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.
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