Belly-Up to Fitness

Mar 15, 2009 | Fit in SA, March 2009

With Karen Adkisson

By Bonny Osterhage

When 10-year-old Karen Adkisson tagged along with her older sister to a belly dancing class, she never dreamed that she would still be practicing, much less teaching this exotic dance to hundreds of local women 22 years later.

Adkisson admits that it was the exotic quality that initially drew her to the dance.

“I went to a private Catholic school, and belly dancing seemed rebellious,” she says with a laugh.

But over the past 22 years, her love of belly dancing has grown to encompass a love of the culture from which it stems. Adkisson has spent time visiting Middle Eastern countries and becoming familiar with the music and various nuances that define the dance within those areas. She says she was surprised to note that the best dancers in these regions were not the young women but, rather, the 50- and 60-year-olds.

“It doesn’t strain their joints,” she explains.

While it may not cause undue stress and strain to the body, Adkisson has found that it does provide a good workout. She offers belly dancing at Synergy in the Pearl Brewery Complex, and the classes are really catching on.

“The more advanced classes are comparable to any aerobics class,” she asserts. “The task of a belly dancer is to interpret the music physically from the neck to the knees,” she adds. “You have to find muscles you didn’t know were there.”

In addition to the belly and torso muscles, the arm muscles experience a workout from simply being held out to the side. Sound easy? Try it!

“The arms must be help up and out, and they become really sore,” she says, “but you get really strong.”

For the belly dancing neophyte, Adkisson warns against jumping right in, advising instead to take it slow and get the basics. Through her series of instructional DVDs as well as an occasional Basics of Belly Dancing Workshop held at Synergy, Adkisson provides a way for people to ease into the workout and learn what to expect from the classes.

“New people can be intimidated by the group setting,” she explains. “This way they see what takes place at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.”

One of the best things about belly dancing is that you can do it anywhere and you don’t need special equipment.

“Just bring yourself, some comfortable clothes and your feet,” laughs Adkisson

South Texas Fitness & Health