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Welcome to our spring (March and April) edition!

We have a super article by Rose a lovely friend of ours here at Zara's Zouk. 

She is an inspirational dancer and teacher who started bellydance in later life. She shares some her experiences and journey with us, in an article that really brings home why bellydance is for every woman.

We also offer all our LOVELY READERS 25% off of EVERYTHING on our online store .... so please read and enjoy!!



I took up learning Belly Dance at 51 and started teaching  5 years later. I particularly wanted to attract older women to my classes as I was (and still am) passionate about keeping older women mobile, flexible and able to have fun.

I call my business 'Fit For Life' because I hope to provide a way for women to do this, as well as keeping myself fit too. I realised quite soon that I would have to offer 2 levels of class. One for women of all ages who wanted to learn the dance and did not have fitness issues and one for women over 50 , who found exercise classes or the gym boring or intimidating and wanted to try something different. I also decided that as my 60's were approaching,  I had a demanding job and lowering energy levels  and because I live in the middle of nowhere I did not want to travel at night and so would  only offer daytime classes.

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I offered classes in 3 local towns where I could find a suitable venue. I then did as much publicity and as many demonstration evenings to local Women's Institute Groups as I could. From the 6 classes I started back then, 5 are still continuing and if I broke my rules of not working at night, or not starting any more classes, I could have several more.  What is more shocking to me is that women who came to my very first (and not very good) classes are still turning up every week, still enthusiastic and eager to learn. Along the years others have joined them and I now have nearly  50 women in classes.  In the past 5 years the women have all got to know each other and have formed a strong bond. Some have become really close friends with each other. This has happened not only through meeting at the classes, but through regular planned events where all the classes can come together to put on a Festival or a Hafla, or even just an Xmas Party.

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What has staggered me is the willingness of all these women to take risks, get out their comfort zones and try new things. Some will never perform and are very clear that that is not the reason for coming to class. Others love to dress up, learn a routine to performance standard and strut their stuff. We are now at the point where various women feel confident enough to do a solo, or to consider  a JWAAD  Personal Development Assessment or even teacher training. So last week we launched Friday Club (weekly) and Sunday Club (monthly) , where those who wish to can come and work with anyone who turns up to further their dream. 
At the first Sunday club one of the women was from the 'Fit For Life'  class .She is in her late 60's and lost her husband last year after years of providing him with intensive caring . She came with a lovely Miriam Makeba song and already had ideas about how to dance to it. The club worked with her and she left with an almost fully formed solo plus a costume and ideas for props . The other club members had really enjoyed going through the process of thinking through a solo, using the floor, entrances and exits etc.  She will do her very first solo at our Spring Hafla. ( I can't wait to see it and all her classmates will be cheering her on too).
Sometimes I wonder how this has all happened in these short years. Some of the clues were revealed when I did a survey of all the dancers over 60 for Age Concern in late 2011. Here are some of the quotes from that survey  which mention physical fitness .
  • “Paying attention to  posture has made me feel more graceful.”
  • “My movement is easier and my balance is much better”
  • “Helped me to be aware of breathing and has helped me to relax”
  • “More strength in my ankles, so able to do much more”
  • “Beginning to get my waist back!”
  • “Works on the core muscles, it’s like Pilates with dance and rhythm!”
  • “Have enjoyed every session"
But more telling were the comments on 'emotional wellbeing' . We asked
"Has  attending classes improved your emotional well being in any of the following areas ?"
The results were.....
  • learning something new                      100%
  • improved body image                           90%
  • stepping outside your comfort zone     90%    
  • self confidence                                      80%  
  • making new friends                              80%     
  • expanding cultural horizons                  80%  
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This was only a small survey of 10 women, but the classes have expanded year on year and keep growing in both numbers and skill. At times I have trouble keeping ahead of some of the younger pupils as they tend to learn things so easily and their bodies are so much more supple.
I am reminded each time I take a class of how astonishing women are, how resilient, witty, generous, daring, supportive and also how beautiful. Some of my pupils are now in their 70's and are my role models of how I'd like to be at that age.
As a little community we have dealt with illness, exhaustion through caring for others, a whole list of broken bones and also the death of a much loved member of our group. Each time we gear up to help women recover, or help ourselves come to terms with the cruel facts of life, I realise how important the dance and the classes have become to us all. At Christmas we all joined together to have a ceremony ( lead by one of the class members) to remember our much loved colleague. Many of us were in tears. At the end we all danced together to 'Yay' by Nancy Ajram, which had been her favourite dance. That moment and the power of all those dancing women will never leave me.
Rose Barter
In memory of Sue Phillips  1944-2014.
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