Okay, we talk about exercise with diabetes all the time. It
can be really hard to motivate yourself to get out there and get moving. I think that the winter that we have had in
the Midwest has made it more difficult. I don’t think we have been without snow
on the ground for three months! It seems that it is either snowing or it is
incredibly cold. Not exactly inspiration to get out and get moving.
So let’s think outside the box a bit. Why not try something
new. Maybe something that might be outside your comfort zone.
I have had a fascination with belly dancing. Yes, belly
dancing. I don’t know why. I am the most uncoordinated person on earth but
there is something about it that is appealing to me. I also think it might do
something with my mid-section, which, truth be told, could use some serious
I was fortunate to meet Malik Turley, the owner of Hip
Circle Studio in Evanston, IL. She
teaches belly dancing classes in her studio.
She has agreed to answer question about the classes. I think sometimes
it is hard to walk in to try something new – a (in this case) silly fear of the
(Okay, who wants to walk into a class and find that everyone
is young, beautiful, and great at the activity? It would just be discouraging.
Maybe I am alone but I would prefer to know what the class is really like
before I decide to try it. Yea, just call me chicken. I am sure it doesn’t
apply to you!)
If you have ever wondered about taking a belly dance class,
here is your chance to get an idea of what it might be like. Even if you don’t
live in this area, it might embolden you to ask these questions at your local
studio to see if you would feel comfortable.
Interview with Malik Turley
Q1 – I have always had a fascination
with belly dancing and I see that your studio, Hip Circle Studio offers classes.
Is belly dancing easy to start and learn at any age or weight?
YES! The movements are very organic, it is a zero-low impact
activity, and it’s just plain fun! I've had students as young as 4 and as old
as 85 start belly dancing with me. I was 100 pounds over the “recommended”
weight for my frame when I started dancing and felt like it was the first thing
I tried where my curves were an asset rather than something to be worked around
Q2 – Is it just for fun or is it good
exercise? What body benefits will one see from starting belly dancing?
Oh, it’s exercise! We do a lot of strengthening of the
muscles in your back, arms, core, and legs all through dance postures and movements.
I've developed a CardioBelly class that gets you sweaty (and burns calories in
the process), but our technique classes are more about strength and tone.
Q3 – Do you need to
wear any special clothes?
Not really. I prefer to see students in pants so I can see
their knees /leg placement. A top that stops at the navel or hip line is ideal
for being able to see and adjust the upper body techniques. We have hip scarves
for women to borrow when they come to class - that’s really the only “special”
piece of clothing. If you imagine what you might wear to yoga or Pilates class,
that’s what most students wear. Now, I've also had women in the studio who are
not yet comfortable with form-fitting clothes who choose to wear big t-shirts
over skirts. If that’s what you need to do to start dancing, or if the clothing
I described above makes you uncomfortable, wear whatever you want! I can work
around it and help you find comfort in your own skin.
Q4 – What is the typical age range in
your beginning class?
We have a few middle-school aged girls who come to class,
but mostly we have adults in the 20 - 65 year old range at any given class. I
really love that the ages are so varied and think it brings a depth to the
class that goes well beyond the dancing. There’s something just right about
sitting in a circle of women of all ages, sharing conversation about our day
while we do a glute-squeeze exercise. We’re all learning from each other in
Q5 – How long do students stay in the
basic class? Do some never leave?
I have some women who've been in my BaseFusion class for
years! I have others who jumped over to intermediate after only a couple of
months. It’s really up to the individual and her comfort level. Goals play a
part, too. If you want to perform and dig into choreography then you’ll be
drawn to the intermediate class. If you just want to move your body in a fun
way, BaseFusion (and CardioBelly) can be all you need.
Q6 – What happens in the intermediate
We get into choreography and performance topics in
intermediate. This class is where Zahara Fusion, our performance troupe, is
developed. Performance is never mandatory but putting together complete dances
and learning them in a polished, performance-ready way is our focus in
Q7 – Is the class just open or are
there sessions. If there are sessions, how many classes to a session? How long
is each class?
All of our belly dance classes are open to drop-ins. I do
have a 12-week curriculum for BaseFusion, but you can jump in and out at any
point since I’ve developed each individual lesson as a stand-alone experience. All
of our belly dance classes are 60 minutes, with the exception of
Mother/Daughter Belly dance which is 45 minutes.
Q8 – How is the attitude in the
class? Is it fun or does it differ from class to class? Is there talking during
the class? It is a “go in as strangers, come out as friends” class?
Is “go in as strangers, come out as friends” a thing? If it
is, that’s what we've got going at all of our classes at the studio. Fun,
community, support - that’s what happens. We talk about all sorts of things
while we dance. We laugh. We have a really good time. When new folks arrive for
their first class it is not uncommon for the other students to start the
welcome wagon before I even get a word out!
Q9 – Am I going to feel like an idiot
because I am clumsy and full figured? Are there all shapes and sizes in the
We have it all - no worries! We have women who are sporty
and athletic. We have women who are living with MS and Fibromyalgia. We have
women with hip and knee replacements. We have women who are lifelong dancers. We
have women who don’t always know their left from their right. We have women who
are carrying hundreds of pounds. We have it all. And at the front of the room
we have me - I’ve had back surgery twice. I have danced at my heaviest and my
lightest weights (and in-between). I appreciate women, whatever their size,
shape, coordination, and have created a place of welcoming and acceptance. I
know people hesitate to try things and feel like weight and such get in the way.
That’s why I opened Hip Circle Studio - so ALL women could feel good moving
their bodies and getting started on a path to health and wellness. Oh, and belly
dance is SO WELCOMING to women of all shapes and sizes. Curves are celebrated in this art form. Shimmies
look delicious when you have something to move. Undulations are beautiful on
full-figured women. I’m rambling - come, try a class, I promise it won’t matter
if you go left when I go right, and I promise you won’t be judged based on
size, shape, or coordination.
Q10 – Can you tell me about your
background and training in belly dance?
I started dancing 10+ years ago here in Evanston. I had a
beautiful teacher, Linnea Jewitt, who taught with care and love and created a
space where my 30s, had-3-babies, never-danced-before body was welcomed alongside
beautiful 16 year old girls. In the
community she created I found a way to love and respect my body that I didn't
know was possible. I've studied with other instructors here and there over the
years but the other common-thread teacher was and is Rachel Brice. I am
currently working my way through her newly developed/still developing 8
Elements program. I've been teaching for about 7 years, directing Zahara Fusion
for about 5 years. I love bringing women together through belly dance and
really credit Linnea getting me off to such a strong start.
Would you like more information about
Hip Circle Studio?
Well, there you have it! Hopefully all your belly dance
questions are answered. Yes, I will go to a class and then let you know how it
went. I will be your guide into the world of belly dance…
If you have any other fitness activities that you might be
interested in but are hesitating because you don’t know what it would be like,
I would be happy to check it out for you. Just let me know what interests you
and what questions you have and I will see what I can do.