Afro-belly dance:an empowering experience

By Patsy Yang (shanghai daily)
Updated: 2006-12-26 09:05

Afro-belly is not the latest kind of intestinal disease being picked up by travelers, but instead, the newest twist on belly dancing.

The high-energy, invigorating aerobic exercise is a combination of African traditional dance and belly dancing that has been created by Amelie Pontaillier and her partner Ara Hwang.

The pair created this colorful, progressive dance because they both shared a desire to give women a method to express their strengths and power through dancing.

"Traditional belly dance is beautiful but it didn't satisfy us completely," said France native Pontaillier. "The costumes and the way to move was very attractive for the little girl dreaming of being a princess in me, but didn't completely satisfy the feminist woman I became growing up."

Pontaillier and South Korea native Hwang are both salsa dancers. Pontaillier said in dancing salsa and belly dancing people have to explore the African roots of the dance, and of course of the music.

"I am completely in love with the drums when I dance, because they express the strongest and deepest part of the music, exactly like a heartbeat expresses human life," she said.

African dance, Afro-Cuban dance and belly dancing are all based on an expression of the drums, pursuing isolation in the body.

"When we decided to work together on this new style we were deeply inspired by tribal belly dances, and especially by an amazing dancer called Rachel Brice," Pontaillier said.

In the Afro-belly dance ritual, dancers wear very feminine clothes, but they are warrior's clothes - a metal bra for example and lots of bracelets and temporary facial tattoos.

The style was born in San Francisco, but uses ethnic references (Indian, Syrian and African) in the moves, in addition to costumes and make-up.

In traditional belly dance the focus is on body movement.

"There are not a lot of steps in traditional belly dance," Pontaillier said. "However, in the Afro-belly we use a lot of steps, toes, flat feet, heels and bend our bodies much more."

The dance is more powerful, wilder and sometimes scary as the participants have to express something special, such as praying to the gods or goddesses or menacing an enemy.

It's not a dance of seduction in the way traditional belly dance is, but instead a dance of power.

"I want my students to discover their own style, to express their personalities through the dance," Pontaillier said. "That's why I teach a lot of body movement, such as isolations, waves and undulations, trying to make them feel they're becoming a snake and not a human being any more," she said with a laugh.

Her desire is to free her students from their mind when they are dancing, as the movements should not have anything to do with inhibitions or shy feelings.

"I want every woman to feel her sensuality and feminine power without being scared of any look on her body. We are all beautiful and powerful."

She said there was no prerequisites to joining the classes, the only important thing is to feel the music from inside.

"When you dance you don't listen with your ears but with your entire body; it's about pleasure. If you don't have pleasure, then ask yourself what you can do to change that. Don't be afraid to show your real 'me,"' she said.

Having danced salsa for eight years, Pontaillier said she always wanted to learn belly dancing.

But in not being completely satisfied with the "candy looking" traditional belly dancing woman, she co-created the Afro-belly dance to bring out the powerful inner-self of women.

Address: 6/F, Building 2, No. 412 Weihai Road
Tel: 021-6253-3410
Time: 8pm-9pm on Thursday


Pilgrimage to Tibet
If you want to get a detailed Travel Handbook to Tibet and know more interesting tour routes leading to this divine place. Please click here!

Yunnan New Film Project
Ten female directors from China! Ten unique sights from mysterious Yunnan Province!Yunnan New Film Project,Travel with the film.Wanna know more? Please click here!
Editors' Picks  
Beijing Guide  

Eating out: Duck and the City
Bars&Cafes: Formula of good service
Weekend&Holiday: Survival of the fattest
Shopping: Christmas gift ideas
What's on: Russian art's golden age

Shanghai Guide  
Eating out: Local man a star among sugar set
Bars&Cafes: New licks
Weekend&Holiday: Yoga theme releases power within
Shopping: Men's skin care in focus
What's on: Comedy about Shanghai dating game