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Shaking and shimmying to a new community

October 2, 2014

One of our newest teaching artists, Linda Frye, shares her belly dance story with us.  Come join her as she kicks off a four-week crash course in belly dance, Thursdays all through October!

It all started with a Groupon I bought for the crash course—that’s right; the very same one that begins tonight at CHAW.

I had always liked dancing, but I’d never taken any formal classes.  The Saffron Dance Crash Course was being offered just a couple of blocks away from where I lived, so I thought, “Why not?”, and my girlfriend and I signed up for a fun girls’ night out.

Well, fast-forward to five years later, and here I am teaching that very same class!  I loved it so much that I started taking regular classes, moved up the ranks, and now belly dance—and, more specifically, theSaffron Dance community—is a huge part of my life.

What I really latched onto is how belly dance portrays your body—the way you’re supposed to move just really agreed with me.  You move around, jiggle, move the way you move.  It’s not about looking like someone else.  My body said more, please!  For those of you out there worried about lack of experience, please don’t be.  You don’t necessarily need modern, ballet, jazz formal experience.  In fact, sometimes you have to unlearn that to get your body to move for belly dance!

It’s true: belly dance is for ANY age, ANY body type.  Any woman can take these classes, and should.  Why?  There are so many benefits.  Of course, it is exercise and can be as aerobic as you want it to be—it’s also great for toning muscles.  But more importantly, it’s fantastic for self-esteem.  I walk down the street with total confidence now in a way I couldn’t before belly dance, not even thinking about what I’m wearing.  We can all use as much self-esteem as we can get, including teenagers all the way on up, and this is a safe space to celebrate ourselves and our bodies.

In our society, in the world I’ve grown up in, the way you move your body in belly dance might be described as “awkward” or “inappropriate.”  But belly dance provides the opportunity to let go of all of that—you’ll even live longer!  Studies show that movement makes your brain connect to your muscles in ways that keep you healthy and strong across the lifespan.  I need students to access muscles they don’t even know exist—muscles they don’t know how to find or are told not to.  You have to unlearn the normal movement.  But once you feel it, it’s amazing—I guarantee that at some point, you’ll feel it in your body and think, “Oh, look what I can do!”

At Saffron, it is about more than the physical body.  We are very supportive and completely understand that these movements might feel awkward or strange at first.  You can be sure that I will never make you feel silly in class.  Save the embarrassment for some other day, because in belly dance, we are here to support one another.  The community of women I have met through dance is unreal.

Saffron is an eclectic group of ladies who are dedicated to the studio—lawyers, astrophysicists, stay-at-home-moms… This is a community of women, an outlet for stress and getting feminine feedback, and a space that welcomes and encourages all kinds of different perspectives.

For me, belly dance is a way of connecting the mental and the physical, and a way of creating community through movement and dance.  It’s the freedom to shimmy and to move our hips, it’s a place to celebrate our bodies and what we can do, and I would love nothing more than to have you join me in this next fantastically fun four-week Crash Course at CHAW!

For more information and to register, visit the CHAW website or call CHAW at (202) 547-6839.  You may also find out more on the Saffron Dance website, register directly, or email us