Belly Dancing

One Edmond restaurant is serving up entertainment as exotic as their cuisine. Namaste' Indian Cuisine offers more than curry to spice up their meal; diners can also enjoy the shimmy-shaky bling-bling of belly dancing performed by "A Mirage Dance Company " dancers. Patrons even have an opportunity to learn the art of belly dancing themselves at the restaurant's Saturday workshops.

Christie Giles is the director of A Mirage Dance Company. She is also a dance instructor and one of the twelve, featured dancers. Christie has been performing at restaurants, fairs, parties and even delivering Dance-a-Grams for about eight years.

"When I was still a teenager I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime," said Christie. "Becoming a belly dancer was definitely one of my goals. Ever since I was a little girl I was fascinated with watching belly dancers move and entertain at festivals and fairs. My mother even nicknamed me 'Fatima' after one of the most famous belly dancers of the 1900s."

Christie grew up with horses and became active in barrel racing and horse showmanship. She said there is a great deal of similarity between riding a horse and belly dancing.

"To be good at both, you have to keep the bottom part of your body soft and the top hard." explained Christie. "The inner thigh and quad muscles that you use to hold on to a horse, are also the muscles that belly dancers control to make the dance's unique movements, such as the shimmy."

The shimmy isn't the only movement a belly dancer must master. There is the vibrating movement called the "flutter," the individual bounce of each hip known as "hit the beat" among others. The techniques mean that dancers must learn to control their upper and lower muscles separately. Belly dancing also requires that dancers spend a great deal of time on the toes, so calf muscles can get sore, even for those who have been dancing for quite a while.

"Actually, the whole body gets involved in belly dancing," said Christie. "To achieve the right presentation, the movements are sort of layered. If you don't get it right, you can end up looking like a frog in a blender."

Christie assures women of all ages and sizes that there are no special qualifications to perfect the art of belly dancing.

"I've had one student that was 82 years old," said Christie. "It takes control and technique, but it's a very low impact exercise. Some of our dancers continue to perform all through their pregnancy. Even if women are a little larger, belly dancing is still appropriate for great fun and exercise. In fact, curvy women are the preferred type for this dance. Most women can master the basics in about three months if they attend class once a week and practice at home. It won't help lose a lot of weight, but it definitely will tone muscles."

Christie said that belly dancing has mid-eastern origins but there is some form and style of it in nearly every culture. It is believed to have originated in Egypt. Then, as the Egyptians migrated, the dance showed up in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and even Spain. She said that costumes and music may vary but the dance is basically the same wherever it is found, even in the United States, where it is becoming increasingly popular. Some people may be surprised to discover the first belly dancing performers in the mid-east were men, because women were not allowed to dance in public.

When Christie isn't shimmying, fluttering and hitting the beat, she is helping people move in other ways, as a physical therapy aide at the Back and Posture Clinic of Oklahoma.

"I refer to my belly dancing as the hobby that almost pays for itself," said Christie. "The costumes can run between $200 and $700 each. Then there's the music CDs, jewelry, swords and transportation. At least I don't have to feed a snake like some dancers do."

In addition to performing at Namaste' on the first and third Friday of each month (subject to change), A Mirage Dance Company also provides belly dancing lessons on the first Saturday at the restaurant, located at 33rd and Broadway in Edmond. The workshop lasts about two hours and includes an Indian cuisine lunch. Each class usually has about five to ten women, but can accommodate up to twenty. The cost is $30, which includes lunch.

Namaste' Indian Cuisine also offers Saturday Yoga and Indian cooking classes, which include lunch. They hope to add even more classes in the future. Anyone interested in the belly dancing classes or hiring A Mirage Dance Company for their event can contact Christie Giles at 570-2661.

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