A Belly Dancing Birthday…

By Robin Swanson

If you’ve ever fantasized about shakin’ it like Shakira and wow-ing your friends with exotic new moves on the dance floor ala a bad 80’s movie – I’ve found Sacramento’s answer – belly dancing lessons at Jodette’s Belly Dancing Studio on K Street.

Though I rarely view having hips as a strategic advantage in any athletic endeavors (or jeans shopping for that matter), I figured having a few curves may give me a head-start in the belly-dancing department.  I wasn’t wrong – but it turns out it takes a lot more than having a little junk in the trunk to master the art of belly dancing.

Truth is, I’ve driven by Jodette’s for many years, and wondered “what if,” but never committed to lessons, until a couple of weeks ago in honor of my friend Andrea’s birthday.  For her special occasion, we were able to schedule a private lesson –  and needless to say, as a belly dancing rookie, I was grateful for the “privacy.”

Turns out, not only does belly dancing require a fair amount of skill, it’s also quite a workout. Some of Jodette’s devotees even claim they’ve lost 20-30 pounds simply by “dropping it like it’s hot…”

Our class was led by one of Jodette’s star-students, Rena, and ended with a final lesson from Jodette herself.  Dancing for the likes of Mohammed Ali and President Jimmy Carter, Jodette has enjoyed a career as a world-class belly dancer.  Now she imparts her skills and knowledge onto willing students at what she claims is one of the only “authentic” belly dancing studios in North America, right here in Sacramento.  She wants her students to learn more than just the “technique” of belly-dancing – because at the end of the day it’s all about having the “attitude” to pull it off.  Perhaps that’s why Jodette’s pitch is that you’ll “learn how to dance, walk and flirt like an Egyptian…”

Though tiny in stature, Jodette runs her classes with the precision of a military general – and I’m pretty sure if she and Hulk Hogan were left to duke it out in a dark alley, Jodette would drag him out by the ear like a tamed pup.

Walking into her studio, you’re met with brightly-colored shimmery and beaded fabrics – they’re everywhere –  on the walls, in the costumes hanging on the racks, and on the belly-dancers teaching the classes.

Seeing the rich fabrics and beautiful costumes served as inspiration as I sweated it out in my old Adidas gear, dreaming that someday I could belly-dance in costume without feeling like a total imposter.

Rena first worked with our group of five belly-dancing novices to teach us how to “drop our hips.”   That’s because the belly-dancing motion isn’t simply about shaking hips from side-to-side, but instead involves an up and down motion that is much harder to master than you might think.

I’m no Janet Jackson, but I’d like to think I’ve got a little rhythm-nation in me – and learning this hip-dropping motion made me feel about as uncoordinated as plaid and pleather.

Once our hip-dropping skills were deemed “passable” – Rena’s bemused expressions belied her encouraging words – we moved onto learning elements of a belly dancing routine.  With hands posed in a cupping motion like a portrait Grecian Goddess to our right or to the left, opposite our lead foot, we shook our hips on command – step, step, step, shake-2-3-4. Step to the right – shake 2-3-4. Step to the left – shake 2-3-4.

And then came the kicker – moving the around hips in a circle, like a snake being charmed out of a basket.

Between laughing at ourselves and trying to keep up with the routine and the music, we didn’t even realize that we were getting a work-out, until we had all shed our outer layers and worked up a sweat.

The hour went by in a flash, and before we knew it – it was time to hydrate and rest on our sufficiently-shaken laurels at a near-by watering hole.   As someone who works out pretty regularly, the belly-dancing lesson was surprisingly aerobic, and less-surprisingly, both challenging and fun.

The girls with Jodette

I will be visiting Jodette’s studio again soon, and might just invest in a shimmery turquoise costume for inspiration to test out my new moves and flirt like an Egyptian…

Jodette charges $20 for “drop-in” lessons and $29 for 4 weeks of lessons.  For more information, please visit: http://jodettes.com/classes.nxg

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  1. Denice says

    As a student belly dancer, I would suggest trying someone like Mychelle Crown or the Unmata gals farther down at K & 17th Streets. I went to Jodette for a few months, and ultimately she tries to get students to buy lots of costumes on credit from her by working it off dancing in restaurants. It just seemed like a scam, and since I’ve left I’ve learned that becoming a professional is really hard, demanding, time-consuming and that they should be paid more than the $20 a night plus tips that she acted like was such a great deal. She’s fine for just going in and learning a few basic amateur tricks, but if you want to advance and take it seriously then go somewhere else.

  2. What Denice does not say.... says

    What Denice does not say is how inexpensive Jodette’s classes are. 99 bucks for 3 months, at 4 lessons per week! You cant find that anywhere.
    Also, performing for Jodette requires she finds all the gigs and parties for YOU! She only accepts a small cut for 1 restaurant out many she will schedule you for.
    Parties? She gets $25 dollars! BIG DEAL! You the dancer get to keep the rest, usually 100, sometimes 200 tips not included for 1 hour of dancing around.
    As for the costumes she sells, I have found none that exceed in cost of what you would find the same piece for by buying it online. She does require her dancers to buy costumes from her because she would make no profit at all if here students bought them elsewhere. Thats one reason her classes are so inexpensive. Its her dancing troop that keep the school running. One works to pay for the costumes by dancing, sometimes they get pricy. I personally found this very helpful.
    All of this depends if you want to dance professionally at all. If you dont you dont have to…sooooo no scam sorry some people get a little paranoid I guess.

    Lastly I find it amusing a beginning student can call someones technique, “tricks”, its like being called ugly by a frog.

    Jodette is one the most genuine people I have ever meet, she even takes profits she makes from teaching authentic Egyptian belly dance to feed the homeless. She is a little “old world” but that is what I love about her most.

    I highly recommend her classes, and her teaching staff.

  3. Amelia says

    Having been at this studio for years (until I decided I wanted to become a real professional dancer) I can say based off of my experience that Jodette only looks out for Jodette. True her classes are the least expensive in town and they are good to learn some basics and have some fun. But as Denice said it takes so much more to becoming a professional belly dancer.

    She does find the jobs for you but that’s because 1) you either owe her money and you get scheduling priority, and/or 2) she gets 1/2 of private party gigs (which comes out to $50). In the Professional Sacramento Belly Dance community (all others outside of Jodettes) rates are a lot higher (as they should be) because they take into account hours of training, costuming, prep-time, travel time, which can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

    As for her policy for buying belly dance items only through her…well that’s not entirely true. You can buy whatever you want outside the studio but she demand money for it. If it’s a costume she’ll charge you $100-200 to be able to wear it. The costumes she sells do exceed the cost of what you would find online or through another vendor. The costumes she makes are poor quality and should charge a third of what she’s charging now. As for the better made costumes she gets from her vendor she will charge $300-450 more that what you can get it for online. Yes she uses this money to run her studio and feed the homeless but she’s taking it too far. I know first hand she gets most of that food donated.

    Off course this all does depend if you want to become a professional but the fact that she’s pushing out dancers and (calling them professional) with little to no training and charging next to nothing is an insult to the rest of the community. I say take classes from any one of the instructors listed on the Sacramento Bellydance webpage http://sacramentobellydance.net/

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