Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rose & Margaret's Belly Dance Experiment

A recent Running Chicks ab work challenge has reminded me that I need to do some serious core work.  So when my sister Margaret suggested we try out a belly dancing class at our local 24-Hour Fitness, it seemed like a great way to work our abs and have fun doing it.

I love music and dance and it’s one of my great disappointments in life that I have absolutely no skills in either.  That did not keep me from being a fixture in my gym’s zumba class until it got so crowded you couldn’t move anymore. 

Here’s one of many things my sister and I have in common: we both lack some key ingredients that make for a successful dance class.  Things such as grace, rhythm, coordination and the ability to move our hips independently from the rest of our trunk.  Nonetheless, we decided to take the risk and headed to the gym.

Fortunately it was a small class where it was easy to see what was going on.  We started by walking in a circle with “sexy hips”.  That’s where it all started to go bad.   We gradually added on different hip rolls and twists, arm movements, grapevine steps.  First the teacher would demo, then we’d do them slowly for a while, then faster, then we started putting the pieces of the dance together into a sequence.  Let’s just say I felt sorry for anyone behind us.  I can’t tell you how many times I realized either Margaret or I (or both of us) were facing the wrong direction.  Or doing the totally wrong thing.  Ooops. 

I had a sneaking suspicion that all of our moves looked the same.  The instructor would roll her hips, then shake them, then glide,  and I’d look in the mirror and while I was carefully trying to mimic her and felt like I was doing the same thing, I appeared to only be swaying my hips side to side with the jerky movements of one of those funny toys we had in the 70s, the ones that were birds and they’d bob up and down drinking out of a glass.  Very magical when you were a kid.  My hip movements?  Not so magical.

It was particularly entertaining when we started doing movements where our chests were supposed to move while our hips either stayed stable or did something different.  Ha!  That was so not happening.  Judging by my sister’s progress in that area,  I’m thinking we might have some genetic mutation that makes it impossible to move our hips and chests in different directions. 

I spent much of the class imagining I was in an episode of The Great Fitness Experiment and wondering when Charlotte was going to jump in and do the splits.  (If you haven’t read this book and blog, check it out, it’s awesome! You can find it at

But here’s the thing: just like Charlotte and her “gym buddies” we still had fun even when we sucked.  It was very non-judgmental kind of class.  No super skinny super serious “you’re all losers if you’re not as good as me” kind of chick in the class.  You know what I’m talking about, she’s in your yoga or body pump class acting like she’s better than the instructor.  Fortunately our class was just a bunch of regular women laughing and dancing and using our sexy hips.  And that made it totally fun.  Add to that a feeling of soreness in my waist and abs that tells me SOMETHING was working and I’m pretty sure I’ll go back.  I could use a good laugh.


  1. Lol I must be a long lost sister twice removed. Remember when the step areobics first came out? Those about killed me. I am so uncordinated it is unbelievable.

    Sounds like you both had a blast. Nice job.

  2. You know, I think that's why I didn't enjoy kick boxing class. It was full of those skinny "I'm better than you...why can't you just kick and do it perfectly already" types. Even the instructor! I walked out of the class 30 minutes into it. I've never walked out before, but their attitudes weren't worth my time.

    I want to try belly dancing now!!! You are SUCH an inspiration to me Rose. I hope you know how much you're helping others by blogging. Keep up the great work. Hope to meet you in person someday. Especially since I live right over the river, and am in Portland way too much. lol

  3. Hey there -- it's great to find another runner in the area who runs at my speed!!

    I took belly dancing classes for about a year -- Sheelah in Tigard is a great instructor if you're interested -- and it did wonders for my core and my hip flexors. Not so much for my achilles, sadly; I've got super flat feet and any work on our tip toes killed me. I finally had to give it up to focus (more like "focus") on running.