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Belly dancing isn’t as easy as it looks

People say that things are not always as easy as they seem. I always try to remember this, but the Thursday before spring break, I let overconfidence in my abilities be my downfall during a belly dancing class.

I always had an interest in belly dancing, but being from Spring Hill, no such thing was offered at any of the dancing schools. After moving to Tampa to attend college, I placed my belly dancing aspirations in the back of my mind. One day, my roommate informed me she had to take an exercise class for one of her requirements and invited me to join her. When she said she wanted to try belly dancing, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

We were five minutes late to the first class, but once we were inside, I felt excited and ready to go. In my head, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I had been dancing (not professionally) since I was able to stand, so I was confident I had enough hip-moving and booty-shaking experience to sail through the class. I was so wrong.

We came just in time to catch the stomach crunches. Feeling slightly embarrassed for being tardy and a little nervous about dancing in front of strangers, I grabbed my mat and joined in. I was extremely happy when we finished with the crunches because my abs felt like they were on fire.

After working the stomach, there was some stretching. After the warm-up, it was time for the main event. The first move the instructor showed the class was simple enough: It involved bending your leg. Then she instructed the class to shake their legs violently and my self-consciousness kicked in. Parts of my body were shaking that I didn’t want shaking in front of people I didn’t know. I thought it was somewhat odd, but I was still confident that when it came time get into the dancing, I would shine.

When the instructor began to teach us how to do hip movements, to my surprise, I was struggling. My hips didn’t seem to move as smoothly as hers. I was confused because it seemed easy enough to just lift your hip and then lower it, but for some reason it felt awkward and in the wall-to-wall mirror, I looked funny.

My confidence faded quickly, and my first instinct was to run back to my dorm room. Being a shy person, all I kept thinking about was how everyone was probably giggling under their breath at my dancing. However, as I looked around, I realized there were people struggling just as much as I was.

The combination moves also proved difficult. It was hard to remember when to move your hips and which way to turn. Sometimes I would look up and everyone would be heading in one direction and I would be completely backwards. Eventually, I caught on to the routines, but it took a few wrongs to make it right. Despite a few difficulties, I had fun. I was proud of myself for not quitting just because the dancing got difficult.

Belly dancing takes a lot of concentration and is very precise. You do not just shake your hips around. There is a certain way of doing it and the movements are very controlled. It also involves more than just your hips and stomach. Your upper body, your calves and thighs are just as important. The next day I was sore all over, but I was still happy that I went. I plan to try to attend the class every week.

I was a little nervous about being around people I didn’t know, but I now see that not everyone that takes a group exercise class is an expert. Everyone’s skill level is different. If you have never tried a group exercise class, I highly recommend it. Besides, why not give it a shot? It’s free as long as you have your USF ID.

My belly dancing is far from perfect, but I have fun trying. You might dance at the clubs in Ybor or at parties, but this will prove to be a challenge even for the most experienced dancer. Don’t let your skills on a regular dance floor fool you. So, if you have nothing going at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, head over to room 107 in the recreation center, let go of your inhibitions, and dedicate an hour to learning something new.

Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in mass comunnications.