The Love of Eastern Dance
Belly Belle*

Published in the Christchurch Press 30/11/01

As an older computer professional I wanted regular exercise that would get me moving, be interesting, and expand my creative and cultural horizons.

I found it all in "belly dance" - or Middle Eastern Dance as the more involved tend to call it. MED has it all: it's gentle on the body and it builds strength, flexibility, and co-ordination slowly and steadily.

It also can act as a focus to further improve fitness to achieve particular goals - such as building strength for floorwork or studying best ways to stretch to improve performance.

I've been involved with MED for more than eight years. Some days it is as simple as putting on some music and working through improvisations.

Other days might involve working on a section of choreography trying to get the right feel. If I'm really lucky I'll be at one of the workshops with international teachers offered from time to time.

Even the frustration feels good. Then, at the end, a chance for some good stretching before a little costume making or Arabic language practice.

So why does it move me? Why has all my leave for the last 5 years been spent learning more about the dance? Why do I spend hours trying to isolate parts of my body to make it look easy? Why does someone who could pass for one of the boys now have 10 shades of nail polish and skills in building sequinned bras from scratch?

Partly I enjoy learning new ways of looking at the world. Partly it is the music. Arabic music transports me. It is complex and cries out for physical interpretation.

Partly it is the satisfaction of setting a goal and working on it and achieving it. Partly it is the joy of having my body attuned and capable of doing what I ask it.

Partly it is the pleasure of showing people another way to experience music - you don't just need to listen with your ears, I'll let you see it with your eyes and feel it in your hear - and sometimes I'll make you laugh too. But really - I just enjoy it. It's fun.

*"Belly Belle" was the teaser tag used by the Press.
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