My SharQui Journey
By Sandra Forrer
In 1986 I started bellydance lessons at my local community center in Sunnyvale, CA. I wasn’t very graceful but I was having fun and my teacher Cathy was very encouraging. I stuck with it and performed at student nights and eventually took classes with the amazing Dunia until 1991 when my first daughter was born. Flash forward to 2006, two daughters occupy my life and bellydance has fallen by the wayside and my weight is slowly creeping up about 10 pounds per year over the previous 4 years. My loving man caught me dancing in the kitchen and insisted I get back to dancing. It took a few false starts to find Khajulah and Raks al Khalil in San Jose. I had never troupe danced before and it was a fun challenge. With my doctor’s help I discovered that my body was attacking my thyroid (Hashimoto’s disease) which explained why despite diet and exercise my weight continued to climb. Medication and Weight Watchers stopped the increase but it wasn’t doing much to reverse the extra poundage. I made the commitment to myself to exercise more. Dancing with the troupe is fun but is definitely not aerobic as there is a lot of stopping and starting to work on choreography. Zumba? Fun, sweaty, confusing if you aren’t at the front and really hard on my feet. Boot camp? Uh, no. Doing sit ups and push ups in the grass where the people let their dogs run free? Ick. Step class, body pump, body flow, all great and all offered while I am at work and the gyms are crammed full in the evenings. Going to the equipment room to spin, run, walk is boring even with the TV on. So my attempts to go to the gym more often were often sidetracked by homework help, Girl Scouts and driving my kids to their activities and over all boredom with my workout.
Then at Rakkasah West in 2009 my husband pulls me away from my shopping telling me, “You have to see this!” and takes me over to the SharQui booth. Oreet had just finished performing and was back at her booth, glowing in her wonderful costume and was talking about her new aerobic workout based on bellydance. My mind did a double take, a BELLYDANCE workout? Then she said she was looking to train instructors in San Francisco. ME? An aerobics instructor? With this tummy? A bellydance instructor should look like Oreet, petite, slim and strong not tall and overweight. I took the literature and bought the fundamentals DVD thinking that I would at least do it at home.
I loved it! The workout was fun and easy to follow and I could feel my abs working. I was hooked. Next thing I know I am signed up to take the three day instructor training AND to get certified to be a group exercise leader through ACE. The training was the most fun working my butt off I had done in a long time. The other students were a fun mix of bellydancers and aerobics teachers and we have all kept in touch since then. Oreet was encouraging but kept to her high standards for her program and made us work for our certification. It took some time to finish my group exercise certification so I wasn’t teaching yet but I was still practicing at home, learning to talk and dance at the same time. Not an easy task!
Finally it all came together. I started teaching one night a week and building my confidence as a teacher and then the explosion happened…four classes a week at a variety of gyms and community centers. I know that if students are expecting me to show up and teach I will not let other things get in my way so that really helped my own commitment to exercise. Up to 100 students per week come to my classes. I started to really focus on my food and since September 2010 I have lost 15 pounds. I still have a ways to go but I am thrilled to be doing it at last. My clothes fit better and people think I have lost more than that because my tummy is so much smaller. Say hello to core muscles I thought I would never have. I can now outlast everyone in my troupe on the drum solo because I have stamina. I like to think some of my negatives make me a better teacher. I am not super skinny, nor am I super flexible but I love to dance. I love to share what I do with my students. I like to think that because I am not a perfect size 6 I can be more of a role model for students who are looking to get into shape. I am definitely not intimidating with highly chiseled abs, I am soft and curvy but I can MOVE and I have fun doing it. That I think is what brings people back to the class every week, they are getting a good workout and having fun.
I’m sure that dancer I was back in 1986 would not recognize my dance style today. I am more relaxed, don’t have to count every beat, the smile is real and I continue to add new moves and styles all the time. I now have my own students and they have taken the first steps towards becoming performers by being part of a flash mob I organized. I now make plans around my exercise time and even make time to work out new choreography and take more classes from other dancers whenever I can. My life is richer in so many ways because SharQui allows me to step out of the regular world and be a positive influence in other people’s lives but a healthier me is the best reward of all!
