Belly dancing, anyone?

NO MORE EXCUSES

I never thought belly dancing would be aerobically challenging or give me a good workout. And then I tried it.

I got an email challenging me to a marathon belly dance class. I was skeptic. I didn’t think belly dancing would be aerobically challenging nor give me a good workout.

Curiosity won, so I joined a group of my sorority sisters for BellyRama, a sampling of belly dance classes held at Lotus Dance Studio. The class ran nearly three hours, divided into sessions of roughly 20 minutes with short breaks in between.

When I think of fitness, my choices didn’t include belly dancing …until now.

Located on East W.T Harris Boulevard in the University area, Lotus Dance Studio is owned by Iona Wilson, who began belly dancing in 2002. It came as a surprise to her finance, Maurice, who is now her husband. Gradually Wilson’s technique improved. She later danced professionally in a troupe, Magic Hips. It was there that she met Nanya Jones, who teaches nearly all the classes at Lotus.

But it was Wilson’s dream to own a studio, and Lotus was born. Or, as Wilson says, “it is the rebirth of dance.” She offers classes weeknights through Saturdays. “We have soccer moms, trophy wives and all types of women, including children from five to 78,”she said.

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No children where present the night I visited. I scanned the room and saw women of all sizes and ethnicities. Their body types were equally varied. At Lotus, women are proud to show stomachs that aren’t necessarily as flat as mine. It was liberating to see them embrace their bodies.

“I don’t feel bad about my big stomach,” quipped one of the woman as we prepared for the BellyRama.

As I removed my t-shirt I wondered what could possibly happen for the next three hours.

The evening started with basic belly dance techniques, proper body form, dance moves and arms, i.e., snake arms. Wilson was our first Instructor. Her directions were easy to follow. Towards the end of the beginner session, we actually performed a belly dance routine where we synchronized our arms with hips and legs. Although the music was unfamiliar, the moves were simple and lively.

Next up was Zumba, led by instructor Charlene Waiters. Because I, too, am a Zumba instructor, I was excited to participate, and Charlene did not disappoint. Zumba is an aerobics-based routine infused with Latin music and moves that are fast-paced for a total body workout. Waiter’s routines were fun, funky and included moves that targeted — you guessed it — the belly.

A few of the participants were a bit winded after this session. I, however, was in Zumba heaven and didn’t think the evening could get better. Then instructor Jones rolled out her sessions of Belly Funk, Belly Fit and Slow and Snaky.

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I never imagined belly dance moves to the music of Parliament/Funkadelic (One Nation Under A Groove), Beyonce (Single Ladies), Usher/Lil’Jon (Yeah) and Salt-N-Pepa’s classic hit Push It (my favorite female rap group). The session quickly turned into a party as we swayed and moved to the great music.

Although a few of the moves were challenging, I was having a ball and the moves became secondary. Jones was as energetic as Waiters had been. She led the class through a series of dance-based routines that were incorporated with belly dance moves and designed to tone the body.

Wilson returned and addressed the class by summarizing enrollment information, answering questions and thanking everyone for attending. The evening ended with Wilson and Jones performing a brief belly dance routine that was precisely choreographed.

One participant, Jodi Douglas Turner, said she enjoyed the marathon session. “My favorite was Belly Funk,” she said, adding that she planned to come back.

Interesting tidbit: Lotus mirrors other dance studios by holding student recitals at the end of each five-week session. Participation is voluntary, Wilson said.

If you are looking to add variety to your fitness routine, I recommend you give belly dancing a try.

Lotus Dance Studios (www.lotus-studios.com) has instructors who are competent, engaging and friendly. I had a great time as I learned a few new moves for my arms, hips and belly. The classes are affordable and run in five-week sessions for beginners through advanced in a relaxed setting.

Stay tuned as I sample other fitness classes to share with Qcitymetro.com readers. Until then, be healthy and be well.

Sondra E. Z. Hines is an adjunct professor of health and wellness at a community college and is certified to teach group fitness and Zumba. Email: sondraezhines@yahoo.com.

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