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Tried + Tested:

Tribal Fusion B el l y D a nce Embracing her inner mermaid and braving a whole host of fears, Ella Walker tries out the hypnotic dance form at the Cambridge YMCA

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ill you have to get your belly out?” was the question I kept facing in the run up to my first ever attempt at belly dancing. That and people bandying around the words “video” and “YouTube sensation”. So, as I got to the fitness studio at the Cambridge YMCA, stripped off my socks and firmly kept my top on over my tummy, I was pretty terrified. A couple of avid Egyptian belly dancers taking the class also looked a bit worried and warned me that the warm up routine, which our youthful instructor, Demelza “Demi” Hillier was practising at the front, looked very different to your average spangly belted belly dancing … but it was too late to make my escape. Gathering us all up and attempting to set us at ease, Demelza had us introduce ourselves and asked if we’d ever tried tribal fusion belly dance (I’d never even heard of it),

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Instructor Demelza Hillier

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and I wasn’t that sure a few ballet and tap sessions aged 5-10 – the extent of my dance class experience – was going to pull me through. Luckily we started with a simple enough warm up. Bounding from one side of the room to the other and stretching out our arms and legs, and pointing those toes (“Like a pony!” Demelza shouted) we then had to grasp the core moves of tribal fusion. My favourites included making “angry spider hands” for swirly oriental wrist movements, using our oblique muscles to shimmy our hips up and down, and seductive arm techniques which Demelza, while whirling theatrically around the room, kept reminding us should make us feel like mermaids under the sea. The idea was to raise our arms to the surface (ceiling) lightly and fluidly, and then bring them back down strongly, fighting against the current with our elbows, all the while maintaining the basic belly dance stance: softly bent knees, bum tucked in, chest held high, shoulders pulled back and down. I quickly learned that in belly dancing your belly isn’t expected to wobble, it’s expected to work out. The key is to isolate individual muscles and make very precise but also very graceful movements that still pack a

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punch. Which explains why its benefits include improved posture and core body strength, increased stamina and reduced stress. Halfway through the hour-long session my thighs were aching and my unsuspecting abs were definitely being bullied into shape. There’s also a lot of drama involved in belly dance; tribal fusion especially, and there’s a real art to getting it right. It draws on a different kind of femininity to


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Instructor Demelza Hillier

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the flowery femininity of oriental style belly dance, Demelza told us. It needs attitude, strength and imagination. Annoyingly, I could manage the arm movements but it was slotting them into a routine which also involved hip rolling and foot swooping that left me in a bit of a tangle at times. Laughing at my own feeble attempts to look at least a little intimidating (evil but oh-sodangerously-attractive was the look we were meant to be going for) also knocked my balance a bit too. But once I’d relaxed and got my bearings – plus stopped looking at myself in the studio mirror – the moves seemed much easier. You really have to go with the flow with belly dancing. It’s the kind of dance form that, once you’ve mastered the muscle isolation and striking facial expressions, must be incredibly empowering to perform, particularly if you’re a not-sosecret exhibitionist and fancy getting dressed up in fantastical costumes and exotic makeup. All I need to do is unleash my inner drama queen – that might take another couple of classes though. ✤ Demelza runs intermediate sessions on Mondays, 7pm – 8.30pm (£70 per term) and beginner classes on Wednesdays, 7pm-8pm (£50) at the Cambridge YMCA. For more information visit www.fusionbellydance.co.uk or email demelzahillier@gmail.com.

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The Buckleton s Belly Dancer A new Egyptian-style belly dancing term has also kicked off at the Buchan Street Community Centre in Cambridge. Run by Sue Baker, AKA Elisa Gameela, the club is celebrating its eighth year of shimmying and shaking. All ages, shapes and backgrounds are welcome (including men!) ✤ Sessions are held on Tuesdays: Beginners, 6pm-7pm (£3.75 per class/£18.75 five week term) General ability 7.10pm – 8.25pm (£4/£24) at 6 Buchan Street, Cambridge, CB4 2XF. The group often shows off its ‘hip-notic’ moves at Arbury Carnival. ✤ Sue also runs sessions in Ickleton, Linton and Saffron Walden. ✤ To sign up to a class, email susi-bee@hotmail.co.uk or call 07943743300. For more information visit http://buckletonbelly dancers.webs.com.

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Tried and tested: Tribal fusion belly dance