitness routine. I have always been bored to tears by treadmills and exercise bikes and am unlikely to attend a class due to the demands at home.
A DVD seemed the perfect solution, but I confess I am tired of yoga, Pilates and anything related. A friend at work is a belly dancer, so I though I would give it a try. I fell in love instantly. It is slow, it is sensuous and it is fabulous exercise for the core muscles.
Origins of Belly Dance
It is not known where and how belly dance originated for certain. A theory has it originating in North Africa and being spread by caravans all over the Middle East. Another theory states that belly dance was invented to help women in childbirth. Certainly, many of the moves do help women learn how to control abdominal muscles and separate top and bottom abdominals. Yet another theory claims belly dance originated in ancient Babylon. It is most likely a combnation of factors that is responsible for the spread and popularity of this dance form.
Types of Belly Dance
There are three main types of belly dance: Baladi/Beledi, Sha'abi and Sharqi. The sharqui is the type popularized by the big names of belly dance: Samia Gamal, Tahiya Karioka, Naima Akef actresses who rose to fame during the golden age of Egyptian film. This is the type most known in the west and taught in North America. The dance conitnues to evolve and has even acquired ballet movements into its repertoire.
Steps of Belly Dance
Belly dance makes extensive use of hips, arms, and abdominals. The most well known move and perhaps most recognized is the shimmy. This is where the dancer moves her hips in a shimmering type of motion. The knees move past each other at high speed. The chest and arms do not move and the focus is on the hips.
Watching belly dance should be like watching water. The movements are fluid, not jerky. The Egyptian type of belly dance is slow. The dancer will often just do hip circles as she walks in tiny steps around the room. The North American belly dancers use more of the floor at their disposal. The movements are faster and there is more use of skirts and twirling. This may be owing to the type of audiences in North America. Typically, Egyptian belly dancers at smaller venues - restaurants, private parties. American belly dance is more of a show piece.
Belly dance for fitness is growing in popularity. There are several videos available and many dance studios now offer belly dance classes. The benefits are many. The abdominal exercises and the hip movements help whittle waists. The arm movements help with balance. The chest circles help strengthen pectoral muscles. And really who can resist feeling sexy, imagining being dressed in shimmering skirts and tiny bra-like tops, coins jingling at the hips with every move, in front of a mesmerized audience? Not me! I love it.