#TryThis: Belly dancing starts small


The sparkly and sparkly skirts and transparent colorful scarves will transport you to another place and another time. It’s easy to forget that this is a workout.

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Jasmine has always been one of my favorite Disney princesses. Of course, Aladdin’s heroine was brave, independent and sharp as a nail. But what fascinated me the most at 10 years old was her pretty outfit. The sheer, sparkling turquoise outfit she wore made me fantasize about being an Arab princess in a way that was completely alien to a tomboy who climbs trees like me.

So when I saw that Parrish Health and Fitness in Titusville had a belly dancing class as part of their group fitness program, needless to say I was done with that.

I arrived to find a group of barefoot, casual-looking women rummaging through a bag of sparkly, sparkly belly dance skirts. I could barely contain my excitement. Someone handed me a red sarong with gold sequins and coins and I tied it around my waist. A shimmy test revealed a noise reminiscent of Santa’s sleigh.

Belly dancing is something that has always attracted instructor Tia Amaya. Amaya, 47, said she has been fascinated by belly dancing since she was little. Once she took on her role as Group Fitness Coordinator at Parrish Health and Fitness, this was one of the first orders of work, to establish some kind of Arabic dance class. She and several other girlfriends even have a belly dance club that meets on Friday nights and performs at events in central Florida. Several of the women participating in the class even had beautifully embellished and handmade skirts that they wore in class.

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The class first introduced the small movements that are the basis of belly dancing. I learned the technique to isolate your hips is to focus on the legs. I had always assumed this was attributed to a supernatural ability, but it turns out that anyone can do it with the right instruction. Small, isolated movements are combined to create faster, smoother movements, and ka-POW! You are belly dancing. Wearing the skirt certainly helps you make these movements, the tinkle it makes is like an audible confirmation that you are doing things right.

While I wouldn’t exactly call the demanding class in a cardiovascular sense, you will definitely feel the burn and sweat. Doing this regularly would absolutely have a slimming and toning effect on your abs and arms.

Beyond the basics of the belly, we also tried our hand at a traditional Arabic dance technique that used veils, which are like large scarves. These sheer pieces of fabric are used as visually appealing accessories. We circled with them, circled them around our bodies like fancy bullfighters, hid behind them and even folded them up and sort of climbed into them. I struggled with this last move. On more than one occasion, I got tangled and stuck inside my veil, and looked a bit like a confused dog that had a blanket thrown over it.

The format of the class is easy to follow and was not at all intimidating. Even if there were no guys in the class, any man brave enough to give it a try would certainly be well received. The experience made me feel like I was in another place and at a different time. The basic training was outstanding and the fun factor was high. So go ahead and get in touch with your inner Princess Jasmine (or your inner Aladdin) and give it a try.

The breakdown

Where you will hurt: Abs, waist (obliques), hips, arms and shoulders

How much you will hurt: This, of course, depends on your activity level. For me it was roughly a 3.

Ease of accessibility: 6. This type of class is not as widely available and easy to find as other fitness dance classes.

Should know: Most belly dancing classes offer jingly sarongs to participants. Call ahead to find out. I really recommend using one, it makes the experience more fun and helps you know when you are making the right moves. This type of dance class is suitable for people of all fitness levels.

Pro or not: You should only take fitness classes taught by certified professionals.

Or: Parrish Health and Fitness Center in Titusville. 321-268-6200 or visit parrishhealthandfitness.com

Studio 321 Fitness & Dance, Palm Bay. 321-722-5685 or visit studio321fitness.com

I ordered the Chaos Dance Studio, Suntree. 321-759-1316 or visit orderchaosdance.com


How much will you hurt: 1 is an easy to use lemon squeazy; 10 indicates that you may not be able to walk on your feet the next day.

Ease of accessibility: Takes into account the ease of trying this activity, the cost, the number of locations that offer this activity, equipment rental, etc.

Michelle Mulak is the fitness and water reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Michelle at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook or Instagram @MobilizeBrevard or on Twitter @MichelleMulak.

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