Marni Halasa, a professional belly dancer, figure skater, and parade personality– yes, she performs in just about all of the New York City parades– taught belly dancing this weekend to our intimate class of eight. To succeed as a belly dancer, Halasa says, “You just have to relax and let your flab shake.” If that’s the measure of success, the Greatist team definitely rocked this Gractivity (see us in action here). Given that pros actually make belly dancing look sexy, I was caught a bit off guard by just how pant-inducing this workout was. Halasa taught us a “Drum Solo,” which refers to the music used while performing all of the traditional body isolations belly dancing is known for. We learned to isolate our shoulders, arms, chest, and hips, meanwhile “smizing” and making alluring faces at the mirror. (Or was that just me?) The part that kept us sweating was the speed of the routines. From “and 5, 6, 7, 8” we were rapidly shaking, gyrating, giggling, and shimmying for a full 2 minutes. Then a quick breather and another go. Halasa teaches what she refers to as “belly dance fusion,” which is a combination of traditional belly dance with elements of cabaret and jazz. Plus it involves props like veils, hip scarves, and even rubber snakes. In addition to a cardio workout, Halasa says belly dancing is great for the abs. Because of the isolations, it’s very different from a typical workout, and while the core gets a lot of attention, all the major muscle groups get some work. What truly sets belly dancing apart, though, is the performance aspect. It’s not just any dance class where a jingling hip scarf is basically essential for nailing the moves. And the Greatist guys, ever performers, loved this element best. With her background in figure skating, Halasa encouraged us to try a few lifts, throw on some enormous gold lamé wings, and slink around in circles, veils billowing behind us. Belly dancing is, after all, all about “getting in touch with your inner goddess.” Halasa teaches belly dancing at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. Email her for scheduling or visit her website, www.marnihalasa.com. Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft

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