Fitness District, The Features

Fitness District: Bellydance

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Part of our ongoing series about different ways to get fit in the District…

In our last edition of Fitness District, Samantha ventured into the world of dance with a trip to B. Fit to try the Barre Method, a system based in part off of ballet. This week, we explore another form of dance that’s recently taken off in DC as a fantastic way to stay fit and challenge your body – bellydance, also known as oriental dance or raqs al sharqi.

Most people’s experience of bellydance in DC is probably relegated to a cabaret performance at a Moroccan restaurant like Marrakesh or Casablanca, or maybe even a show at Palace of Wonders or DC Tribal’s monthly nights at venues like Asylum, but increasingly dance companies are also performing in grand productions on local stages. I got hooked both ways, by watching a performance of Bellydance Superstars in a large theater, and being privileged to have local American Tribal Style troupe Sammati Dance perform for a small party at my house. Inspired by the vibrant joy and sensuality, I wasn’t convinced I could actually get that kind of isolated control over my muscles, but I was sure going to try!

It seems like every gym is adding a bellydance class these days, but I urge you to make sure you are learning a properly constructed curriculum from an experienced dancer to avoid injury. There are many fine dance studios teaching bellydance in the DC area – Joy of Motion, Sahara Dance, and Saffron Dance (where I study) are consistently mentioned as the best. Also, with a thriving community of professional dancers here, you have the opportunity to take private lessons as well, which is a real boon if you choose to advance.

Now it may not seem like it at first, but it takes a lot of control to shake your booty. My very first class had me a sweaty red-faced mess by the end – and that was just a beginners class! As you advance – traveling combination steps, layering shimmies, undulations – it’s hardcore. But every single person I’ve asked about their experience learning bellydance has said the same thing – that it restored their confidence in their bodies and self-esteem.

I asked two professional dancers and instructors, Kostana and Asharah, to talk more about how bellydance impacted their fitness and body image.
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