Sandra McQueen stands before a group of women, her hips swaying to the strains of a Middle-Eastern drum, the gold coins on her hip belt producing a background melody both exotic and mysterious. She lifts a veil, gracefully floats it around her body, repeatedly hiding and then revealing her face. Shimmying across the floor, her feet are as light as air.McQueen could be anywhere that belly dance is a cultural phenomenon -- Morocco, Turkey or Egypt -- but she is at the Lake Norman YMCA in Mooresville, teaching a class to about 10 women. McQueen’s love affair with belly dance began 40 years ago, when the art was experiencing a heyday and she took classes with 30-50 other students. “Unlike the other dance forms I studied, I could be creative with belly dance,” she said. “It didn’t have a rigid form or technique.” After two years of classes, she set out to teach on her own. Over the years, McQueen, now of Mooresville, formed a dance troupe of her advanced students and occasionally guest performers. She travelled the country, performing at parties and nightclubs, before opening her own studio in Vienna, Va. She also visited Egypt and Turkey, seeking an authentic study experience, and received a master’s degree in dance education. In addition, she wrote articles for Middle Eastern dance publications, taught workshops nationally, and produced 11 instructional videos. Today’s form of belly dance includes an eclectic fusion of other dance forms, among them cabaret, flamenco, classical Indian, Latin and tribal forms. The art provides a number of health benefits, including toning muscles, improving posture and burning calories. Movement focuses on core muscle development and also targets hips, gluteals and arms. “It provides a moderate cardio benefit and is safe for those with health conditions such as knee problems because it is low-impact,” McQueen said. “You don’t realize how hard your body is working until the next day. Then you feel it,” said Duffy Glazer of Mooresville, who takes the class at the YMCA. It also serves as a de-stressor, with participants leaving not only relaxed but feeling confident -- and alluring. “It just makes you feel sexy and beautiful,” said Simone Setzer of Mooresville. “It puts you in touch with your inner goddess.” Theresa Loth agreed. “Sometimes I finish class and find myself shaking it into Walmart,” she joked. Like the harems from which the art form originated, the classes at the Y also create a feeling of community amongst women. “I believe that the supportive classroom environment creates a sense of community that encourages and fosters self-confidence and personal growth,” said McQueen. “All body types and ages are welcome. Women feel beautiful and successful in a belly dance class in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Women also seek an outlet for self-expression not necessarily provided in other fitness and dance classes and they find a welcoming and accepting social environment here.” Participants have already forged friendships outside the class. “We’ve become great friends- like a family,” said Glazer.
Monday, Dec. 31, 2012
YMCAs offer belly dances classes with lots of benefits
Class teaches art, forges friendships, alleviates stress
Women at the Lowe's YMCA in Morresville get in touch with their inner goddess at a belly dance class taught by Sandra McQueen. AMY REISS
Dipal Shah of Mooresville participates in belly dancing, an art that provides a number of health benefits, including toning muscles, improving posture and burning calories. .AMY REISS
Want to go? Classes are offered noon-12:50 p.m. Thursdays at the Lowe’s YMCA in Mooresville and 6:30-7:25 p.m. at the Lake Norman Y in Cornelius. ymcacharlotte.org.