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Snake Hips Question and Answer

Why belly dancing as a solution to a broken heart? Did you try other remedies first?
I had tried everything else, and a friend suggested belly-dancing lessons as a joke. She never thought I'd say yes! By the time I found dancing, I had tried therapy, rebound dating, chocolate, journaling. . . all of the usual suspects. I read every self-help book I could get my hands on with no real effect. I honestly didn't start to feel like myself again until I found belly dancing. Now I wonder what I did before dance.
What advice can you give women coping with heartache?
Get a bunch of good girlfriends and stay busy. Whatever you do, don't give yourself permission to be maudlin and isolated. When my heart was broken, I stayed out from dusk until dawn. If I didn't have something to do, I did nothing somewhere and with someone. I would even tag along grocery shopping with my friends though half the time I'd end up crying on the frozen foods aisle, but at least I wasn't alone. If there was ever anything you wanted to try, learn, or pursue, now's the time to go after it. I belly danced. My advice, do something.
What is the best part of belly dancing?
It has to be the saucy ladies that I've met through dancing. The costumes are definitely a bonus, too; I was always a jeans-and-T-shirts girl until I had a “reason” to drop $400 on a fringed sequined bra!
What is the worst part of belly dancing?
Stepping on a glass bead. Barefoot. Say no more.
Can you explain a typical day in belly-dancing class?
Classes really vary from teacher to teacher. At Lucy's class, we stretch for 15 languid minutes while we catch up on the latest gossip from Cairo, then we go over one combination, step, or technique in intricate, precise detail. At the end, we cool down with more stretching and leave feeling refreshed and relaxed. By contrast, I take a Thursday night class with Zara and Zitana where even the warm-up wears me out. At that class, we stretch, do some drills made up of basic traveling steps, arms, finger cymbals, and hips, but there is also an extended "stamina" part of the class where we improv through one or two songs as they move around the class and offer critique. I usually feel like I've been beaten with a stick by the end of class (in a good way, though).
Do you break a sweat shimmying?
It depends. It depends on how big of a shimmy you've got going on and how long you hold it. I think I'm exercising aerobically in some of my classes. In others, the workout is more like what you'd get in a good yoga class. I am definitely working muscles that most people don't know they have, and I am more comfortable in my body than I've ever been before. I hear that from a lot of dancers -- belly dancing teaches you to appreciate your curves, your jiggles, and your bounces!
Can anyone shimmy?
There is something for absolutely everyone in belly dancing. I have never seen women of such varied sizes, ages, and experiences coming together so easily as I have at belly-dancing class. We have 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds, size eights and size 28s. I can't tell you how many women have patted their perfectly lovely bellies at me and said "I could never belly dance with THIS belly!" Of COURSE you could. Come see. And we'll even let you in if you have a six-pack, but it is absolutely not required. Neither is performing. If you just want to take a class for fun and exercise, no one is going to shove you on a stage.
Tell the truth, how do you practice?
Since I've been dancing, I listen to Middle Easten music even when I'm not dancing. So, if I've got something upbeat and poppy like Hakim or Hanan on the CD player while I'm around the house, I'll dance to that—but I've also been known to break into a hip drop to Cake or Godsmack. When I'm practicing for a show, I just drag a boom box down to the living room and go to town. (I don't advocate shimmying in the shower, sounds like a recipe for disaster. But Linda Hollett of the Women of Selket says you should shimmy every morning while you brush your teeth. See how long you can hold it and you'll have white teeth and fast hips.)
What are some of the major misconceptions about belly dancing and belly dancers that you would like to tell the world?
People assume we're going to start shedding veils and not stop until we're nude (or at least topless). The belly dancer/stripper thing is most belly dancers' pet peeve. However, I'd say I get more annoyed with the "sexy housewife" stereotype left over from the sixties and seventies. I bristle at being thought of as a housewife with a hobby, and it drives me nuts mainly because belly dancing is hard work. How dare people think we sit around our wood-paneled studies eating bon bons with the occasional shimmy thrown in—the idea.
Snake Hips by Anne Thomas Soffee: BellyDancing and How I found True Love, British Cover
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