Wellness: Bellydance Finds a New Beat

by Latoya Peterson

73506119.jpgLast Saturday, I found myself preparing for battle. My opponent looked tall and fierce, but I knew I could take her. I looked to our crew leader. She moved into an aggressive stance. I did the same, crossing my arms in front of me. Everyone was waiting for us to make the first move.

The music flared up and we launched an attack, shaking our hips as we advanced toward our rivals on the dance floor. The coins on our hip scarves jingled as we stopped in the middle of the floor, isolating the lower half of our bodies, waiting for the chorus to drop so we could really move. Webby’s “Independent” pounded as we swirled, dropped it, and shimmied like there was nothing left to lose. The other team carefully appraised our moves and started to plan their counter attack as we dropped to the floor for our final moves. I was in the thick of my first bellydance battle and I loved every minute of it.

Now, I know this may be a little different from the ideas and actions that normally come to mind when people bring up the ancient art of bellydance. The Middle Eastern/North African origin of the art form tends to conjure up ideas of seductive dances with veils and traditional music, not dancehall, winding, or hip-hop. But, as with everything else in these modern times, bellydance has been remixed to fit ever changing tastes and to provide even more challenges.

The dance battle I attended was sponsored by the Bellydancers of Color Association (BOCA) during their annual Movement and Wellness Expo.

BOCA’s mission statement reads:
The Bellydancers of Color Association (BOCA) was formed to celebrate the sister/brotherhood, strength and beauty of people of color in relation to bellydance and other traditional forms of dance.

Although we focus to unite dancers of African descent, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander, Asian, Native America, Rom, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, East Indian, etc. in a cohesive organization all are welcome.

The association also promotes the following points as central to their mission:

Bellydance had captured my attention. After sweating through two fun hours in “Junk in the Trunk” class where I shook it with women all across the size, age, and ability spectrum, I was ready to commit to taking some classes. And there are so many to choose from!

Since I live in the Metro DC region, the MamaSita Movement and Wellness Studio is where I can go to get my fix. They offer classes seven days a week. I am personally eyeing the Bellydance Basic Technique class, Strip-ology, Belly Dancehall, Hip-Hop Bellydance, and Belly Sculpt (targeted excerises for core muscle groups.) And of course, dear readers, I will report back to you after I take these classes.

If you are not in the DC Region, you can still find a BOCA instructor near you through their website, or order the Moor Hips instructional DVD to practice with at home.

Bellydance is a wonderful way to get more in touch with your body, and is a workout that can be easily adapted for all fitness levels. With offerings that span from traditional dance to tribal dance to hip-hop and dancehall influenced moves, the only problem will be finding which format is right for you.

[YouTube Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnnBs7h4n6g]

  • Elise

    Bellydancing has really taken off in the AfAm community. It’s such great excersise . . . and don’t sleep–it is a total body workout, so be prepared! I live in the Atlanta area and took a class with Sha’ni of Tiger’s Eye Collective and it was awesome. Check her out: http://www.shaniga.com.

  • ceecee

    I’ve tried following the belly dancing routines on FIT tv and it is a fast paced workout. I’ll stick to makossa dancing thank you :)

  • http://Knitgirlll06.wordpress.com Phyllis T.

    I just discovered BOCA also via a crafting community Ravelry.com and have been bellydancing for about a month now. I love it. Learning to control your body and freely express yourself. I don’t go to classes but one of the sistah’s in my knitting group sent me Moor Hips Belly Dance DVD and I love it. Can’t wait to hear about your classes.

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