Bellydance for Fitness: Beyond the Craft
By Charissa Prince-Ferdinand
It takes an athlete to dance, but an artist to be a dancer. ~Shanna LaFleur
Dance and physical fitness have always gone hand in hand. A joyful, energetic dancer is a true delight and wonder to behold. A part of this wonder is appreciation for the dancer’s athleticism and generosity of spirit. With the state of the economy and the reemergence of dance into pop culture, dance fitness classes are fast becoming an integral part of every fitness center’s schedule and bellydance is among the most requested of classes. Why wouldn’t it be? It is common knowledge that bellydance boosts confidence, and improves muscle tone and stamina. Yet, despite the undeniable and numerous health benefits of bellydance and the opportunity to earn a second income from your favorite pastime, some worry that placing focus on these health benefits somehow deprives the participant of a more spiritual or sensual experience; or that the fitness atmosphere stifles musicality and personality. I can only hope to shed more light on this topic from my own experiences. Perhaps by the end of this article you will even agree that getting fitness certified is an excellent way to boost your income and become a better dancer and teacher.
Like many other bellydancers, I didn’t start in this genre but was always intrigued by it. I received the mandatory but limited modern/ballet dance training that was part of my elementary schooling. Then at 24, I took up Argentine Tango and studied that for 2 years. In an effort to improve my overall health and supplement my dance classes, I joined a health club and was pleased to find a number of dance fitness classes including SharQui-the bellydance workout with Oreet, the creator. SharQui, the aerobic approach to bellydance, touted numerous benefits for both the dancer and the fitness enthusiast including improved skill, speed and muscle tone, so I tried it. I was hooked from the first class and became a weekly-sometimes-twice-weekly-participant and at a whopping 300 calories burned per class I lost a cool 30 lbs! Taking heed of my interest, Oreet encouraged me to get fitness certified and become an instructor. She further urged me to expand my knowledge by studying with other teachers and I complied. Long accustomed to Oreet’s succinct corrections and precise explanations, I was surprised to find that at some classes either no such enlightenments were offered or that attempts at clarification simply left me further puzzled. Now, now fellow teachers please don’t misunderstand me. I know how difficult it can be searching for that light switch to the-oh-so satisfying “a-ha” bulb for your students. But if you found an almost fool proof way to explain any move wouldn’t you use it? When my students understand a movement muscularly they find it easier to reproduce and thereby gain confidence in their natural abilities and skills.
Being fitness and SharQui certified not only allows me to understand and communicate movement better but gives me a deeper appreciation for my body and the dance. In studying for my fitness certification, I learned how to efficiently work and protect the body so that I could provide a safe learning environment for my students. The SharQui course expanded on the principles of teaching, covering topics such as cueing, sequencing, correcting and maintaining flow. Since I started teaching right away in the course (and so will you) I fine tuned my physical and mental understanding of each movement and simultaneously learned numerous key phrases that described precisely what I was doing internally. Now, once my students understand the mechanics of simple actions, I have a solid base from which to introduce more complex, challenging moves and can encourage them to experiment with combinations, layers and music interpretation.
A safe environment also means a supportive environment; one that encourages risk-taking, rewards creativity and develops personal style. Furthermore, a great bellydancer is more than a brilliant technician she or he is a performer. Understandably this important element can be challenging to teach in a fitness atmosphere. I combat this obstacle by hosting and participating in regular workshops that focus on elements specific to bellydance. Thus, I introduce my students to a wider vocabulary, sharpened choreography skills and enhanced performance quality. Coupled with the strength they’ve developed in SharQui class my students are becoming well rounded energetic performers.
