Reviving an old art form

Published 8:02 pm Saturday, August 9, 2008

With as many dance videos as we have today it is no wonder why elder people have started taking offence to some of the moves that our youth are learning. One of the most hated dances would have to be the Belly Dance. Today most teenagers feel that showing off their stomachs and being able to move their bodies is a fun way of keeping in shape as well as showing their own self-confidence. Although this may seem like an outlandish idea to an older person the truth of the mater is that most forms of dancing including belly dancing is a very good way of keeping in shape and can actually reduce stress.

One local third grade teacher found that belly dancing was a good way for her to keep the stress of her recent divorce off of her mind, which in return helped her cope with the changes in her life.

Now Shannon Williams teaches belly dancing to young girls as well as adults.

“After many years of dancing I finally found something that fit me. I stared dancing when I was five and about four years ago I found an ad in the paper for belly dance classes. I was intrigued and joined the class. Now I have a better understanding of belly dancing and its uses and I would recommend it to anyone,” she said.

Belly Dancing is actually one of the world oldest dances. Its roots go back to North Africa and the Middle East where women used this form of dancing as a fun way to celebrate occasions such as weddings. These women also used this form of dance for childbirth preparation. Not to say that pregnant women would get up and show off their big bellies while dancing in front of a crowd, but the muscles used to perform the dance are used to give birth so the dance strengthens those muscles and helps with the pain of childbirth.

“Belly dancing is a great way to keep in shape and the great part about it is that you don’t have to be a skinny person to do the dances. This is something that anyone can do no matter their age or body shape,” Williams said.

Williams has danced in several schools including Dee Woods’ Dance Studio, Jackie O’Neal’s School of Dance, Azezia in Birmingham and Sirqus of Jreams Belly Dance Troop where she danced under the direction of Jamilla Rosa and Petite Jamilla. She now teaches her own class at Corner Stone Fitness on Monday nights. She has a new class coming up on Sept. 8.

“This is a more natural dance for women to do and it is more fun than exercising. It is a great positive to have in your life to help in coping with stress,” Williams said.

Williams also teaches Praise Dance at her church, First United Methodist Church in Clanton on Wednesday nights as well as a third grade class at Clanton Intermediate. As a normal adult and even elementary school teacher is says that when done properly belly dancing can be a beautiful form of dance that is not as provocative as people image it to be.

“Most people who see a real performance say it’s more of a ballet,” Williams said.