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The coins jingle happily along with the hips

The coins jingle happily along with the hips

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/ Illustratie Janneke Swinkels

Bellydance

UM Sports opened the doors of the new university sports centre one year ago. Each week, Observant shows up in sports gear to participate in one of the sessions, and will do so until the summer. Today: Belly dance.

The beginner: “Choose a colour that you like,” says instructor Jessica Willemse, pointing to the fabrics with coins. A little unaccustomed, everyone ties one around their hips, just over the sports clothes. We start off with a basic step, the ‘snake’: turning the figure eight with your hips. Right hip up, right hip down, left hip up, left hip down. And then the other way around. The coins jingle happily along. Although this appears to be a natural movement, it doesn't feel that way. Especially because the rest of the body has to stay a still as possible. Willemse had already said beforehand. “In the beginning, it is a matter of following and thinking, then we add the finishing touch and after that you can show that you are having fun.” This is clearly still the thinking phase. As the lesson progresses, things get better, we add a body roll (the ‘camel’) and a shimmy – allowing your whole body to shake gently – to our repertoire and learn how to hold our hands: thumb and middle finger bent towards each other, the other fingers stretched.

The participants will revisit all these steps in the dance they will learn during the course. Willemse demonstrates first, with a radiant smile and continuously making eye contact with the audience she passes through the hall on bare feet. “There are different variations, this time I chose a traditional dance.” Time for you to try. “Listen carefully to the music, each step is a beat.”

The lesson is finished in a circle. “Everyone will now take a turn at dancing in the centre,” says Willemse. Some of us are terror-stricken after this announcement. But a couple of brave ones give it a go. "No worries if you didn't get a turn,” Willemse calls cheerfully when the music stops. “We will do it again next week.”

The expert: “People sometimes (?) have the idea that belly dancing is a dance of seduction, but that is absolutely not true,” says Jessica Willemse. “It was originally a way to honour the gods.” The dance is all about isolating different parts of the body. “That very thing is also the most difficult, that is why you have to take a good look at yourself in the mirror. In the beginning, your whole head moves when you shake your hips.” In belly dancing, the finishing off is very important. “It all has to look as beautiful and elegant as possible.” What Willemse likes most, are the performances where they all dance together. “I used to do this in a dancing club. At the end of the year, you do a dance test. You cannot do that with belly dancing, everyone has his or her own style, and you can't judge that. So, we perform together. Nervously doing your make-up beforehand and choosing your costume creates a bond. Afterwards, everyone is really proud and happy.”

Target group: “During belly dancing, you are discovering your femininity,” says Willemse. But that doesn't mean that men can't participate. “Two guys completed the whole course and I was taught by a man.” But generally, the approximately ten participants are female. “Many foreign students, both with and without dancing experience. If for some reason it gives you a tingle, just try it out.”

The facts: Belly dance, Wednesday from 19:45-20:45hrs, the next 7-week course starts on 8 March, sign-up is until 10 March

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