Visitors to Cincinnati Belly Dance Convention Could Shake and Shimmy Their Way to Fitness

Aug 15, 2014

A dance form at one time thought to be  exotic and risqué is now considered a good workout for mind and body.WNKU’s Cheri Lawson reports August 15-17th the Cincinnati Belly Dance Convention comes to Blue Ash, Ohio

Maali Shaker stands tall in front of full length mirrors in a small dance studio in Northern Kentucky. The 33 year old’s shoulder length red hair is neatly swept off her forehead. She’s dressed in a full body leotard with an accentuated fishnet mid section. This Belly Dance teacher’s snaky undulating movements and shimmies look effortless. Three women of varying sizes attempt to imitate her circular and flowing moves in this beginner’s class .

Maali’s  been belly dancing for 8 years and says it takes a lot of practice but is worth it and a fun way to stay active.

Shaker: It’s good for your joints ,it’s good for your spine. It’s kind of like if you go to the chiropractor and they try to release your joints. It actually does that with the movements. I think it’s good for your mind to do the moves because you have to really think about it. You have to make different parts of your body do the same thing at the same time. It’s kind of like exercise for the brain.

Maali’s a nurse and the mom of a one and a half year old. She teaches Belly Dance two nights a week. She says she was originally attracted to the ancient art form when she was serving in the Middle East as an Air Force Crew chief.  Maali says being in the military is probably what accounts for her no-nonsense approach while she’s teaching. She describes one of the core moves of belly dance as the camel.

Shaker: They call it a camel because it looks like you’re riding a camel or you’re creating a hump like a camel has, I guess. CL: It looks like a wave, It looks like the ocean, the way you move. Maali :When I do it I kind of think of like a snake or like you’re riding a camel or horse I guess.

Traditional costumes can include bright colored skirts and tops , multi colored scarves and sparkly jewelry but for the classes Maali teaches,  women wear something easy to move in and some do wear a  skirt or scarf of coins around their hips .The scarf draws attention to the hips and makes a delightful sound.

Miesha Carey became intrigued several years ago when she first saw a professional Belly Dance performance.

Carey: There’s an essence about it that’s just , really really cool . It’s awesome how people can move their bodies the way some of the professional dancers do. Maybe not me, but some of the professionals. .

The 23 year old University  of Cincinnati psychology student says she practices in the mirror a couple times a week.

Carey: And it’s really kind of cool to see your body do different things and it really kinda makes you feel pretty in a way.

In addition to mastering shimmies,hip circles and snake arms ,Belly Dancers learn how to play finger cymbals or sagats. Maali says the cymbals accompany the music and add energy to the performance.

On this night Maali is preparing her intermediate class to perform at the Cincinnati Belly Dance Convention . Six women shimmy through the room each twirling an oversized yellow,red,blue or multicolored scarf.

Kim Amster is ready to perform. She says the group’s been practicing hard for 7 months.

Amster: It’s a lot harder than it looks,ok? That’s for sure. It’s very flowy, it’s very sensuous, it’s just the way a woman body moves, and the curves.I just love it .it’s  fascinating.

Maali Shaker is co-organizer of the Cincinnati Belly Dance Convention. She says it’s three days of workshops, competitions and shows with dancers coming from as far away as Egypt to perform.