Belly Dance for Exercise

shiradotnet

New member
The "greater danger" thread has shifted a bit to the question about whether it's responsible of us to promote belly dance as an exercise form. I'd like to explore the topic in greater detail, so I'm spinning off a new thread.

In that thread, I posted:

My take on it is this: belly dancing burns more calories than sitting at home, eating ice cream while watching television.

If someone wants serious calorie-burning aerobic exercise that drives the heart into the cardio zone, belly dance isn't the exercise form I would recommend for that purpose.

However, if someone belongs to Weight Watchers and is trying to obtain the 30-minutes-per-day of "activity", I do feel that belly dance qualifies as "activity" according to the Weight Watchers definition.
Here's my question to all of you:

How do you feel about promoting belly dance as a form of exercise and why?

I offer it as a class, but with the caveats mentioned above.
 

lizaj

New member
I teach in local colleges and they offer it under the "leisure" department along with Salsa and Tap and Ballroom. I think whatver we do, students will intially think in terms of exercise and why not all dance is exercise in varying degress of energy. Most of my students ( and I myself) started because other forms of exercise frankly bored them.
This doesn't mean as you say we have to omit the cultural angle..indeed if you are using ME music classical or pop , you are at the starting post.
I do remember reading posts by members here and on Bhuz who had got fed up of people floggin the cultural aspect and some who I reckon don't really want to recognise the origins of the dance at all. Maybe that's why some turn to fusions???mmmmmm
I do understand that you can be too academic and start to extract the joy and fun that surely goes along with all social and much performance dance ( I only say this because other emotions are displayed in dance performance) so i think teachers have to learn a delicate balance but that it can be sneaked in in droplets from the very start.
No...why not make sure we try Amr Diab and Hakim instead of Western pop...we certainly don't have to use Oum or M.A.Wahab until students are in a deeper end. And if you have to use the blessed Shakira why not mention her ME background?
 

PoleDanceABCs

New member
OK, don't know anything about the last thread... just going to go with what I read here. :D

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I think all dance forms can at least be considered an activity. Dance gets you moving so you are active. There are different activity levels which vary depending on age, gender, and what you are doing. What might be considered low-impact for a strapping 21-year old athlete might be high-impact for granny at the nursing home gym. Some things are cardio and other things are considered strength-training or something else. What can be said about all activities is that you burn calories... whether it is 15 or 150.

For me "exercising" and "working-out" means you really sweat, breathe hard but most importantly your heart-rate goes up to a cardio or fatburn zone. So for me it has nothing to do with calorie burn but how much you challenge your muscles (including heart muscles). After all, you can walk really slow and burn 400 calories but your heart rate was low the whole time.

Unless you are doing some serious jumps and squats and so forth in your dance I would not consider it a form of exercise. So if I took someone who sits on their butt and eats ice cream all the time and compared them to someone who bellydances (only) then the bellydancer is healthier and better off. Still, I don't think belly dance would be enough. You need to get that heart pumping because more women die from cardio vascular disease than anything else (at least in the States). I think that is why there is a difference between belly dance and belly dance fitness classes, no?

I would say something like "belly dance is great for core strength, toning muscles, and burning calories". Not being a physical therapist or someone in that field I really don't know though.
 
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Aziyade

New member
How do you feel about promoting belly dance as a form of exercise and why?
My real issue with promoting it as fitness (and like I said in the other thread, we used to do this quite successfully!) is that I believe it tends to make the participants take it less seriously as a skill and an art form, and you risk losing the cultural connection and context.

Now Shira, I know YOU make a point to include cultural context. But take a look at pretty much ANY of the "bellydance fitness" dvds available mass-market (like at Blockbuster or Netflix.) Quite apart from the fact that most of them are just awful, you often get a very distorted "bouncy cardio" version of the dance.

What I'm finding out in planning my class for cancer patients, is that for some populations, movement itself is therapeutic. It unstiffens the joints, gently stretches the muscles, and keeps the spirits high. BUT, the same movements done by very fit women may not be enough "work" to make them feel like they're really getting a "workout" -- the kind who think if you're not sweating, you're not really working! I think you would have to have just the right population of students to have a belly fit class be successful AND stay true to the origins and cultural context. But that's just my current thinking on the matter.

