More Helene's Pictures at MORE NEWS
Belly dancing: Swivel your way to fitness
By Stephanie Smith
Friday, June 13, 2003 Posted: 11:05 AM EDT (1505 GMT)
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- In Asia, it is a dance to usher in a new birth. In Turkey, it is considered a folk dance. In a small studio in West Los Angeles brimming with women of all ages, belly dancing is a unique way to get in shape.
"There's parts of your body that after you do this dance you realize you haven't been moving those parts in years," said Iris Parker, a student in the class.
Parker's instructor, Aisha Ali, said that while swaying and sashaying through the hour-long class her students don't just move parts of their bodies, but the entire body.
"The neck moves and the shoulders move and the chest lifts and the diaphragm lifts. The pelvis goes up and down," said Ali, who has been performing and teaching belly dancing for more than two decades. "It's soft for the joints and yet it's very energetic and very aerobic."
According to Ali, a single belly dance session works hundreds of muscles, burns calories and helps students to de-stress.
"You really have to stay with it," said longtime student Jytte Springer. "It's always a challenge, a physical challenge, and that's the real workout."
Belly dancing has emerged as one of the hot new workout trends in recent years, according to the American Council on Exercise.
The fitness advocate group says belly dancing and other dances have evolved from the traditional concepts to become heart-pumping workouts in gyms across the nation.
Many students attend classes to lose weight, but Ali said other aspects of the class are what make them stay.
"Eventually they get interested in all the different kinds of music we play...and they want to know about those countries," said Ali.
ORIGIN OF BELLY DANCING?
There have been many theories about the origin of belly dancing, but most of the evidence links it to the Middle East and Africa. Its apparent origins come from the fertility cults of the ancient world. Some say it was introduced by the Phoenicians (an ancient maritime civilization in present-day Syria and Lebanon), others consider Egypt as a source of belly dancing. Egyptian tomb paintings dating from as far back as the 14th century BC depict partially clad dancers whose callisthenic positions appear to be very similar to those used in belly dancing.
Only In Turkey belly dancing is called as "gobek dansi". It has evolved through the influence of many different cultures throughout the centuries.
In Turkey today, belly dancing is considered as a popular part of social celebrations (e.g. weddings).
Good belly dancers have incredible muscle control. This beautiful dance is performed with the whole body, not just the "Belly." It is usually done as a solo dance and while they perform the dancers often use some type of rhythm instrument (e.g. finger cymbals) to aid the musicians.
MORE ABOUT TO BELLY DANCING?
PLEASE VISIT "ONLY IN TURKEY" PAGE!
CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS: