It was with much anticipation that I entered my second belly dancing class, and I was not disappointed.
This week, the class started out with a social evening. We gathered around in a circle chatting and getting to know those we had been shimmying and shaking our booties alongside in previous weeks. It was very relaxed, and as we talked about why we'd decided to give belly dancing a go, a common thread became evident.
The women in the class are as diverse as they are alike. They come from different backgrounds, are at different stages in life and have different goals – but they're connected by a desire to have fun, get fit and feel sexy. And everyone is in hearty agreement that belly dancing is not as easy as it looks!
Back to class
When the class began and the music replaced the girly chatter, we all took our places in a circle around the large sunlit room. The mood grew a bit more focused as those of us still very new concentrated on trying to make our hips move in the same gentle and alluring way instructor Crystal's hips were moving.
It is mesmerising watching a professional move with such ease and grace, and her encouraging smile almost makes you believe it's possible for you to do the same. That is, until you catch sight of yourself in the mirror and realise that what your hips are doing is hardly graceful or elegant.
Crystal shows off some of the belly-dancing moves and positions.
However, Crystal is kind enough to keep encouraging me and, after a little while, I see her eyes light up and know I have finally got it right. Or at least, better.
The comforting thing is that we're all in the same boat. A few of us tend to get frustrated when we can't get a move right the first time, but Crystal wisely points out that if we could all belly dance, we wouldn't be in a beginners' class. It's not often you get told it's OK not to be perfect at something!
Dancing like no-one is watching
Over the next few weeks I let go of the ridiculous notion that everyone was watching me and criticising my every move, and I felt much less self-conscious. The moves became more fluid and easier to perform, and I began to thoroughly enjoy my newfound confidence. (I made sure that I steered clear of any mirrors lest this feeling be rudely interrupted by reality, though.)
The more I focused, let the music's beat dictate the movement of my hips and fixed my mind on contracting my stomach muscles to lift and flick my hips, the easier it became.
Crystal leads the belly-dancing class in a new dance routine.
Four weeks in and loving it
I have now completed the month of belly-dancing classes which I had been assigned and must say that I'm hooked.
Some of the moves are now much easier to do and, although the classes have become increasingly demanding, the fun factor has also increased.
My stomach muscles do actually feel a little tighter and I seem to have better control of them than I did before. I can also feel that I am a bit more flexible than I was when I began and can almost shimmy without losing a beat too often - almost.
In fact, I have become so intrigued with this form of dance and the subtle, but noticeable, effect it is having on my body and mind that I have signed up for the course.
I highly recommend it to any woman who wants to get fit and have fun doing so. The classes are fun and sociable, and the dance moves sensual. A lot of belly-dancing classes claim they will 'unleash your inner Goddess' and while I'm not sure mine has awoken from her slumber yet, I can definitely say that she has been warned!
(Amy Henderson, Health24, updated November 2010)
Cape Town: Feminine Divine Oriental Dance Studio
Phone: 021-712- 1913
Joburg: Charlotte of The Jewel of the Nile
Belly-dancing for beginners
Belly dance for happy hips