Beginner belly dancing classes offer students something beyond fitness with the chance to learn about the culture behind the dance and improve their sense of well-being and body image.
The six-week beginner class is being taught at Rising Starz of Auburn by an experienced belly dancer, Genevieve. The class meets on Thursday at 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. with registration set at $65.
"People have very commercial views of what they think belly dancing is, usually their only exposure is through movies like Aladdin,” Genevieve said. “There is a story and culture behind the dancing.”
Genevieve’s journey to belly dancing started as a child when she studied ballet and later, in high school when she was a majorette. After that, she then studied modern dance in college.
“I tell people I’ve been dancing my whole life,” Genevieve said. “It wasn’t until I was out in the world working as a college recruiter at my alma mater that I saw a flyer for a belly dance class and I thought it sounded so different and exotic.”
A class taken on a whim later turned into a love for the art form, so much so Genevieve started working with an instructor in Rome, Georgia to learn more. There she performed regularly and later continued her career in Atlanta before moving to Auburn.
Genevieve teaches both independently and through continuing education at the University.
Body positivity is a huge part of belly dancing, Genevieve said. Students are encouraged to dance regardless of size, age or dance experience.
“Belly dancers come in a lot of different shapes and sizes,” Genevieve said. “We, in America, because we’ve seen all these images of what we think a dancer should look like and are taught that everything has to stay in place when dancing, you know, nothing can jiggle but with belly dancing you have to throw all of that out the window, and that is one of the hardest things to get used to.”
Students can expect to be welcomed into a positive and fun environment when learning the dances while also being taught the culture behind it.
“Belly dancing is an excellent way to let loose and kind of get rid of the stress of the week and have fun,” Genevieve said. “That being said, I do try and infuse a little of that culture background into the class so usually during our warm up I’ll set them up with a basic exercise while I tell them a little bit about why they’re doing this dance.”
Belly dancing comes from folklore dances of the Middle East and combines different elements together into what we know today as the performance art of belly dancing. Genevieve’s signature style blends elements from American Cabaret and Egyptian style dance.
Genevieve stressed that belly dancing is for everyone. While it is a low impact form of exercise, you are still working with your body and using muscles some don’t tend to use a lot.
Once students become comfortable and have the basics under their belt, they are encouraged to attend events in town called a hafla which is an Arabic word for party. Those interested can participate in what is similar to a recital that has performers from all experience levels.
One of the two hafla events is called Hafla for Humanity where dancers raise money for different charities in the middle east. This year money will be raised for the Malala Foundation. This is a great way to give back to the people who gave us this kind of dance, Genevieve said.
“Don’t be afraid to try belly dancing even though it is going to be something very different and very new,” Genevieve said. “It’ll open up your mind to different cultures and history but also about yourself. Don’t let preconceived notions stop you from doing something if you want to try it.”
Those interested can register for classes at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/beginner-belly-dance-choreography-six-class-session-tickets-34014376917.