In The Spotlight: Belly Dance Society

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This week, The Gryphon speak to Mel, the belly dance instructor for the society, who explains that despite people’s misconceptions about the dance form, belly dancing is more than just shaking hips.

LUU’s Leeds Belly Dance society provides members with the opportunity to become masters of the traditionally North African and Middle Eastern dance form. On the 26th of January, the society held a Give It A Go session in the Treehouse, allowing curious students the chance to experience a new kind of sport.If you’ve previously assumed that you couldn’t be a belly dancer because you didn’t have the right body type or because you were a guy, now you know that that is far from the case.

Why did you become interested in belly dancing?

I was studying Philosophy and I am Turkish myself, so when I saw that a Belly Dance society existed, I thought, “Wow, really?” I thought I would just go to the GIAG that they had back then and see what it was all about. The instructor was an older lady called Wendy, and she really inspired the beginners. I also found a friendly group of girls to learn with, which made getting involved with the society easier. It was just by chance. I didn’t look it up. I didn’t even see a stall at the Refreshers’ Fair.

What is your role in the society?

I am an instructor. However, my first ever belly-dancing class was actually in this society. I continued taking classes here and in the city centre and then started teaching here for free, as a volunteer. However, over time, it became quite successful and paid for itself; so I’m still here a few years later!

What are some elements that you think people should keep in mind when practicing belly dancing?

When they come to class or even when they perform, they don’t have to show their belly. This society does provide coin belts, and I do in my external classes as well. It’s open to men and women, all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. Belly dancing is just a Western name for an Eastern dance: it’s an English name for what is essentially a Turkish-Egyptian-Lebanese dance. It’s from that part of the world, although other countries practice it as well, such as Greece, Tunisia and Morocco. Sometimes people have the idea that belly dancing is sleazy or wrong. I’m very lucky to be in a country and go to a university that doesn’t see it in that way. It’s just really fun and people come here to make friends. I’ve met some of my best friends through belly dancing. It keeps you fit and builds up your core muscles. It’s like ballet in that the more you do it, without realising, the more you build up strength and stamina.

So take that first step and attend a class. You may be surprised at what you learn. Classes start next week, and there are four levels: beginner, returning beginners, improvers and advanced. Further details can be found on the society’s LUU page and details on upcoming events, like the dance show in March, can be followed on their Facebook page.

Elsa Amri

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