There are lots of different ideas about what belly dancing looks like, which women can do it and the reasons why they do it.
But last weekend at the Stettler Recreation Centre, as instructor Chris Olson put it, she and her students were “women dancing for women.”
Olson hosted a belly dancing workshop in an upstairs studio at the centre on Sunday, Nov. 23, welcoming a small group of women to learn how to dance in a safe, casual environment.
While Hollywood and pop culture have cemented the image of belly dancers as exotic women in skimpy costumes, shimmying their torsos to please or seduce men, what Olson teaches is entirely different.
Olson said belly dancing is for women of all ages, shapes and sizes, and she encourages her students to come wearing comfortable clothing, like T-shirts or sweatshirts and yoga pants.
They don’t have to reveal their midriffs, wear fancy costumes or perform in public; the goal is to have fun, get some exercise and support each other.
“You can step in and pick it up fairly quickly,” said Olson. “And it makes a person feel good.”
Tracey Walker, 28, attended with her mom, Mary. It was her first time, and she said it was fun and provided solid exercise without being too difficult.
Terri Simpson, a resident of Hanna, also attended, saying she hopes to begin teaching classes there soon.
It’s “not just your usual ‘run on a treadmill’-type thing, which I find so boring I can’t handle it,” said Simpson.
The women in attendance ranged in age from young adults to middle age, lending credence to Simpson’s claim that “you don’t have to be a spring chicken.”
Olson said she started learning to belly dance in 2004 while she was living in Esterhazy, Sask., and taking jazz dancing lessons.
Her instructor switched to teaching belly dancing, and Olson reluctantly stayed on, adding, “I just grew to really love it.”
She has continued dancing since moving to Stettler in February 2013, saying that she began teaching it here since no one else was offering it.
She added that she plans to host more workshops and wants to start a regular class in Stettler in the new year.
Olson said she “hopes to get a good, vibrant adult dance community going,” noting, “I think we’ve got the kids covered.”
Those interested in learning more can contact Olson by phone at 403-542-9918 or by email at email@example.com.