It's also my belief that the location where you teach has a big impact on how your students view the dance itself, which is why I decided I wanted to make sure I was always teaching at an actual dance studio. I don't know if I'm correct in this belief -- but I err on the side of caution. I want my students to think of dance as an art and a cultural practice -- and not as a flirtier substitute for shuffleboard or Tae Bo. Again, just me -- BUT I want them to understand the work involved in getting good enough to BE a performer, and the further work involved to be a professional. I'm not sure that really comes across in a bellyfit class.

In this town we have more bunnies trying to make it as "professionals" than I care to count. And then when they screw up a job, the people who hired them call ME to complain about it! You can't blame me for being a little defensive about the image I want to portray to my students! :)
 

Jujube

New member
I agree that bellydance is not a major workout in terms of cardio or strength training. When drilling, my heart rate doesn't even rise. It is only during nonstop vigorous dance that my heart rate rises at all.

So I agree that it's -something- active, but not something for real "fitness."

And I agree about the dichotomy between "bellydance for fitness" and "bellydance as dancing." I've seen bellydance "workout" videos and they are neither a good workout nor a good dance instruction, IMO.
 

Reen.Blom

New member
Cardio zone? Why not? LOL Depends on how many spins and turns you throw in and how fast a music you dance to!

But I love the way you put it about the couch and ice cream :D:D:D
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I teach at a parks and recreation center. My classes are listed under "Dance" and not under the general exercise category, and I don't promote them in any way as a general fitness class. I agree that bd is more active than eating ice cream on the couch (unless you are playing keep away with several very aggressive feline ice cream lovers) and would probably sign up for Shira's bd fitness class for fun and exercise- and just because the Illustrious Shira teaches it. :D
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
I do actually recommend BD to my friends for health benefits. Health, not exercise. I have lousy health and have for all my life. Bellydance is toning core muscles I have never used before (even when I took Karate), strengthening my back and stomach muscles, and stretching out muscles that would otherwise turn into tight little balls of pain. Yes, I am loosing weight but I 1)try to practice for at least 1-2 hours 5-6 days a week and 2)have the weight to loose from said lousy health. If I was just trying to loss the weight I would take aerobics and I would probably lose a lot more a lot faster. That's not my goal. My goal is a lifestyle change that will improve my general health all around in a lasting manner.

Also anyone who is looking for six-pack abs from bellydance is looking in the wrong place. The body that this dance develops (unless you are genetically lean) is soft and curvy yet strong! Let me tell you that since getting involved in bellydance my metal image of a fit body has undergone a massive change. I now look at people I would have admired as a teenager and even tried to emulate and they just look so unhealthy to me. I see some skinny actress (who is still considered "overweight" by pop culture) and think to myself "that woman needs to eat something desperately! She could never shimmy for 5 minutes straight without vomiting and collapsing from exhaustion. bwahahahahahahaha!!!!!"

Ok, I don't really laugh manically but you get the idea. True health not popular body image.
 

adiemus

New member
There is a problem with 'fitness' for fitness' sake, IMHO. Belly dance IS a form of exercise and DOES help with fitness, but it won't train you for a triathlon!
I work with people who have persistent/chronic pain. We often discuss the purpose of exercise and fitness - there are health benefits from exercising for 30 - 60 minutes a day, but 'exercising' covers a multitude of sins. If you exercise you need to have some sort of purpose for it - to swim a certain distance, to run a certain time, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, to maintain weight, to improve mood (I could go on!).
There is also the place of movement more generally in terms of improving body awareness, reducing the risk of falls (in the elderly), feeling good in yourself and so on.
There are loads of different ways to achieve this 'fitness' - provided you're clear on why you're exercising! If you're doing it to lose weight, bellydance probably won't do it unless you REALLY work at shimmies for ages! But if you want to improve knowledge of your own movements and improve confidence in your posture, and way your body responds to music, then bellydance is one way to do this.
At the same time, bellydance ALSO gives you so much more - costuming, confidence in performance, knowledge of another culture and music, rhythms and so on.

If dance floats your boat, your aim is to enjoy moving your body and responding to music and rhythm, and you want to learn more about another culture, bellydance just might be The Way. If you want to simply lose weight - well you could do the vacuum cleaning or wash the car or maybe even go to a gym!
 

