The Belly Dancing Experience

Posted by M ws On Thursday, July 19, 2012 0 comments
Before I started blogging seriously, I was a gym fanatic from November 2005 to November 2007. Then, I was trim, slim and svelte and hit the gym everyday and twice on Tuesdays and Thursdays! After I gave up my gym membership, I set up a mini home gym with a range of free weights, dumbbells, treadmill, bicycle, workout bench, cross trainer, twister and other exercise gadgets. Good money wasted.

The bench was used for my boys' school bags. The weights were used for 'aesthetic' reasons such as raising the height of the waste-paper basket. The bicycle was used to block the balcony door and the handles of the treadmill was used to hang clothes that I had ironed. The twister was used as a base for the television in my bedroom so that I could swivel it easily. The cross-trainer which was placed in the computer room was overshadowed by the computer and had absolutely no utility. The only gadget used frequently was my computer.

Along the way, I gained weight. Horizontal progress was the catch-phrase and I soon outgrew my clothes. Since I had been battling the bulge from my teens, my wardrobe had clothes in three sizes - M, L and XL.

From Medium, I morphed into Large. Then it was Extra-Large and the alarm bells went crazy when I hit XX-Large.

It was no laughing matter when few clothes could fit me. I could not pull up my jeans beyond my thighs and if I succeeded, I could not zip up no matter how hard I tried. I ended up wearing my standard uniform of shorts and t-shirts. Since they were all either lycra-based or stretchable, it was easy to slip into apathy and think that all was well. It was not.

Along the way, I lost many friends and relatives and I had a turn-around one day thanks to my cousin who, when visiting Penang, had brought along this scientific contraption which could measure:

  • Weight
  • Body Fat
  • Muscle mass
  • Visceral Fat
  • BMI
  • Body Water
  • Bone
  • Body Age 
  • Kcal measuring functions

Well, my readings were horrible and my body age was 58 - many years more than my chronological age!!! My 76 year old aunt's body age was 50 (she is a ballroom dancer/competitor). The only acceptable reading was my visceral fat which was pretty low as I am a low-fat diet. I seldom eat meat too.

That was when I started my journey to a healthier and slimmer me. The death of a dear friend in mid-December accelerated my weight loss and by April I had lost 29 pounds. However, I paid a heavy price.

From January to May, I was very ill. Then I started eating a little bit more and exercised more. I have maintained a 26 pound loss for the past 5 months and I was so frustrated as I had plateaued in my weight loss.

The past few months, my friends such as Dr Murali, Freddie, Suan Choo, Connor and Philip had been badgering me to join a gym. I did not for two reasons - I could not afford it and hated driving through traffic jams. Also, I did notl like the parking arrangement at their gym.

And then came another turn-around yesterday. The greatest motivator in my quest for health and fitness probably heard the cries of my heart and gave me a one-year membership at the newest gym in town.

Today was my first day there. I put on my favourite black exercise pants, a white t-shirt, a new pair of Adidas sports shoes that I bought in Isetan 3 years ago (never worn at all!) and drove to the gym.

Upon reaching the gym, I kept my backpack in the locker and headed for my favourite machine - the stepper.
Working out for 10 minutes on the stepper was so tiring. I had programmed it to fitness test and in that period, I burnt 80 calories, panted like a hunting dog and was not at all surprised when the results of the test beeped across the screen:

V E R Y     U N F I T

Not about to be defeated, I went on the treadmill, programmed it to Fat Burn function. I walked and then ran for two kilometres and burned 120 calories. As it was my first day, I was going to shower and then head for home when another lady asked me to join her for the belly dancing class.

Belly dancing? *faints*

Gingerly, I followed her to the huge workout room. The mirrored walls made me feel better as I could see that the 8 months of gruelling exercise and dieting was worth it. The instructor, Beatrice, looked radiantly beautiful and most alluring in her harem pants, belly ring and ornaments, scarf and midriff top.

