Belly dancing has grown in popularity around the world and, in Hong Kong, introduces aspects of Middle Eastern culture to locals through public performances and courses.
'Belly dance is a delicate, sensuous and very feminine dance form,' says Janaki Nakka, instructor and founder of Klub Raks (www.klubraks.com ).
'It is known to have health and healing benefits for women. Being a low impact form of exercise, it also is great for body conditioning and is a good fitness activity for both body and mind.
'The Middle Eastern music used for belly dance has a very rich history and culture with complex rhythms and compositions.
'Every student I have met loves the music and movement that goes with it. People also get to learn about the native people, music and their culture.'
Klub Raks offers one-hour belly dance classes at its studio in Central. Classes are available at level one, two and advanced. Beginners can test their degree of interest by taking a level one, drop-in class at a cost of HK$150. There are also monthly passes for four, eight or 12 classes at a cost of HK$480, HK$800 and HK$1,080 respectively.
Students need to develop good technique and an understanding of the music, its rhythms and culture.
'To be a good belly dance performer, the dancer must also possess the skills of musicality, good presentation and also possess a degree of stage presence,' Nakka says.
Oasis Dance Centre (www.oasis-dance-centre.com ) also offers courses at its studios in Wan Chai and Jordan.
'Belly dance is a fun and feminine way to work out without having to go to the gym,' explains founder Mey Jen Tillyer. 'It is safe and natural and, in many ways, enables a person to evolve physically, emotionally and spiritually.
'Students need to have a relaxed attitude and be prepared to do two to three classes per week in order to progress.'
Courses are offered at four levels and teach students basic techniques, then moving on to development of skills for veil work, finger cymbals and other props. Higher-level classes aim to expand techniques and performance skills, such as stage presence and awareness.
Classes are also offered in tribal dance, which evolved from the American tribal-style belly dancing.
They incorporate elements of Middle Eastern belly dance and place more emphasis on muscle conditioning and posture.
Normal courses include eight, weekly lessons that run for one hour or 75 minutes and cost HK$980 and HK$1,120 respectively. Drop-in classes are also available at HK$220 per class. A range of monthly packages are also available that include four to 10 classes and cost from HK$660 to HK$1,180.