Whether you’re looking to find inspiration in a world of euphonious beats and fluid rhythms or you just want to shake it like Shakira at the next club party, “Raqs Sharki” is the answer to your prayers.
This Middle Eastern art of belly dancing was originally used as a method for easing childbirth, but has become a worldwide dance craze. Have no fear, budding belly-dance enthusiasts—even if you are not with child, there are plenty of places to attempt this ancient art right in your own backyard. FM presents you with just a sampling of the options.
179 South St., Boston
T-Stop: South Station
Thursdays 7:30-8:30 p.m. (Beginner and Intermediate)
If you want a quick lesson before hopping onto the Fung Wah Chinatown bus, Fred Astaire’s Seyyide (“lady” in Arabic) offers Egyptian bellydancing. The modern two-floor studio is located in downtown Boston near Chinatown, and specializes in ballroom dancing. Belly dancing is its sole non-Western offering. Based on the premise that bellydancing “is a true art form,” Seyyide provides rigorous teaching with emphasis on the trunk and hips. Even if you don’t become the next belly-dancing wonder, at least you’ll pick up some toned muscles and great posture. With an appointment, Fred Astaire offers a free introductory class for new students. If you get hooked on the feel of shimmies and hip-shaking, classes come at a rate of $40 per four-week session and a drop-in rate of $12.
The Middle East
472-480 Massachusetts Ave.,
T-Stop: Central Square
Sundays and Wednesdays 9:00 p.m.
The Middle East is a restaurant/nightclub where punk rock and the Near East collide. On Sundays and Wednesdays, groups of dancers shake their stuff up the aisles, wowing the patrons with their sass and flexibility. Paying a small cover charge on Wednesday will give you access to an entire night of performances accompanied by live Middle Eastern music, with bands hailing from Armenia to Lebanon. DJ Garabed mixes on most Sunday nights. On the last Sunday of the month, patrons can also take mini-lessons and buy hip scarves of their own from one of the vendors. To get into the mood, patrons often order Middle Eastern coffees, but for those who don’t take caffeine that late, the club has an extraordinarily well-stocked bar—and a very strict ID policy.
17 Winter Street, Boston
T-Stop: Downtown Crossing
Sundays 12-1 p.m.
For the trend-conscious, Vitamin Water-guzzling crowd, Crunch Gym offers an alternative to the traditional belly dancing class. Crunch has state-of-the-art equipment in addition to almost every dance/fitness course imaginable, ranging from cardio striptease to “belly moves.” Also taught by Johara of Dance Complex, Crunch’s “belly moves” is marketed as an “elusive and exotic” class that combines traditional belly dancing with cardio exercises. For $24, you can have a day pass to the entire gym, including the fitness classes. Monthly membership comes with a $79 price tag, and a yearly contract will cost you more than a few of those Benjamins. Although working out in the company of super-fit young professionals might be intimidating for the Noch’s devotee, Crunch promises a “no-judgments” environment.
Cambridge Center for Adult Education
42 Brattle St., Cambridge
Fridays 7-9:30 p.m. (Beginner)
After you walk out of Jasmine Sola with that ultra-risqué outfit, jump across Brattle St. to a quaint yellow eighteenth-century house for a class that will make your hips looser than a drunkard’s tongue. Home to a variety of academic and non-academic courses, the Cambridge Center for Adult Education’s Seyyide (also of Fred Astaire Studios) teaches “ancient movements to ancient rhythms.” Each class is capped at sixteen students to ensure that you get the most out of your belly dancing experience. Prices for each course sequence vary according to the number of sessions, and, unlike many of the other studios, the Center requires that you preregister before each “term,” just as you would with one of their computer classes. If only shimmying could get you Harvard credit.
536 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
T-Stop: Central Square
Tuesdays, Thursdays 5:30-6:45 p.m. (Intermediate) and 6:45-8 p.m. (Beginner)
Inside a drab brown former municipal building, teens and grandmas get down with their bad selves in belly dancing classes taught by Johara (a stage name—“Jewel” in Arabic). Although the clickety-clack of the tap ingenues in the adjacent studio travels through the walls, once the Middle Eastern beats are turned on, the room transforms into a glorious world of hip-shaking and undulating. Johara’ s form of belly dancing fuses styles ranging from Egyptian to Turkish Gypsy to Saudi Arabian. This may seem a little overwhelming for some belly-dance virgins; luckily, Dance Complex offers a beginner’s class that assumes no experience at all and starts with the basics of hip movement and hand placement. For the precocious, Johara also teaches an intermediate course which culminates in a very public demonstration—a class clubbing night. For those without the proper accessories, Johara sells all the necessary accoutrements—hip scarves ($35-$50) and finger cymbals ($10). And at the cost of $12 for drop-ins, with a discount for long-term students, Dance Complex is financially accessible. Johara describes belly dancing as a “celebration of womanhood”—which was reflected in the make-up of the class FM attended—but she still encourages the boys to join in on the fun.