(Marilee Nugent), BSc, Kinesiology, BA Art & Culture
answer is this: anything that inspires you to put down the
Dorritos and get off the couch is good exercise. Bellydance
seems to appeal to many people who say they don’t like to exercise.
Caught up in shimmying and undulating to the exotic rhythms
of the Middle East, they don’t notice they are sweating and
benefits of regular bellydancing include increased strength
and endurance of particular muscle groups as well as the rewards
that come from prolonged aerobic activity: improved cardiovascular
conditioning, increased caloric expenditure, decreased blood
pressure, improved blood composition and decreased stress.
One of the big advantages of this dance style is that bodies of every size
and type can perform the movements. The movements are designed to emphasize
feminine curves, grace and coquettishness. At the same time, the movements
strengthen the leg and trunk muscles and improve posture.
women remark that after just a few months of classes they
gain a new acceptance of and enjoyment in their bodies,
discovering how skillfully and expressively they can move.
younger, fitter women are adding bellydance to their menu of
activities. It’s a great way to improve mobility of the joints,
use muscles in novel ways, and improve coordination of the
trunk and hips. Once you’ve acquired some basic skills, the
class can move at a faster pace, running through combinations
and whole dances for more cardio as well as coordination challenges.
improvisational and self-expressive aspect of bellydance
provides an exercise alternative with an emotional and
creative element, which could provide a refreshing change
from the gym routine doldrums. Another bonus is learning
hot new moves to add to your movement repertoire at the
bellydance may be an excellent start to becoming more active
or adding variety to an exercise program, it should not be
expected to comprise a complete fitness program. Being a dance
discipline, the focus in classes is not on maintaining a certain
heart rate or developing balanced muscle strength, but mastering
technical skills and developing artistic expression.
drilling of movements a few hours a week is crucial to learning
the skills and will develop muscle strength, but rather than
only using this movement form for strength building, it may
be wiser to alternate with simpler strength exercises involving
slower more controlled actions that don’t force the large ranges
of motion and constantly stress tendons and ligaments.
it is not an intense upper body workout so you may want to
add that to your routine, although practicing veil work can
be very challenging to arms, upper back and postural support
muscles. As with any exercise regime, once your body adapts
to the new level of activity it is easy to plateau, and you
must increase the challenge by increasing how often or how
intensely you practice in order to see continued improvements
in your fitness level.
are no standardized criteria for bellydance instructors
and no widely recognized established training methods.
Consequently, it is a bit of a “buyer beware” situation,
since many instructors have no knowledge base in fitness,
biomechanics or injury prevention, and often have poor
teaching skills and provide inadequate warm-ups and cool-downs.
get students coming to me after “training” a few years with
another instructor, and find myself in the uncomfortable position
of informing them that since they received no correction or
feedback, they have not mastered even basic technique, which
now has to be completely relearned.
style may hold certain types of injury risk, especially if
taught or practiced incorrectly. Many of the isolations involve
moving body parts in unfamiliar ways and trying to maximize
ranges of motion in spine, pelvis and hips. Progress should
be gradual and emphasize correct technique so that muscle strength
is developed in tandem with flexibility to avoid creating weakness
and instability in the joints.
of the nature of the pelvic movements, it is all too easy to
adopt a poor posture of hyperlordosis (increased lower back
arch) that can cause strain and fatigue in the lower back.
Consequently, I begin all my classes with abdominal crunches
and constantly remind students to engage abs to maintain a
good neutral spine position. Certain popular movements—such
as back bends and kneeling floor work—should be completely
avoided by the general population because of the stress they
put on back and knee joints, not to mention the high risk of
sudden, traumatic injury from attempting them, so be very wary
if a teacher uses these movements in lower level classes.
relate to any previous injuries you may have. Twisting motions
of the hips can cause some torque in the knees which may aggravate
new or old injuries. Some people experience pain in the hip
joints due to muscle tightness, imbalance, or simply pushing
the movements too hard.
technique is crucial to preventing back pain and strain,
I have had reports from students of a decrease in back
pain resulting from strength and mobility gain through
aesthetics as the movement goals poses some injury risk when
enthusiasm overwhelms common sense. Pain should always be an
indication to back off. The desire to achieve certain exciting
moves may encourage students to push their joint ranges of
motion too far and strain muscles, tendons and ligaments. Above
all it is important to remember that each individual has different
limitations with regard to muscle flexibility and joint range
of motion—forcing movements to look the way they do on another’s
body can lead to strain and injury.
is causing continued pain, a student should get advice from
a good teacher on how to modify their technique, consult a
physiotherapist, or get into the gym and start working on a
balanced strength program. Just as bellydance can be a complement
to a fitness program, specific cardio and strength workouts
will bring increased enjoyment and expertise to your bellydancing
through improved stamina (you can practice longer, or in performing,
maintain a higher energy, both physical and emotional) and
increased control and coordination (through improved, balanced
any type of exercise, initially one should start slow and gradually
build up frequency and intensity of practice. In a beginner
class intensity will naturally start slowly and gradually build
as over the weeks experience allows you to begin putting movements
together and actually start dancing!
caution relates to a strong tendency amongst bellydance aficionados
to use the notion of the Eastern ideal of feminine beauty as
being more “voluptuous” as a legitimization for maintaining
an unhealthy body weight.
it is important to love and accept one’s body as it is
today—and bellydance is a great way to get actively motivated
well as realize one can feel sexy and beautiful at any
size—it is important to continue to move forward from that
acceptance on the path of improved health and well-being.
the majority of bellydance students try it for a while and
then go on to the next fitness craze, many women develop a
lifelong passion for the dance which leads to continued athletic
and artistic development, education about foreign cultures,
and development of new friendships with bellydancers locally
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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
the Scenes of " Bellydance Workout" by Venus
television crew said that in the control room it was dead silent
during filming as they strained to listen to what I was saying
so they’d know where to aim the shots.
Strength? Buffing up for Bellydance by Aruna
Muscles are like smart-aleck teenagers. If you ask them
to do something, they do just enough to get the job done—and
Breathing for Better Dance Performance by Taaj
also hold our breath when we concentrate or get nervous. This brings
tension into our bodies. The more tension we have, the more shallow
we breathe. It can become a vicious circle!
Dance Secrets for Fitness and Rejuvenation by Keti
most important factor in sustaining an exercise program is the
'fun factor'; Belly dancing comes with great music, exciting moves,
noisy coin belts and its own special dress code.
A JOURNEY IN MIND and BODY FITNESS by
I believe that I
am on a fascinating journey and that on of the destinations is the
Dancer, A Journey of Self- Acceptance by Melodi
it wasn’t long before I started to realize that the other
girls were different than me. More importantly, I realized that
I was different from them.
- Deeper than the Moves by Keti Sharif
dancer who feels “safe”in the rhythm, footwork, technical
movement feels grounded and secure as she dances. A grounded
dancer will be less "in her head”and allow the authenticity
of feeling to come through her body as a flowing, emotive movement
that expresses the music and how she “feels”the music.
and the Bellydancer by Taaj
then, I wondered, why are so many belly dancers jealous, unhappy,
competitive and insecure? Does belly dance really build self-esteem?
and Dance Fusion, Multiple DVDs Reviewed by Jawahare
It may be a challenge to adequately achieve all three
fitness parameters while also offering a technically solid and
tasteful representation of the dance form.