In my previous gym, I did attend one belly dancing class and was not impressed. But this class was unlike any other I had seen and even the one I had attended because Beatrice was the one who really explained meticulously the mechanics of motion in belly dancing. What enthralled me was the way she shared and taught with so much love and passion for belly-dancing.

"The term "belly dance" is a translation of the French "danse du ventre" which was applied to the dance in the Victorian era. It is something of a misnomer as every part of the body is involved in the dance; the most featured body part usually is the hips. Belly dance takes many different forms depending on country and region, both in costume and dance style, and new styles have evolved in the West as its popularity has spread globally. Although contemporary forms of the dance have generally been performed by women, some of the dances, particularly the cane dance, have origins in male forms of performance." (Source: HERE)

Much to my surprise, Beatrice did not dance for us or ask us to dance. Instead, she explained the isolations that we had to master and how the focus is on the hip and pelvic area.Contrary to what some may think, belly-dancing is not about swaying the body in a seductive fashion but it is all about isolating different parts of the body such as the hips, shoulders, chest, stomach. Some of these movements reminded me of the isolations used in my jazz dance classes in the 1990's. For sure, correct posture and muscle control are just as important in belly dance as it is in other types of dances.

Today, I learnt isolations for the hips, buttocks; the Shiver/Shimmy a shimmering vibration of the hips, hip hits and the undulations.

According to Wikipedia:

Shiver or Shimmy – a shimmering vibration of the hips. This vibration is usually layered onto other movements to create depth in performance. The simplest shimmy is created by moving the knees past each other at high speed, but contractions of the glutes, thighs or lower back may be used instead to create different qualities of movement. The shimmy can be performed in different directions - up and down, side-to-side, or in a forward and back swinging motion. The same move can be performed using the chest and shoulders, sometimes called a shoulder shimmy.

Hip hits – A staccato movement of the hips out from the body. This can also be performed using other body parts such as the shoulders or chest. The move is usually achieved by isolating the hip area and contracting the glute muscles to move the hips up or down. The dancer's weight can either be distributed across both legs or on one leg with the toes of the other foot pointed.

Undulations – Fluid movements of the hips or of the chest and abdominal muscles in a circular or rotating fashion. There are a wide variety of movements of this kind, of which the most well known is probably the rotating movements of the chest forward, up, back and down to create the impression of riding a camel. (from HERE)

What made the class special was the way Beatrice asked us to connect with our bodies - the different muscles and how to let our minds control our bodies. Believe me - for twenty-five minutes, I was trying to jiggle my hips and the 'moons' and made no headway till she asked us to lie flat and to relax, concentrate and allow our mind to tell our bodies what to do. Once I found the muscle, it was soooooo enjoyable.

However, the prelude to that enjoyment was heartache and frustration. I am so glad Beatrice did not give up on me even though I said my body is made of wood :-). She looked at me and said, "I know you are trying very hard to connect with your body. By next week, you will be able to do it." Most encouragingly, she kept telling us to relax, to let go and to let it flow. I was thrilled when finally, my derriere could move and pulsate albeit slowly.

Whatever the case, it was such an enjoyable lesson together with Ong and her daughter. We connected as women who love dancing and were more than ready to take a ride on this journey to the world of belly-dancing. I had no problem doing the shimmy but the undulations - whoa!!! Mega difficult and ultra tiring!

It is not going to be easy and I surmise it will probably take me one to two years to be really good. But it does not matter. What matters is the exercise, breathing correctly, being connected to my body and enjoying the pulsating force of the music and moving to the beat. Hopefully, in time to come, I can have a washboard abs! I know my friend Philip is the only guy who attends the belly-dancing class in his gym. Thank goodness we belong to different gyms!! :-) If you have tried belly-dancing, please share your experience.

Here are some links to belly-dancing competition video clips.

Queen of the Pyramid 2010

Jalila Belly Dancing Queen 2009

There are many more in YouTube. Just google it and you can find so many.

Stay healthy and fit! Take care and have a lovey evening!

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