But what if you don’t want to teach or earn extra money should you still take the SharQui course? Yes! Even if you simply wish to master technique, learn more about your fascinating body and challenge yourself to great workout then the course is a wonderful way to do that. The fitness certification is required because it maintains the integrity of the program and preserves SharQui’s status as the only bellydance program recognized by both the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFFA). In addition, both your fitness license and your SharQui certificate qualify you to teach a “specialty” class at a fitness center or even in a dance studio giving you more negotiating and earning power.
My journey with Raqs Sharqi began with Belly Dance Fitness. As a student and a teacher; this foundation has blessed me with a mind-body awareness in the dance I do not believe I would have developed in the short frame of time I did without the anatomical and physiological background fitness training provided. SharQui- The Bellydance Workout is an excellent resource for teachers and dancers alike. I strongly encourage you to experience the Instructor Training Course.
There are so many professional benefits to being a certified SharQui instructor. The Sharqui training provided me with the perfect way to present bellydance to a larger audience. As a SharQui instructor I can hold classes in more venues including gyms and fitness studios. It is the perfect class for people who want a fun way to tone and exercise, or for dancers who want to get the most out of their movements. Also, having the support of Oreet and the SharQui network means I can attract more students as well! If you are a dancer or fitness instructor looking for a way to reach more students, you have to become SharQui certified. It is the next big thing in fitness!
I’ve been teaching Bellydancing classes since 1996 and, while I’ve always tried to have a careful muscularly based method, I was so delighted to add the SharQui technique to create an extra solid anatomical foundation to build safe movement upon. While my “regular” Bellydancing classes delve into the nuanced facets of a complex dance form, many of my students want a work out and are so excited to have the best of what they love from Bellydancing AND fitness. My classes are smiling the whole time, getting fit and feeling fabulous. — Shoshanna, Arcata CA, www.shoshannaland.com
My name is Joanne Domenici, and I have been involved in the Belly Dance world since 1974, although I did not start teaching until 2006. Always interested in fitness as well as dance, I began teaching Belly Dance at the gym I belonged to, and wanted desperately to merge the two into a single style. My classes were always well attended, but I couldn’t help but think there was a better way to teach the classes I so enjoyed.
In 2008, I decided to get certified as a group fitness instructor, which I did through AFAA; that same year I attended Rakkasah west and passed by Oreet’s booth. I wondered if perhaps she might be a good connection, but I never actually met her, although I did buy a continuous movement CD from her that I happily used in my ongoing classes. The following year, I made sure I found her, and when we chatted, I knew that she was the person I was looking for to help me implement my original vision, as she had already done it! I made sure I was in her first west coast workshop in the summer of 2009 and became certified as a SharQui instructor.
The rest is history! I continue to teach at the same gym, but using the SharQui format. I have come to value Oreet not only as a friend, but also as a mentor, a superb teacher, and an extraordinary dancer. SharQui – The bellydance workout® has done so much for me as well as my students! I have seen them develop from having “two left feet” into excellent dancers, including people who have never danced in their lives. I have seen others grow in their love of themselves as creative, independent, and expressive spirits. It has been a joy to be able to use the SharQui vehicle to support students in their growth as healthy and happy human beings.
Above all, however, is my never-ending concern for health and fitness. As I reach my “senior” years, it becomes more and more important to stay “young” and in shape, and to help my students do the same. I recently received some tangible proof that SharQui is helping me do just that! My doctor sent me for a bone density scan, and I was just a little hesitant; I know I am in a high risk group for losing bone mass. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised when my reading for my lower spine came back in the normal range. Osteoporosis runs in my family, and I had had a previous scan that warned me that I was on the verge of succumbing to this condition. I can only attribute this normal reading to teaching SharQui – The bellydance workout®, as I have not changed anything else substantially in my workout routine. All of the twisting plus the attention to posture surely contributed to this vast improvement. I couldn’t be happier and am so thankful for that meeting with Oreet at Rakkasah in 2009.
Here’s to teaching many more years as a SharQui instructor! Many, many thanks to Oreet for everything she has done for me!