By Jeanie Keogh
If you’ve a taste for the Eastern arts and have thought there is something about the way women in Bollywood movies move that you would like to emulate, belly dancing classes will give you a chance to reinvent your exotic self. Belly dancing is a powerful way to invigorate your feminine life force by rediscovering your sensuality while staying in shape.
An hour-long class works core body muscles similar to the ones you focus on in a Pilates class but belly dancing is much more fun. It’s an exercise in learning to isolate different muscle groups in the upper body and simultaneously coordinating their working together with the hips. This stimulates the mind-body connection as you teach yourself to move some muscle groups while concentrating on letting others relax – at first it feels like patting your head while rubbing your stomach. The biggest muscle groups that you’ll remember the next day will be your shoulders and triceps, abdominals, intercostals and right on down to your hips and legs. Now try making this look effortless with a playfully coy look on your face and you have your work cut out for you.
“A lot of people think that belly dancing is just shaking your hips, but there is a lot more to it than that,” says Sophia Soo who teaches belly dancing for seniors at Edmonds Community Centre in Burnaby.
Classes with Soo involve warm-up movements, choreography and stretching to cool down. Soo adapts her class to accommodate those with limited mobility with a be-good-to-yourself, do-what-you-can approach. Some attend her classes for rehabilitation; she has taught a woman who was trying out belly dancing as a complement to her physical recovery program after she underwent a hip replacement operation. Soo said it helped restore her mobility and proper body alignment.
Soo’s classes are intergenerational attracting students in their twenties as well as those in their late seventies. This creates a nice camaraderie amongst women from different walks of life and at different stages of life and no one feels threatened to be who she is. The best part about belly dancing is you can tailor it to suit your needs. It can be a vigourous workout or a gentle, lyrical dance performed in homage to womanhood.
But seniors have an advantage that younger women do not, Soo said, which is that they are more open-minded and willing to take in new information. They also understand instructions better than their youthful counterparts.
Don’t worry if you haven’t got a clue what to expect in the first class. Be thankful that belly dancing isn’t a dance form where you have to suffer an onerous hour with a horrible partner. Belly dancing is intended to entice a lover but is not reliant on one so you are free to live up to the maxim “dance like no one is watching”.
Soo admits that sometimes there are a few embarrassed red faces when she teaches the shoulder shimmy.
“I tell them, don’t worry, the girls are just going to come along for the ride,” Soo said, adding that this usually elicits a few giggles.
If you live in Burnaby you can contact Soo through Edmonds Community Centre in Burnaby at 604-525-1671 or check out course schedule through the City of Burnaby website . Many other recreation centers offer dance classes as well.