Sunrise_glow

New member
I think it's great but should be used with caution.
I started out belly dancing with excersize belly dance videos. So I thnks it's a good way to introduce it to others that may not have the time or money to take formal classes.
But, however, I think these beely dance forms of aerobics are modified and are fusions between aerobics and belly dance and not pure belly dance. This may be where the confusion is.
 

Daimona

Moderator
I agree to both Shira’s, lizaj’s and adiemus’ arguments and I really do understand Aziyades concerns about losing the cultural context when promoting is as fitness.

For me, belly dancing is an exercise as much as other activities: I can’t stand running and I think plain aerobic is really boring, the only activities I really like are various forms of dancing.

Belly dancing can be both a low and high intensity activity. In a class I may be a slob hardly getting warm by doing the various movements in a sloppy way, or I may use all my muscles to work through the movements both doing them as strong and beautiful as possible. The latter make me sweat, I breathe hard and I’m getting my heart-rate up to the cardio and fat burning zone and I’m having a lot more fun while exercising.

I think a lot of hobby dancers forget that if you really want to maximize the effect, you have to maximize the effort, as in all forms of exercising, whether it is belly dancing, aerobic or biking. Perhaps it is easier to maximize the effect from simpler activities like biking in the beginning, but as soon as the basic belly dance movements are conquered it is up to one self to maximize the effect when dancing. I think most students forget this point.

What kind of students you attract to your classes depends on how you advertise them.
If you advertise you classes as an intensive work out, this will be what the students expects and they will be disappointed if they don’t sweat, breathes hard etc.
On the other hand, if you advertise your classes as “the full package – movements, music and culture”, like Ranya Renée, I believe you attract those who are interested in this rather than those who want a slightly different workout.

Like Adiemus says:
Belly dance IS a form of exercise and DOES help with fitness, but it won't train you for a triathlon!
 

RanyaRenee

New member
Hey there,

Just happened upon this thread.... In most of my classes I do emphasize the "full package" as advertised. :) But I was recently offered a chance at the YMCA I've been teaching at for 10 years to add more classes to my schedule that are workout-oriented. Ten years ago, I was horrified when my boss at that time (long since gone) had insisted that my bellydance class should be more aerobic than it was. I have done my AFAA aerobics certification, but always focused on the conditioning benefits rather than keep-it-moving cardio. My boss left her position before she had a chance to force me to up the pace and minimize explanations.

But this time, years later, I was able to choose to get more work hours there and have the chance to see if I would *like* doing a more workout-oriented, keep-it-moving kind of class (minimal breakdown, more cueing like an aerobics class, and the students following me in action almost the whole time, a class that is accessible to people even if it is their first class ever).

I found that I liked it!!

I am able to train the participants with muscle work in the usual circles, pops and bumps, as well as step combinations like what they would find in a modern Egyptian style choreography, Mahmoud Reda-style stuff, Yousry Sharif-style stuff, etc., with enough repetitions to get the hang of it, not have to think too much and work up a sweat. I still call out comments like "use your muscles for support" to remind people to dance safe, and I go and correct someone if they are looking like she'll hurt herself, but aside from that it's mostly encouragement and fun.

The class has grown a lot in size and I have many enthusiastic participants that come twice a week. Some of them will get more interested in bellydance, some may buy tix to my shows, some may be just doing it for fun, for now. But it keeps me working and coming up with combinations beginners can get, and has inspired me to think about making a bellydance workout dvd or two. I'm still teaching my "instructional" class at that YMCA for those who want to work on choreography and do performances, already have their costume and have thus made more of a commitment. And even those people are still fine with a workout class--it is a warmup for them and they can polish moves they already know.

So I've changed my view from many years ago that people have to know all the ins and outs and polish their technique before they can really get moving. I remember what Yousry once told me a while back about teaching beginners (or any level really)--"They want to dance, not just watch you dance." Dance first, explain later--It is often a successful proposition, at any level.
 

Aziyade

New member
I know Oreet has the Sharqui training, but it would be awesome if somebody would make a "how to teach bellydance as a fitness class" workshop for bellydance teachers who are also trainers or group fitness instructors.

hint hint hint
 

RanyaRenee

New member
hahaha, hint taken! ;) I'll probably do one that has some basic technique instruction as well as some combos and workouts, that is fun for beginners to do, whether they are "serious" about bellydance or just trying to get fit, as well as fun for teachers who are trying to get ideas for their own classes--how 'bout that???!

