Elizabeth Calderón is hoping to shake up the average daily workout.
Calderón, who recently relocated to Tullahoma from Mexico, has joined with Tullahoma Parks and Recreation to offer ATS (American Tribal Style) belly dancing classes from 6 to 7:15 p.m. each Thursday at the D.W. Wilson Community Center.
“All women are welcome from ages 12 and up,” Calderón said.
“No previous knowledge or experience of belly dancing is required, just a love to move and have fun. I’ve been living here for a year a half. This is something new here in town and I would love for everyone to know about it and to come and see what’s it’s all about.”
ATS Belly Dancing
According to the website bellydance.com, the ATS belly dance was born in San Francisco with Jamila Salimpour and her troupe Bal-Anat.
However, the style was defined and refined by Carolena Nericcio, creating what is now known as American Tribal Style.
Nericcio’s unique group improvisational technique based on a series of predefined cues was an instant hit with hip underground artists and performers as it was a style that welcomed all ages and shapes, and modern urban culture.
Tribal dancers became well known for their multiple tattoos and piercings, along with their unique, earthy costuming that originally consisted of large, gypsy-style skirts, large tassel belts, seashells, ornate jewelry influenced by Middle Eastern, African and East Indian cultures, and decorated turbans worn on the head.
As the dance evolved, some elements became less common, such as the head turban, but much of the basic costuming and the spirit of the look have remained.
“This style is very much a modern version,” Calderón said.
“It is a mix of African, Indian and Spanish dance. It is a little more elegant than basic belly dance. The principal characteristic or most important of this dance style is the group improvisation and body vocabulary. And we just dance. We are not memorizing choreography, so it’s more fun.”
History of Belly Dance
Considered the oldest known dance by some experts, the roots of belly dancing were planted in the Middle East, Mediterranean and northeastern Africa; some sources claim that the pyramid builders in ancient Egypt were belly dancers.
Regardless of when it began, belly dancing was traditionally performed for other women, usually during formal events like fertility rites or pre-marriage ceremonies. African women performed in marketplaces, earning coins for their dowries.
These coins were sewn into their costumes for safekeeping.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that belly dancing began to appear worldwide at public events such as carnivals and fairs. This brought with it coed audiences and mass appeal.
Today, different forms of the dance, such as ATS, are practiced around the world.
Embracing the dance
Calderón has been belly dancing for over a decade and said she enjoys the ATS style of dance best due to its style and group involvement.
“I really enjoy the dance because it’s not just about dancing from the audience, it’s about dancing from each other. It’s about a tribe and a group. Nobody is more important. Everyone is important. It’s a great dance because we really have fun,” she said.
She also added that there are many benefits to belly dancing that include the following:
Good form of exercise. The exercise allows you to burn calories and tone muscle, all while having fun.
“We work a lot of our waist, arms, legs and really the whole body. However, you don’t realize it, because we are having so much fun. You’ll be able to notice that you’ll be losing inches as well,” said Calderón.
Brain stimulation. Belly dance is mentally stimulating, as well. Having to synchronize the movements of different muscle groups improves motor skills.
The aesthetics of the art are tied to spatial geometry, and the practitioner must be aware of and learn to create shapes and lines with their bodies.
It allows for mental alertness and functioning is stimulated during a time when increased oxygen is being delivered to brain cells
Creative workout attire. Calderón said that to begin all dancers need are comfortable yoga pants. However, she advises dancers to wear long flowy skirts as they progress in the dance.
Body confidence. Calderón said the dance aids women in having more confidence about their bodies through embracing the dancing and working with a group.
“As women, most of us are not comfortable with our bodies,” she said.
“But I’ve seen women of all ages and sizes belly dancing and being very happy and comfortable with their bodies. So each body is different and these dances remind us to accept the differences and just be who you are.”
Better digestion. Belly dancing move muscles of the abdominal and pelvic regions which massages deeper internal organs. The result is better intestine and colon health.
Menstrual cramp relief. Strengthening of pelvic muscle groups and improvements in blood circulation help prevent cramps over time.
However, practicing belly dance can also relieve cramps when they occur.
Back pain relief. Back pain is now reported by over 80 percent of adults, and the numbers continue to increase as many become increasingly sedentary.
Relief can be found, however, by strengthening the deep core muscles that cushion and support the spine.
If You Go
Cost to attend the class is $3 for nonmembers and free for center members. For more information, contact the center at 455-1122. Class size is limited to 15 students.
The center is located at 501 N. Collins St. in Tullahoma.