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This year’s Fit Family Challenge encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone a little when it comes to fitness.

So, I decided to take a belly dance class with Bella Dance Studio in Spartanburg.

Since my belly is probably my least favorite part of my body and I have always felt like I had two left feet when dancing, this was probably about as far out of my fitness comfort zone as I could get.

As the class started, instructor and studio owner Georgia Burnett really put me at ease. The fact that actually showing your belly is not required was a big help.

“You don’t have to wear a short top that shows your abs,” she said. “Just wear something fitted so that you can see the movement of the muscles.”

When I arrived, Burnett gave me a hip scarf adorned with coins that would make noise as I moved my hips. As instruction began, Burnett started with footwork.

As she said the word “grapevine,” visions of failed aerobics classes filled my head. Fortunately, she started us off very slowly and for the first time ever, I actually figured out what a grapevine was! Next, we added in some hip movement, which I will admit did feel a little awkward.

“It takes a few times to get into the groove,” Burnett said. “Most people feel a little stiff at first.”

Class members were supportive, and you could tell everyone was fairly relaxed and having a good time.

As for fitness, the class was low impact, but used some muscles that I was unaccustomed to using in my usual hard-hitting routines. Burnett touted some interesting benefits. The most obvious, of course: the development of ab muscles.

“People are surprised to find that you can move the upper and lower muscles independently,” she said.

She also said that belly dancing can help with incontinence, which can be a pretty common problem for women after childbirth.

The most important benefit, Burnett said, is an increase in confidence as women master the moves.

“I see women changing every week,” she said. “They start off standing where I can’t see them and slowly come a little closer. You see them start to wear makeup and jewelry to class and eventually even show their bellies.”

Bella has a number of different class options. I took the lunchtime fitness class. This class is held at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, lasts 45 minutes and costs $5. It is a great way to try out belly dancing. Don’t worry: you won’t be too sweaty to get back to work.

The studio also offers evening classes 6 – 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays.

Have fun, get fit: Learn how to belly dance

Find a schedule of classes and more information about belly dancing at www.belladancespartanburg.com.

Find things to do with kids at www.upstateparent.com

Upstate moms and dads: Looking for things to do with kids in Greenville or Spartanburg? You’ll find lots of ideas at www.upstateparent.com.

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