(But first I have to finish my Classical Oriental dvd!!!)
 

Aziyade

New member
(But first I have to finish my Classical Oriental dvd!!!)
YES !!! PLEASE make it soon (lol) -- I have a class full of people drooling for this one. You've already converted them all to Baladi lovers, so I can't wait to see what THIS dvd inspires.
 

lizaj

New member
Last year I met a a gal who used to teach me aerobics ( when I used to go for the burn;) and she asked me if I knew about the course to be held in a local health studio and was for fitness teachers to be become belly dance teachers in a DAY!
Another local teacher and I set about enquiring which involved politely (well not really) telling the dance studio what we thought of them. They said they had been approached by a woman offering the course. Further investigations revealled that she had "fled" to Spain. We didn't realise how scary we were:lol: But beware Spainish bellydancers...who's teaching you?;)
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
I dont have a big issue with people selling their classes for fitness providing that is exactly what it is and only what it is.

The point is, if it is a 'fitness' class, you do NOT need merchandise, costumes CD's or are likely to perform anywhere... :pray:

The problem is, people DO advertise as a 'fitness class' and then people DO buy costumes and people then go out and perform in public.

This for me is the big NO NO!
 

adiemus

New member
The point is, if it is a 'fitness' class, you do NOT need merchandise, costumes CD's or are likely to perform anywhere... :pray:

The problem is, people DO advertise as a 'fitness class' and then people DO buy costumes and people then go out and perform in public.
Totally agree - but for some of the participants, having the costumes is part of it (don't you remember the Jane Fonda leotards?!!) - and this is one way to make $$$ out of classes, and for the particpants to be drawn into the 'club'.

It's not surprising that participants get confused about whether they can perform - they have the music, the movements, the costume oh! but forgot musicality, culture and so on...

if only there was some way to prevent them from going on stage and in public.
 

Reen.Blom

New member
Hey there,

Just happened upon this thread.... In most of my classes I do emphasize the "full package" as advertised. :) But I was recently offered a chance at the YMCA I've been teaching at for 10 years to add more classes to my schedule that are workout-oriented. Ten years ago, I was horrified when my boss at that time (long since gone) had insisted that my bellydance class should be more aerobic than it was. I have done my AFAA aerobics certification, but always focused on the conditioning benefits rather than keep-it-moving cardio. My boss left her position before she had a chance to force me to up the pace and minimize explanations.

But this time, years later, I was able to choose to get more work hours there and have the chance to see if I would *like* doing a more workout-oriented, keep-it-moving kind of class (minimal breakdown, more cueing like an aerobics class, and the students following me in action almost the whole time, a class that is accessible to people even if it is their first class ever).

I found that I liked it!!

I am able to train the participants with muscle work in the usual circles, pops and bumps, as well as step combinations like what they would find in a modern Egyptian style choreography, Mahmoud Reda-style stuff, Yousry Sharif-style stuff, etc., with enough repetitions to get the hang of it, not have to think too much and work up a sweat. I still call out comments like "use your muscles for support" to remind people to dance safe, and I go and correct someone if they are looking like she'll hurt herself, but aside from that it's mostly encouragement and fun.

The class has grown a lot in size and I have many enthusiastic participants that come twice a week. Some of them will get more interested in bellydance, some may buy tix to my shows, some may be just doing it for fun, for now. But it keeps me working and coming up with combinations beginners can get, and has inspired me to think about making a bellydance workout dvd or two. I'm still teaching my "instructional" class at that YMCA for those who want to work on choreography and do performances, already have their costume and have thus made more of a commitment. And even those people are still fine with a workout class--it is a warmup for them and they can polish moves they already know.

So I've changed my view from many years ago that people have to know all the ins and outs and polish their technique before they can really get moving. I remember what Yousry once told me a while back about teaching beginners (or any level really)--"They want to dance, not just watch you dance." Dance first, explain later--It is often a successful proposition, at any level.
Is that you in the picture? Mezmerizing!!!!

I really like your point of view, I have used a fitness/bellydance DVD in the past, and if is a well made one, it can really be fun! I just wanted some light cardio workout which would allow me to polish bellydance moves as well, and it is a perfect solution.

And it all depends on a body type, so 6-pack through belly dance IMHO is quite possible!:D
 
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