How to Learn Belly Dance at Home
Let's be realistic—it's not easy to learn to dance at home. However, learning to belly dance at home is easier than almost any other dance style, especially if you've never danced before. Beginners' belly dance moves are:
- gentle on the body, so you're not likely to injure yourself even if you get it wrong;
- don't need a lot of flexibility or strength, so you're not going to be struggling to achieve the moves;
- don't involve running around or jumping, so it doesn't matter if you're carrying a few extra kilos.
Many people think belly dancing moves are difficult, but, in fact, they're completely natural. For most women, the main obstacle to moving their hips like a belly dancer is mental, not physical. It's wonderful to see the look on their face when the penny drops!
The video above illustrates another great advantage of belly dancing: although mastering the art can take years, you can create a simple belly dance choreography with only a few basic moves. The clip shows a group of women at Club Med who learned belly dance during their vacation. Their performance may not be perfect, but they've only been learning for one week!
To be fair, not everyone will become that proficient after only a few classes - and of course, these girls had a renowned belly dance teacher, Michelle Joyce, teaching them. However, it does go to show that you could easily be dancing confidently after only a few months.
But first, I'd like to clarify why you want to learn belly dance.
Belly Dance as Exercise
If you're attracted to belly dance as a way to get fit and toned, then you need to be aware that beginner-level belly dancing probably won't achieve your goal (unless you are very unfit and need a particularly gentle introduction to exercise).
Many instructors teach beginner students how to achieve the hip movements using the legs, and don't explain the abdominal moves until much later, so you won't achieve a toned tummy. Travelling steps may also be kept for more advanced levels, so there isn't much cardio work in a typical beginners' class.
In general, if you're more interested in exercise than in learning how to dance, then I'd suggest trying Zumba instead - you don't have to worry about technique or learning routines, you can just put on the DVD and start bopping. But assuming you DO want to learn to dance . . .
How to Teach Yourself Belly Dancing
In an ideal world, I'd be advising you not to teach yourself. Unless you're already an experienced dancer in another genre, you won't be aware of the mistakes you're making and you're likely to teach yourself a lot of bad habits. There's no substitute for a teacher who can actually see your body and pick up on bad posture or misalignments. You would make progress so much faster. It doesn't have to be in person - there are several instructors who will teach via Skype, for instance. However, that's still more expensive than buying a DVD and doing it yourself, and your budget may not stretch. So let's look at what your options are.
There's a wide range of belly dancing DVDs available - but the quality of the teaching on bellydance DVD's varies enormously, and you can easily waste your money if you buy the wrong one.
Some have very little explanation, which is useless for a beginner (I suspect some were made to attract guys who want to perve rather than serious students!). At the other extreme, there are DVD's that do an excellent job of breaking down the moves - but once you know what you're doing, you'll get impatient listening to the explanations over and over again.
What you want is a DVD that offers a detailed breakdown with full explanations, as well as combinations of the exercises without a break.
That way, once you know what you're doing, you can do the class exactly as you would at a belly dance school. The final element should be a short choreographed routine, so you can learn how to put all the steps together to make a dance.
The series of DVD's by Indian twins Veena and Neena is popular, and widely available in shops - but they are quite basic, and most people find they outgrow them fairly quickly. If they are all you can find locally, then they are enough to get you started - but I think there are better instructors out there. For that reason I recommend Michelle Joyce's DVD, but you'll probably have to buy it online.
As an advanced dancer, this beginners' DVD is too simple for me, but I have recommended it to new starters and had great feedback from them. It is not only clear and very easy to follow, but quite motivational which will encourage you to stick with this truly rewarding form of dance. Not surprising, given Michelle Joyce's stellar reputation as a belly dance instructor.
Belly Dance Schools
As I said - I do hope you will consider joining a school, rather than trying to learn yourself. Besides making faster progress, you are likely to find that belly dance class will introduce you to a sisterhood and provide you with more fun and friendship than you can imagine. Check out the video below from the Sisters of the Nile troupe!
If you think there are no belly dancing classes in your locality, try Googling first - you may be surprised to find there are classes around, that you didn't know about.
Please don't be self-conscious about joining a class because of your size or your age! I know only too well how competitive - and even bitchy - other dancers can be in ballet, jazz or flamenco classes. One of the reasons I fell in love with belly dance is that all the belly dance schools I've attended have been so non-competitive and accepting.
At a typical adult belly dance class you'll see women of all ages from 20 to 60, and all shapes and sizes. There's no need to have a bare midriff, either - the only compulsory piece of equipment is a scarf tied around your hips. Most beginners wear a long t-shirt and a pair of baggy pants or a gypsy skirt (buy a larger size with an elasticized waist, so you can wear it low on the hips). But it's surprising how many woman are proudly showing off their bellies by the end of their first term, stretch marks or no!
Why not give it a try?
© 2007 Kate Swanson