It’s not easy to feel sexy when you’re doing a “twerk in slow motion” in sweatpants and an oversized Buffalo Sabres T-shirt. This was a challenge in my first ever belly dancing class as junior Natalie Kelsey did her best to help my body move with a little less rigidity than that of a robot. With a beaded sarong wrapped around my frumpily clothed waist, I watched as Kelsey showed a group of six dancers, myself included, the basics of belly dancing. We used mostly our hips, chests and quads to mimic her movements, only – at least in my case – to realize that the art is a lot more difficult than it appears.
While Kelsey makes the dance look like liquefied bones, my moves were disjointed as I tried to put too much effort into every movement forward and back, left and right. My left hip and arm didn’t want to cooperate and it didn’t help that I stared right into my own look of disapproval. I was a way-less-hot version of Shakira.
But Kelsey reassured me that it takes about two or three classes before things click and “all of a sudden things fall into place.”
Because belly dancing is the only dance with which she’s familiar, Kelsey said, “It feels like it’s changed the way that I walk.”
It’s been this way since 14-year-old Kelsey and her mom went to a four-hour belly dancing workshop; two years later her mom became the leader of Adi Shakti World Fusion Bellydance in Oneida, N.Y.
While Kelsey gets paid for her job as a Workout Center instructor, she said she loves it because “it’s very much the way that women already move” and according to the Adi Shakti website, it’s a unifying “empowerment of the feminine spirit!”
My favorite move was “snake arms,” also a move that I pull when I’m thrown into the middle of a dance circle at my much older cousins’ weddings. Leading with the shoulder, then the elbow and finally the hand, we each transformed our limbs to rubbery illusions.
Once I was further into the class, I was able to let myself relax and enjoy my body’s natural movements – they came, and then left quickly. But, for a fleeting second, I felt like a seductive master of the dance.
The classes, offered twice weekly, are not only educational – they’re tranquil and calming. I went into a belly dancing class with silly expectations and came out promising myself that I would go the following week. Next time I’ll be sure to dress appropriately – if you know what I mean.