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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serpentessaSerpentessa and a close friend perform a fusion of old-school American cabaret dancing with newer Egyptian techniques

Photograph courtesy of Serpentessa

Serpentessa, who dubs herself a snake priestess, performs belly dance with boa constrictors. While she only dances with one at a time, she has a few snakes that have been with her for almost 30 years. “The boa constrictors are very gentle; of all the 3,000 or so species of snakes, they are the best human-snake ambassadors,” she says. “You just have to respect them. When one slithers onto my shoulders, I won’t shimmy them, I’ll start moving my hips more.”

» Learn belly dancing with Serpentessa in New Paltz, NY

The New Paltz resident says she was once very self-conscious about her own body, but working with the reptiles has been healing for her. “Snakes respond to our body rhythms, scent, and musical vibrations. The way they wrapped around me quieted my mind, brought a sense of peace, and I started to know and understand my body.”

For about 10 years, Serpentessa has been teaching a form of belly dance that is “a fusion of old-school American cabaret with elements of newer Egyptian technique,” but has been giving performances rather than teaching as of late. Teaching a class or workshop often leads to participants overcoming their fear of snakes, she says. And while she does wear the traditional garb, her belly dance performance style is family-friendly — she even performs at bar and bat mitzvahs.

“When you’re using serpentine movements that stem from the core muscles, it has a natural sensuality,” Serpentessa explains. “Sensuality, to me, means that no matter what age or size you are, you’re not afraid to live from your core, feminine power. We live in a culture that makes people feel like we’re lacking — women are taught to fear what they will become when they get older. Belly dance can allow a woman to appreciate her own body.”

These classes also allow women something that’s important to the culture of the dance — time spent together. “One of the most important elements of my class is the community of women that it has begun,” Angelique says. “My classes include women who work full-time, others who have big families to take care of. This gives them a couple of hours a week to do something for themselves — a chance to get together with other women, be social, sweat, laugh, and dance. It’s beautiful.”

» Visit the Hudson Valley Sports, Recreation, and Fitness Guide for more dance classes



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