siluria - about bellydance

Bellydance is a gentle, elegant and feminine form of exercise and an art in itself. It is very inclusive - women (and men) of all shapes and sizes and ages can do it without feeling self conscious. Size really doesn't matter!

People often say it is harder than it looks and it works muscles they didnt know they had! It is based on isolating the different parts of the body with emphasis on the hips and torso.

It also helps build self confidence and a positive body image. It's glamorous and fun and forms many friendships. It is not competitive and we are very supportive of each other.

There is a growing network in South East Wales with over 70 classes running in the area, and many events - haflas happening all the time when different groups get together to perform and party!

Rachel meets the Princess RoyalPeople are always interested in our performances, wherever they are. This photo was taken when we danced at the Princess Royal's visit to the Powerstation in Cwmbran.

Click here to read more about the royal visit and here to read about the Powerstation's first birthday celebration.

I started classes in Torfaen when my own teacher in Cardiff emigrated. As a qualified teacher I was able to approach Adult Education and we started a 16 week course in October 2002. The response was so great we had to run two groups back to back which evolved into the present club that still meets every Wednesday evening.

There is a group of about 12 ladies which has been involved since the beginning and another 20 or so on the list who have been coming for several years. We always welcome a steady flow of new starters as well. The average attendance every week is about 15.

We have a relaxed fun atmosphere where correct technique is taught along with choreographies in various styles from Arabian pop to folk - even western rock music!

Students can get what they want out of the dancing - whether it's just a couple of hours of exercise and fun with friends of a way of life, practising, learning and performing. Many of my students perform with me - one is learning to teach bellydance.

Wendy and Donna perform with Rachel

The West has always been fascinated by Oriental culture. This was heightened by the studies and paintings by orientalist artists of the 19th Century and the uncorseted dances of Little Egypt at the Chicago World fair in 1893. More recently the "James Bond" image has influenced the West's (incorrect) perception of the sultry exotic dancer.

Rachel dances at Cafe Jazz, Cardiff in December 2008The term bellydance is belived to be a corruption of the word Beledi, which is an Egyptian Urban folk style. It is a dance based on the style of mainly Egypt and Turkey but once you scatch the surface you find infinite variety of styles and dances from all over the Middle and Near East, Eastern Europe and North Africa.

Styles include the sequinned cabaret style which is the popular image of the exotic belly dancer, influenced by Hollywood, to earthy traditional farmers' folk dances using sticks where the dancers wear long dresses with a hip scarf and are completely covered up.

Another very popular style is American Tribal which is influenced by many styles and is usually improvised in groups - hence the name tribal.

Contrary to many misconceptions bellydance is NOT entertainment for men. It can be cheeky or sensual but it is NOT sexual. It is a dance done by women for women, and has also been used to help with pregnancy and childbirth. Traditionally family and friends dance together at home or at weddings and other family gatherings in its countries of origin, in much the same way as dance groups get together in this country.

It is hoped that as more and more people are exposed to this art form, the misunderstandings about it will dissipate and perhaps it is not too much to hope that it will contribute towards encouraging understanding of different cultures in a wider sense.

For more about my work, see this article which was published on the RISE website.

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