Until now, my belly dancing class has been all women – mainly women in their twenties and thirties – but recently, two little girls joined the class. Their mother had brought them to one of our belly dancing parties, and they had been fascinated with the dancing, the rhythmic music, and the costumes. Belly dancing costumes are colorful and sparkly, with lots of flowing material. My pantaloons have five yards of material on them. Hip scarves are often lined with dangling coins that make cool noises as you move your hips.
The little girls begged their mother to talk to our instructor to let them into the class, and she said, "Sure. Let them try it."
I knew they would like the second part of class, which is lively and fun, when we dance in a circle and play the zills, but during the first half, we do stretches, and drills, and learn new moves. Learning to belly dance means isolating muscles, and the drills are not that exciting. It can be silly too – a whole room full of half-naked women just moving one hip, or one butt cheek, or just her chest and nothing else. Often after we work one muscle intensely, the instructor will tell us to rub the muscle or stretch it out or shake it out. When we do belly rolls, for instance, we always end with the instructor was saying, "Rub your belly! Love your belly!" while we all relax and rub our bare bellies.
I wondered if the first part of class would bore the little girls, but they did great. They stared intently at the instructor, who is an absolutely beautiful young woman, and followed right along. After the class was over, I walked out with their mother into the beautiful spring evening, and I could hear the two girls as they skipped ahead of us on the sidewalk, giggling and shimmying. They were chanting as they moved along: "Love your belly!"