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Belly battle

March 11, 2004|T.L. Stanley

It started with the Egyptian shimmy. Or maybe it was the hip bounce.

Whatever its name, this exotic move I spotted during a recent belly-dance show in Studio City -- and I saw plenty -- had me hooked. I had to learn that, or at least try to learn that.

There's so much to love about belly dancing. It's a beautiful art form and a you-go-girl empowerment thing, meaning you don't have to be a reed-thin Rockette or a Riverdancer to do it. And the outfits are killer.

But, oh the agony of going out in public without ever having done a "figure eight," much less a "reverse figure eight." (Hint: Both moves involve the hips, with some swoops and dips, followed by aches and pains.)

Even though I'm an exercise fiend, I had heard that belly dancing works muscles you never knew you had. I can attest to that. I jumped right in, thinking I would pick it up quickly. Word to the wiser-than-me: start slowly and work up.

The DVD format of my "Instructional Bellydance With Jillina" made it easy to stop and repeat those hard-to- coordinate "camel" moves. Jillina, who's hip with her hips (enough to have taken her troupe on the Lollapalooza tour), coached me along from that first "omi" to a choreographed combination. Arabic music in the background set the tone. At certain points she even told me how well I was doing.

It's what marketing and pop-psych people would call an "aspirational" experience. I can belly dance, looking as dorky as can be, in my own living room, imagining my movie role as "belly dancing girl No. 4" is only a few shimmies away.

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