The following is a post by Portia Lange, Founder and CEO of Belly Motions.

“Good Afternoon, Belly Motions, this is Portia, how may I help you?”

“How long will it take me to learn how to Belly Dance?”

And there ya have it folks, the infamous question I receive on a daily basis as I answer the phone at Belly Motions. For many years I did not know how to respond, nowadays, I like to use the following analogy…

Learning to Belly Dance is like learning to speak a new language.

The letter "O". Also a chest circle, pelvic circle or omi!

At first we struggle to pronounce the new sounds (new body movement) which eventually turn into words (isolations), which eventually turn into sentences (footwork), paragraphs (combinations), essays (choreographies) and so on and so forth.  Think back to high school…remember Spanish class and how awkward it felt to try to roll your “Rs”? (Miami girls, this doesn’t apply to you!) After a while, and with some practice, it got easier right? (I still can’t roll my “Rs”…bad analogy!) Well, learning to Belly Dance has a similar process…only your hips are doing the speaking not your lips!

With that said, there’s another important component to answering this question…and that’s ability.  In all of my years of teaching I have noticed that most women fall into three categories.  These categories highly dictate how quickly they will actually learn to Belly Dance.*

1. The “naturals” (1-2 years) – these women have a natural talent, their isolations come almost immediately with ease and fluidity!  This group learns quickly, whether they have a dance background or not, and seamlessly dance with grace.  Jealous?  Me too! 🙂

2. The “over achievers” (1-2 years) – these women attend tons of classes and practice so much they will themselves to learn, and hey, it works!  These are my “repeat offenders”, repeating  Beginner 1, Beginner 2, etc. etc. until they are blue in the face (or until I kick them out and into a new level!). As they say, “practice makes perfect!”

3. The “pelvic-ally challenged” (2 + years) – these women have a tough time finding their pelvis and take a little longer to develop their isolations.  There are many factors that play a role, however, if they stick with it long enough by attending classes and practicing with the Instructional DVDs at home, they will progress!  I always say there’s “shimmy at the end of the tunnel”.

Just as we express ourselves through words, we can express ourselves through movement.

TIP: Practice WITHOUT mirrors!  Students learn isolations way faster when they dance without mirrors!  Can you believe it?  Yup! Why?  Because students learn to feel their bodies as opposed to seeing their bodies in the mirror.  This is a more active learning approach.  You’ll be surprised what a little “getting in tune” can do!

*Now learning to Belly Dance can be defined in many ways.  For the purpose of this article, and for most people’s goals, “being able to Belly Dance” is knowing the major movements and being able to perform a choreography at ease (whether at home for family or on the big stage with Belly Motions). Now, that doesn’t mean it takes 1-2 years to become a professional, that’s an entirely different trajectory with a tremendous amount of focus on cultural, musical and technical awareness.

So, which group did (or didn’t) you fall in?  I’d love to hear your story!