Wearing gym clothes, I stood on the grass and twisted my hips back and forth.
With one hand in the air and the other on my hip, I twisted back and down to the left, over and over, kicking a foot out after each twist.
I was belly dancing.
OK, I was doing a version of belly dancing. An amateur, “my body doesn’t know how to move this way” version of belly dancing.
I fear the black scarf covered in jingly coins around my waist and the rhythmic music may have been the only clues for any onlookers of what I was trying to do.
The four women in brightly-coloured cabaret belly dancing costumes next to me might also have been a dead giveaway.
The members of Hypnotica Belly Dance Troupe, based in the Bradford West Gwillimbury and Newmarket area, had invited me to one of their homes to teach me about their group.
While dancing around half naked with scarves might seem easy — let me tell you, it is a workout.
After several minutes of twisting, gyrating and having no idea what to do with my hands while my hips did the heavy lifting, I had easily broken a sweat.
I call this video: My claw hands look totally natural, right?
So maybe I should not quit my day job, but giving belly dancing a shot was a lot of fun.
Dancing in any kind of co-ordinated way has never been my strong suit, but I quickly discovered from these women that belly dancing is about letting go, finding strength, getting in touch with your sensual side, and just having fun.
“Belly dancing is a beautiful art. By doing the moves, we enhance our femininity, our confidence, our sensuality,” said Miriam Rezka, of Newmarket, one of the members of Hypnotica Belly Dance Troupe.
The four members met each other at a belly-dancing class, and they formed Hypnotica about five years ago.
None of them do it full time and each have separate careers — makeup artist, postal clerk, fitness instructor, and customer release analyst.
But in their spare time, they regularly practice together and work on custom choreography for their performances, which range from weddings, bachelorette parties and fundraisers, to cultural festivals, communions and surprise parties.
Their dancing ranges from the traditional options of fusion/salsa, tribal, cabaret and veil, to new moves set to David Bowie’s Fame or Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory.
The performances also typically include a mini lesson, where the dancers show some people in the audience how to do some moves. And don’t worry — they bring extra coin belts for people to use.
“It’s fun. Anybody can do it,” said Daisy Elkin, of BWG, a member of Hypnotica. “You can belly dance to anything.”
Next up for the group, they plan to include more props in their performances and start a regular hafla, or belly-dancing party, where all women can join, bring food and perform together.
Elkin has loved dancing ever since she was a kid, even dressing up as a belly dancer during Carnival in Brazil, where she grew up.
“When I first started belly dancing, I loved it,” she said.
But one day while dancing, she found a lump on her side.
She went to her doctor, and it was discovered to be a cancerous tumor on her kidney. She had a kidney removed and has been cancer free for 12 years.
“The actions (during belly dancing) are very strange. I’m pretty sure the cancer shifted to a place I could feel it,” she said. “I feel like belly dancing actually saved my life.”
Hypnotica’s other members each have their own stories of how belly dancing changed their lives.
For Nadia Ferrigni, of BWG, she discovered belly dancing after visiting a psychic when she was depressed.
The psychic told her she kept hearing Shakira’s song Hips Don’t Lie and felt an association between hips and coins.
Confused, Ferrigni said she later Googled hips and coins, and the belly-dancing class where she met her future Hypnotica friends was one of the results.
“I had no clue what belly dancing was. I was very shy, very timid (that first class), but I was loving it. I was laughing inside,” she said. “It helped me with my self esteem because I didn’t have any. That literally helped with my depression. I was awakened.”
Meghan Livingston, of Mt. Albert, said she started belly dancing simply to appease her mother.
“In 2002, I had my fourth baby. I was overweight and uncomfortable in my own skin,” she said.
After a year, she had lost some weight and her mom bought her a gym membership as a gift and wanted to take a belly-dancing class together.
“I went to humour my mom and ended up loving it,” she said. “To me, it was such a huge surprise. I was a huge tomboy. I never saw myself as a sensual woman. Even my husband says, ‘You even move differently now.’”
All of Hypnotica’s members dance for the love of dancing and how it makes them feel.
“It’s celebrating women,” Elkin said.
“Strength, bonding — it’s an expression for us,” added Ferrigni. “There’s no judgment. It can awaken your spirit.”For more information about Hypnotica Belly Dance Troupe, email [email protected] or visit the group’s Facebook page.