Belly Dancing Fitness Classes in the Hudson Valley
Belly dancing classes attract Valley women for strenuous exercise — as well as social time together
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In the last decade or so, videos of pop stars seducing their audiences with shimmering hip scarves and twisting torsos have brought the art of belly dancing into the popular culture (think Shakira). What many Americans don’t realize, though, is that this Middle Eastern dance is much more family-oriented than it is commonly perceived — it is, in fact, a folk dance done by both men and women of all ages at family parties and other celebrations.
Here in the Valley, several belly dancers, who both perform and teach, hope to quell the stereotypes — and more importantly, introduce this ancient art form as a fun, strengthening, and empowering form of dance. It’s already catching on.
“When a woman feels this type of movement in her body, it gives her internal confidence; she’s happier, feels better about herself because her muscles are tighter, and that confidence permeates the rest of her world. It’s empowering and she feels like a goddess,” says belly dance performer and teacher Christine Dempsey, a Saugerties resident who goes by the name of Willow.
She says she believes the misconceptions about the art form go all the way back to the 1893 Chicago World Fair. “There was a belly dancer named Little Egypt who performed, and after that, many burlesque and vaudeville acts started mimicking her moves and calling themselves Little Egypt,” she explains. “Since then, several types of belly dance have evolved into burlesque-type acts. In my opinion, it’s every belly dancer’s responsibility to not push that stereotype of it being a purely sexual form of movement. It’s supposed to be a little coy, playful, but it’s not a striptease. It’s a dance of the people — a celebration of life.”