How to Learn Belly Dance at Home
It's not easy to learn to dance at home. However, learning to bellydance at home is easier than almost any other dance style, especially if you've never danced before. Beginners' belly dance moves are:
- gentle on the body so you're not going injure yourself even if you get it wrong;
- don't need a lot of flexibility or strength, so you're not going to be struggling to achieve the moves;
- don't involve running around or jumping, so it doesn't matter if you're carrying a few extra kilos.
Many people think belly dancing moves are difficult, but in fact they're completely natural. For most women, the main obstacle to moving their hips like a belly dancer is mental, not physical. It's wonderful to see the look on their face when the penny drops!
The other great thing about belly dancing is that although mastering the art can take years, you can create a simple belly dance choreography with only a few basic moves.
The clip on the right shows a group of women at Club Med who learned belly dance during their holiday - their performance may not be perfect, but they've only been learning for one week! To be fair, not everyone will become that proficient after only a few classes - these girls had one of the top belly dance teachers, Michelle Joyce, teaching them.
If you're attracted to belly dance as a way to get fit and toned, rather than just to have fun dancing, then you need to know that beginner belly dance classes are usually not strenuous enough to reach your goals quickly. To get fast results, you need to focus on specific belly dance exercises, as Michelle does in her Perfect Hips belly dancing DVD. For more options, read my article on belly dance workouts for fitness.
Teach Yourself Belly Dancing
If you want to get started learning belly dance at home, there's a wide range of belly dancing DVDs - but the quality of the teaching on bellydance DVD's varies enormously, and you can easily waste your money if you buy the wrong one.
Some have very little explanation, which is useless for a beginner (I suspect some were made to attract guys who want to perve rather than serious students!). At the other extreme, there are DVD's that do an excellent job of breaking down the moves - but once you know what you're doing, you'll get impatient listening to the explanations over and over again.
What you want is a DVD that offers a detailed breakdown with full explanations, as well as combinations of the exercises without a break.
That way, once you know what you're doing, you can do the class exactly as you would at a belly dance school. The final element should be a short choreographed routine, so you can learn how to put all the steps together to make a dance.
The series of DVD's by Indian twins Veena and Neena is reasonably good, and widely available in shops - but they are quite basic, and many people find they outgrow them fairly quickly. For that reason I recommend Michelle Joyce's DVD, but you'll probably have to buy it online.
Most belly dancers own at least one Michelle Joyce DVD! This is her beginner's class.
Belly Dancing Schools
Personally, I recommend getting to a class as soon as you possibly can. As I said, for many women, the obstacle to moving their hips is mental rather than physical, and it can take a good teacher to find the right words to break through your particular barrier.
If you think there are no belly dancing classes in your locality, try Googling first - you may be surprised to find there are classes around, that you didn't know about! Or to find a belly dance teacher in Australia, check out the Australian Belly Dance Video Directory, which has listings by suburb.
Please don't be self-conscious about joining a class because of your size or your age!
I know only too well how competitive - and even bitchy - other dancers can be in ballet, jazz or flamenco classes. One of the reasons I fell in love with belly dance is that all the bellydance schools I've attended have been so non-competitive and accepting.
At a typical adult belly dance class you'll see women of all ages from 20 to 60, and all shapes and sizes. There's no need to have a bare midriff, either - the only compulsory piece of equipment is a scarf tied around your hips.
Most beginners wear a long t-shirt and a pair of baggy pants or a gypsy skirt (buy a larger size with an elasticized waist, so you can wear it low on the hips). But it's surprising how many woman are proudly showing off their bellies by the end of their first term, stretch marks or no!
Why not give it a try?