You can come to belly dancing with no prior dance and learn a fun and enjoyable dance. -Grace

The Washington Post Express

Ladies who want to dress up as belly dancers this Halloween can get a better treat than a few fun-size candy bars: a crash course in how to shake and shimmy.

Arlington’s Saffron Dance (3260 Wilson Blvd., 703-276-2355, is offering “Best of the Best: Belly Dance Beginners’ Weekend Intensive” ($150) Oct. 31 through Nov. 1 to introduce newbies to the moves and cultural history of the seductive dance. And Saphira, the studio’s founder and artistic director, says whether you want to lose weight, build self-confidence or simply like the idea of wiggling around, the series is a great way to get started.

As one learns how to belly dance, it becomes more than just a form of exercise. “It feeds so many elements of our spirit and nurtures our mind and our emotion,” Saphira says. But to reach that state, every dancer starts with three basic moves.

The first is a side-to-side hip accent. To do it, pretend you’re holding a baby and need to close the car door. “That allows you to bend your knees, change your weight and give force to the movement,” Saphira says.

The second is the figure eight: “Twist your hips so the right hip is in front and left hip is in back. Then shift your weight and twist your hips,” Saphira says. This results in crowd-pleasing undulations. It also teaches dancers about how to hold their bodies.

And no one will leave this weekend workshop without mastering the straight-leg shimmy, which is like running in place with your feet flat on the floor. Shimmying makes fat jiggle, the key to a sultry shake. It also makes many women uncomfortable. “They associate that with such ideas as ‘I am a bad person because I can feel my inner thighs,’” she says. “Here, that is an indication of what your instrument is doing.” Belly dancing helps women embrace these as good vibrations, Saphira promises.

It’ll also teach them to realize the beauty of their bodies: fat, muscle and all.

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