April 9 2003 The Harbour City Star, Nanaimo By Sandra Steilo
This week I joined in on a trend that has been around for hundreds of years but now is suddenly new and hot again. I took a beginner belly dancing class with Lynette Harper at the Community Service Building.
She got involved with belly dancing the first time it became trendy about 25 years ago and said she’s seen many ebbs and flows in its popularity since then. It’s on ah upswing now again. “It’s major right now,” Harper said. “I think people are looking for a fun work out without having to go to the gym – There’s also an interest in world music and cultures.” Harper’s mother is Lebanese and while she’s done many other kinds of dancing, belly dancing just makes sense for her. “It’s a great way to let people know about the Middle East besides what they see on the news,” she said. “It shows people the culture behind that part of the world. “And, it’s a wonderful thing, with belly dancing you can keep performing as you age.” Before the class Harper told me that belly dancing, unlike other forms of dance, is very improvised. This was a relief. I was joining in for the last class of the series and most of her students enjoyed the class so much they’d been coming regularly. I had taken belly dancing about three years ago and I was more than a little rusty. You need to have technique, Harper explained, (damn) but belly dancing has everything to do with expression and showing your own personality and people at all skill levels can do it. Yah! “It’s a wonderful way to come together with a group of people and have fun,” Harper said. “It’s very good for you to. It can be a great aerobic workout.”
She was right about that. The next day my sides hurt from all the movement in the hips. Those are muscles that don’t get worked a lot and isolating just your hips for a movement is tough. The drop-in class featured about 10 women of all ages and sizes and although I had never been to her class before I quickly felt like part of the group. I just kind of tried to fit in and shook my hips when it seemed appropriate, which was quite a lot.
We did part of a dance the class had been working on and while I improvised for about 90 per cent of it, I felt like by the end I was catching on. With the lively music and the fun, flirty movements it hardly seemed like a work out and the time flew by. “It’s addictive,” Harper said.
I can see how that would be and now with classes put on hold until Harper’s show Miraj, with her troupe Earthfire which is playing at Malaspina, April 11, is over with, I feel like I’m going through withdrawal.