The Chat: Plenty of wiggle room to like dance

JEN:We have a guest Chatter today! Welcome, Laura Ehling. We're excited about the "Belly Dancing for Body Image" class you're going to lead for us (and our lucky Chat readers) on May 2. You should know that Rand is DYING to belly dance. Right, Rand?

JENNY R:Um, yep … dying.

LAURA:I love teaching. And I believe that everyone should try new things all the time.

JEN:I've actually taken a belly dancing class from you, and it was surprisingly empowering. I thought it would be about shaking my hips, but it was about so much more.

JENNY R:I'm excessively under empowered, so let's get to it.


LAURA:That's my focus — not the dance, but what the movement does for your psyche and your body image.

JENNY R:Oh dear. Now you've lost me.

LAURA:Do you like all of your body? I certainly don't.

JENNY R:I'm not sure I like ANY of my body.

LAURA:OK, do you like your hair or fingernails?

JENNY R:I have a new appreciation for my hair, since I lost it all in chemo. But all of my life it has been my nemesis. I remember Vincent in second grade: "I would rather be dead than be red in the head." Although, I do have nice toes.

LAURA:So, what do you do to your toes? Do you paint them or wear shoes that show them off?

JENNY R:Oh, yes. They must be well manicured and painted. Even if no one else sees them.


JEN:This is what surprised me about belly dancing — that it's more about body appreciation than dance.

JENNY R:Shhh … Koski, we're talking here. Ix-nay on the ance-day.

LAURA:Right. I like women to notice the different parts of their body — like the shoulders or feet or hands. Personally, I have knees meant for scrubbing floors.

JENNY R:My keester is made for famine.

LAURA:My Polish and Scottish background have made me immune to dying of starvation.

JEN:And I'm still waiting for my stomach to firm up after that last baby … who turned 12 last week.

LAURA:Most people think of dance as something with the whole body, but I say, let's break it down to little bits.

JEN:Do I remember correctly that while belly dance is perceived as being performed for men, it was traditionally meant for women?


LAURA:Raks Sharki (the Arabic word for belly dance) is a dance made for women to do with women. Men weren't allowed to see much of it. Women did it to show off parts of their bodies that they liked — shoulders, hands, hair — without having a man look at them in a sexual way.

JENNY R:So, I'll get to wiggle my toes?

LAURA:Right! Show off the bits you like! I like to show women that their hips can move in wonderful ways — ways that are not just walking or sassy. It may take a bit to get your hip to move without its friend, the leg, but once it feels comfortable moving, it can do amazing things.

JEN:You'll teach us the beauty of moving those hips … even if some of us need a glass of wine first?

LAURA:A little wine always loosens the hips.

JEN:Rand, when we first talked about this, you said you wouldn't belly dance. You've changed your tune?

JENNY R:I'm pretty sure I won't have much choice when I get there! And I'm working on trying new things, so here is a great way to add to that list.

JEN:There's nothing better than breaking out of your comfort zone and doing something for yourself.


JENNY R:If you suggest skydiving, I am OUT.

LAURA:Belly dancing is also about fitness and core strength. My abs got tighter from dancing, as did my back. I learned how to stand up straighter.

JEN:I really hope that our readers will join us for this event. I know it can be intimidating, but we're all in this together — and, if any ridiculously fit girls show up, we'll stick them in the back! We do have limited space, but will squeeze in as many adventurous women as we can. This really is an empowering thing.

JENNY R:It's going to be fun. I can't wait.

LAURA:Give it a try. Learn to love your body. It does amazing things for you! If you learn to look at your body in a new light, you will see beautiful things.

Jen Koski is a Post-Bulletin columnist and associate editor at Rochester Magazine. She and her husband, Jay, live in Rochester with their 10- and 13-year-old sons.

Jenny Rand is a wife, a sister, a daughter and a mother of four. She loves to read, cook, garden, and watch football. She lives in Oronoco with her husband, Mike, and four children, ages 6 to 17.

Laura Ehling is a dancer, mother, librarian. "I do all the arts! While I have stopped teaching dance to become a graduate student, I still love to dance."


To register for a chance to win two tickets to The Chat's May 2 "Belly Dancing for Body Image" class, post a comment on our Facebook page or send an email to .

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