The first time I went to a belly dancing class, I never would have thought that I would end up performing in the Riley Smith Hall for hundreds of people. Two years ago, during my semester abroad in China, I decided to try the belly dancing classes offered at my local gym and I just happened to fall in love with this oriental art. I still clearly remember the first class I ever took. I was trying to copy the moves our teacher was instructing us to do in Chinese, trying to move my belly in ways that I never imagined it could. By the end of the class, I ached in places I didn’t even know existed and I discovered muscles in my stomach that I didn’t realise I had. It was quite an enlightening experience. What I didn’t know then is that that first class was the start of a hobby that would grant me with lots of new experiences. After attending that first class, I started going every week. By the time I came back to Leeds, I found out that there was a belly dancing society and joined it right away. Now, I am secretary of the society and performed throughout the week-long LUU Dance Show last term, an event that brings all of the dance societies in the Union together to showcase their talent.
I have loved dancing since I was little and have attended all kinds of dance classes throughout the years, but what’s so special about belly dancing? Belly dancing is a beautiful art that empowers women. Some people may find that it objectifies women, but that is only true when it is not performed properly and it is only used to attract the attention of men. In my opinion, this dance has been perfectly designed to worship the female body. When I belly dance I feel sexy, but I also feel confident and graceful. This dance may be sensual, but not in an obvious way. Nowadays, all you seem to see in music videos is overly explicit dancing which is supposed to be sexy but is actually quite trashy. Belly dance is sexy in a subtle and elegant way. A good belly dancer does not catch people’s attention by moving her ‘assets’ but by displaying her elegance and skill when dancing.
Besides this, belly dance really helps with body confidence issues. There was a time when I would have rather been caught dead than dancing around on a stage showing off my ‘wobbly bits.’ After performing in the Dance Show twice, I am now incredibly proud of my ‘wobbly bits’ and have no qualms about showing them off. We are all women and we all come in different shapes and sizes, but we all are just as beautiful as each other. There are also visible benefits. You may not burn as many calories belly dancing as you would spending an hour at the gym but it is most definitely exercise! I may not have a flat tummy, but my abs have definitely toned up. It may look like you’re not doing much exercise, but you are!
Being part of the society has been one of my best experiences at university. I have met some amazing people and although being part of the committee can be hard work sometimes, it has also been really fun. We have weekly classes which cater to all levels of experience - beginners, returning beginners, intermediate and advanced - and have had different kinds of socials along the year. We’ve watched belly dance performances, we’ve had belly dance parties, and –as odd as it may sound- we’ve even had a joint social with the Breakdance Society. However, my proudest achievement so far is the Dance Show. It’s a great chance to show everyone else what we’ve learned so far and, despite the nerves, we all have a great time performing. The audience’s reaction is always great and it’s always very rewarding to know your audience is enjoying your performance.
It might be a bit too late now, but if you’re looking for something different to do at uni next year, why not try belly dancing? Our hips don’t lie!