Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Face the Music and Belly Dance

When I was in London, I used to attend the belly dance classes of Asmahan at Pineapple Dance studios. I admit that I use the word ‘attend’ loosely; I was religious from September to December 2005 and then attended only once in the new year due to self-induced guilt about up-coming university deadlines. Asmahan is from San Francisco, though beloved of Egyptians for mastering the art of Egyptian-style belly dance. In its highest form, Egyptian belly dance is on a par with ballet due to the level of difficulty, grace and control required.

Now in Athens and working from home, it took me the grand total of three weeks to start going a little crazy being cooped up all day. Remember my complaints last year of the agonized warblings of Greek singers and how it grated my nerves? I thought I had grown up a little because it didn’t seem to be irritating me half as much this year. But yesterday I finally snapped. One more crescendo, one more warbling change of key accompanied by the plinkity plink of a bouzouki and I might have killed someone or myself.

So I decided it was time to find a hobby that would remove me from the flat. I picked up where I left off and sniffed out the belly dance classes of Rhea. I threw my belly dance gear into a bag (one chiffon blue skirt, one tribal belt) and headed downtown to the Acropolis. On exiting the metro station I turned the wrong way and couldn’t find the correct street, which gave me a chance to practice my Greek and ask where it was.

After being pointed in the right direction, I found my destination and descended down the stairs of an apartment into some sort of Kasbah containing a small dance studio. Rhea’s classes are much, much smaller than those I had previously been to. Her style is also a world away from the Egyptian style I was used to, and leans more towards Turkish. The spooky thing is she trained with my former teacher Asmahan under the same teacher in San Francisco.

Given my rather ungenerous hip span, Rhea’s Turkish style probably suits me better than Egyptian style, in which bigger hips give you an advantage in the small, controlled movements you have to make. Asmahan’s classes were much tougher and good for taking my mind off things.

I find Rhea’s classes easier, and a fantastic chance to get out of the house and maybe make some new friends. Classes operate on a drop-in basis, so they’re a good way of doing something other than the touristy stuff if you’re in Athens this summer.

Rhea’s Dance Studio is located in 9 Vironos, Plaka
Ph: 210 32 31 289
Closest Metro: Acropolis (exit and turn left, Vironos is directly ahead of you)
Beginners: Monday and Wednesday 7.00 - 8.30
Tuesday and Thursday 7.30 – 9.00


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