“When you start dancing and you feel cool, you feel like the whole world
belongs to you”
Esther Boateng


When you come to your first Belly Bolly dance class, I’ll check whether you have any aches and pains; bits that hurt or are damaged, e.g. stiff back, strained shoulder, dodgy foot, high blood pressure etc.¬† Ideally, you check with your GP if you have a known condition, and abide by their advice¬†about dancing. The good news is that Belly Bolly dance is known to ease lots of conditions and I have had women coming to my classes, encouraged by their doctors. I always ask that you take care of your body and stay within comfortable limits. I don’t believe in ‘no gain without pain’!

Me in Turkey, warming up before dance.

You’ve probably never done anything like Belly Bolly dance before.¬† No worries, not many women have!¬† You’ll find that everyone is very welcoming: no divas or cliques; the dancing isn’t competitive.¬† We’re a sort of tribe, I suppose, and you’re instantly included.

So I start from scratch. I explain the specific posture that we use for Belly Bolly dance. This is based on yoga and pilates principles that strengthen your back, abdominal muscles and legs. Then we do a warm-up to prepare your body for dancing: stretches and a few aerobic exercises to get you primed for the moves. The picture above shows me on a dance course in Turkey.  It was very hot (hence the rarely bared middle!) yet we still warmed up before the dance class.

I demonstrate and explain the moves,¬†and how to make transitions between them, shifting your weight and engaging the right muscles.¬† I check everyone…no mercy!¬† Then all that is stitched together¬†into choreography¬†with its patterns of moves, including repetitions and variations. This gives you experience of really dancing.
Here we’re¬†practising turns, hence the blurred arms!
Practising turns in ZedShed class
We go over all this until everyone has grasped it. ¬†I keep asking for any questions and am watching out that you’re not developing bad habits!¬† I believe in encouraging personal excellence, so I’m keen that you do the best you can. There’s no pressure, though.¬† The dancing is for you and it would be pointless if you weren’t enjoying it.¬† Classes finish with a cool down to ease you into leaving: this is especially important once it gets colder outside.

In the next class, I go over¬†it all¬†again before going on to¬†new moves and choreography. Everything is cumulative: you’re building muscle memory as well as engaging your brain.
Belly Bolly dance gets easier the more you do it!

After dancing for a while, you’ll be ready to take on extensions of moves, different and faster transitions, dancing as pairs with mirrored moves and more demanding choreography.¬† I’ll introduce you to dancing with props: veils, scarves, sticks, fans and the dreaded finger cymbals.
Everyone learns and improves at a different rate.¬† When you’re ready, the pace is cranked up again and, at this level,¬†you keep extending your repertoire of moves and dance styles: more fusion, showier use of props, new dance styles and more intricate choreographies.
Swooshing veils around in Belly Bolly class
From this class come my Seef Saffah performers.¬† I work them the hardest of all!¬† I involve them in creating my choreographies by offering choices of patterns and asking for feedback, though I have the irritating habit of changing things once they’ve been learned¬†because I’m always looking for the best effect¬†(they do give me some gyp¬†for doing this!). Anyone with lots of experience, who feels able to dance at the fast pace, is welcome to join Seef Saffah.¬† If you’re in this class, you don’t have to perform, but the lure of strutting your stuff in front of an audience is strong!¬† Performance skills are another aspect of Belly Bolly dance.