Kathleen Kores, her pumpkin-colored hair flowing over a 2)blazing red 3)velour blouse, moved along the floor of her studio in Glastonbury the way a snake moves in the grass, smoothly and silently. Then, in a 4)split-second 5)maneuver, she bent a knee and threw a hip to one side like a weapon.
Her class tried to 6)follow suit, but that smoothness 7)eluded them. “No bouncing!” Ms. Kores 8)admonished.
Belly dancing was long thought to be the 9)province of entertainers dancing seductively for men and of Middle Eastern women who learned the moves early. But interest has spread throughout the whole world quickly because of the 10)tempo and the moves, which reflect the art of the body. As with most dance styles, belly dancing looks a lot easier than what it actually is. Trying to master belly rolls, hip drops, 11)backbends, and backward/forward 12)shimmies amongst other sensual moves requires hours of practice and plenty of core strength.
“I’ll dance until my hips or my last joint won’t move,” Kores said. “Belly dancing is the only way to face old age and to feel the joy of living and being a woman.”
Carey Murphy of 13)Lebanon, one of the more experienced dancers in Ms. Kores’s class, took lessons at the 14)Mohegan Sun casino when she worked as a 15)dealer there.
“It’s something to help you be more sensual, without being overtly sexual,” Ms. Murphy said during a break in class. Ms. Kores nodded approvingly. “I say to them, ‘All you need is a body.’”
You can see this in the class: A mother in pink sweats and a T-shirt holds her baby facing outward in her arms and sways her hips slowly to the rhythm of jingling bells. A girl in a 16)tank top and scarf tied around 17)track pants jumps up and down and weaves 18)intricate.
Ms. Kores was 19)inundated with calls from women asking her to teach them the moves once the stars, like 20)Shakira, adopted belly dancing in their music videos.
“I believe that you cannot appreciate something fully if you don’t understand where it comes from and how it developed. Belly dance 21)is riddled with stereotypes and misconceptions—22)harems, 23)exotic dancers, seven veils—which were created by the fascination with the Orient in the 19th century and Hollywood movies in the early 20th,” said an experienced belly dancer Joanne Mallia.
She explained, “It was in the middle of preparing my Masters 24)dissertation I felt the need to do something active as a stress reliever. I heard about belly dance classes in Birkirkara led by a Canadian teacher, and I thought it would be an ideal way to exercise and have some fun at the same time. So I joined and fell in love with it almost immediately. I haven’t looked back since.”
During her first lessons, Joanne loved the fact that belly dancing didn’t require an incredible stretching power or 25)agility. She admitted that, “The moves actually felt natural—they required concentration and coordination more than anything else. As time went by, the moves obviously became easier as I developed greater muscle control, coordination, and appreciation of rhythm! The dance’s deepest intention is to liberate the 26)pelvis, free the belly, and open the heart.”
Though Joanne’s family wasn’t quite convinced of her new passion, they soon realized that she was quite serious about it and nowadays they fully support her and often attend her shows. “My two sisters and cousin actually joined belly dance classes a couple of years ago. Thankfully, none of my relatives and friends believe the stereotype of the belly dancer—the one where the dance is reduced to the status of 27)erotic entertainment for men. That’s what the early Hollywood movies showed—a sexy dancer surrounded by 28)salivating men. I always strive to be 29)authentic and true to the dance when I perform, especially when it comes to using the correct movements and costumes according to the type of music,” she clarified.
“The reason belly dance has become popular is that it’s a dance that celebrates a woman’s femininity, but also size diversity. You don’t have to be a skinny 30)ballerina. It’s a dance form that’s very forgiving.” Then there is what Ms. Mallia called the “31)bling” of belly dancing: the jewelry, the hip scarves that 32)jangle with every thrust, the finger 33)cymbals known as 34)zills. “Half the fun of belly dance is the bling, half the fun is the girlfriends.”
“This is more a celebration of your womanhood. The beauty of it is not just the moves and the tempo. Most importantly, it’s a way of moving and feeling your body.”