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Jo’burg belly-dancers wriggle into record books

More than 100 belly-dancers shimmied their way into the record books on Friday night, watched by appreciative fathers, husbands and boyfriends.

The 116 dancers gathered at the Blairgowrie Recreation Centre from all over Johannesburg, hoping to create the largest number of belly-dancers ever seen gyrating under one roof.

Shalimar Harrison, belly-dancing teacher for more than 30 years, said the turnout had been greater than she expected.

”We were hoping for 60. This is wonderful,” she said.

The youngest was three years old, the oldest more than 50, and for five minutes they joyfully gyrated as one — to the sound of Eastern music.

Eight-year-old Crystal Buys said belly-dancing makes her happy.

”I like to wiggle,” she said excitedly before the show.

She was there with her cousins and aunts, who all took belly-dancing classes together. Harrison said it is a great way for mothers to bond with their daughters.

The occasion was videotaped, and watched by two independent observers, to conform with the Guinness Book of Records‘ exacting standards, said Harrison.

She said she hopes to break this record next year.

The ancient art form has really taken off in the country in the past few years, said Harrison, who is head of the Belly-Dancing Association of South Africa.

”First we had to overcome the thought that belly-dancing is stripping,” she explained. She said more and more people are realising that it is great exercise and really fun.

”It’s gentle on the body also — it’s about hips and waists, not knees and joints.”

Harrison said she will teach the sensual dance of the seven veils ”in private classes, to someone who wanted to entertain her husband at home”, but she teaches a more ”classical” line of dancing in her general classes.

”It is an art form. It’s not just stand there and shake,” she said.

All sorts of people want to learn to belly-dance, Harrison said.

”Everyone. From six-year-olds to grannies. You don’t have to be skinny, you don’t have to be able to do the splits, and it’s fabulous exercise for pregnant women.”

Already there are about 30 belly-dancing studios in Johannesburg, and the demand is growing, she said.

Most of the dancers sourced on Friday were pupils at the classes, but anyone could have turned up and joined the dance — provided they could show that they know their moves.

And what about the men?

Harrison teaches male belly-dancing. But it is strenuous work, she warned.

”It’s hard on the legs. It’s not a man pretending to be a woman — it’s very powerful.”

She said there is nothing more beautiful than ”a strong male dancing with a sensual female belly-dancer”.

The men present on Friday were all spectators, but their appreciation was tangible. — Sapa

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