TIRED OF EXERCISE routines that reduce you to calculated moves and having to deal with intimidatingmachinery at the gym? If you’d like to add fun to your workout or enjoy a night in with your friends but still feel good about hoarding the chocolate, consider belly dancing.
Dolphina is a professional belly dancer with her own studio in Los Angeles who shares her workout routines with the likes of Salma Hayek and Carmen Electra.
Faze: How did you get involved in belly dancing?
Dolphina: I took my first lessons with my mother back in the 70s when women were doing it as form of feminist empowerment and then we lived in Morocco. That’s where I saw my first belly dancer and started learning the moves as a little girl and I’ve been doing it ever since. But you don’t have to be doing it since you were a little girl to get the benefits, whether it’s fitness or to feel confident about your body.
Faze: Why this much love for belly dancing?
Dolphina: Belly dancing means a lot to me in all areas of my life. It’s my form of fitness; it’s the only thing I do. It’s my entertainment; I go out and I perform and I love to dance and I feel the immediate joy of being liberated, feeling free and just letting go. It’s my form of healing; it makes me feel better about myself and builds confidence. I also love what I give to other women. I love teaching it and it’s seeing women of all ages having fun with their workout instead of it being a chore or something else to add to your schedule in between, doing homework and washing dishes. And it’s also a fun thing to do with your girlfriends — to actually dance and learn how to do these moves — together.
Faze: How else would you say it differs from yoga or a Pilates or even just an aerobics workout?
Dolphina: One of the main movement principles of belly dancing is isolation. So you’re going to move one part of the body and relax the rest of the body and that’s a challenge. It’s a mindbody concentration and you know it takes a little time to be able to do that but that’s what actually gives you such a great workout. For instance, when you do a figure eight with your hips, you’re going to keep your chest perfectly still and that’s going to add resistance and work your side abdominal muscles. That’s what gives you a good waist.
Faze: So how does the empowerment side of belly dancing help build confidence?
Dolphina: Girls often have issues with their abs, hips and buns and these areas are what we move and tone most in belly dance, by actually moving them in pleasurable ways instead of punishing yourself with crunches and squats. Even those words sound awful but by doing things that are fun, you move in a way that celebrates your body. You enjoy it as a form of dance and expression, and fitness and shape follow. You could wrap a scarf on your hip but you try not to hide your body or be ashamed of whatever your shape is. That is empowering.
Did you know?
Before being accused of being a German spy during World War I, Mata Hari was renowned in Europe for her dance routines. She often performed in veils and shawls, which aroused intense public interest.
Belly dancing is one of the oldest forms of dance, with roots in ancient cultures from the Orient to India to the Mid-East. Belly dancing is usually performed during fertility rites or preparing a bride for marriage; that belly dancing is intended to entertain men is one of its biggest misconceptions. In ancient times, men were not allowed to attend belly dancing rituals.
Dolphina is the author of bellydance and creator of the Goddess Workout.