Source: Taranaki Daily News/

Art of the matter reporter Isobel Ewing takes a look at some hidden expression in New Plymouth.

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The smell of frequently- worn golf shoes is faint but discernible.

Rosalina Pang and her students don their coin skirts and choli tops for the evening’s belly dancing class at Fitzroy Golf Club.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition of masculinity and femininity – the blokey environment hosting an ancient dance said to support the sexual function of a woman’s body.

The first thing most people say to Pang is, “Oh, my belly is too big. I don’t want to show my belly.”

But it’s not about the size of your belly, it’s about movement, and learning to embrace and love what you have.

Pang refers to belly dancing as a form of movement therapy; not only is it about women celebrating their fertility and being confident but also fitness and healing.

“It’s about moving, embracing yourself, getting into a nice flow, flexibility and co-ordination,” Pang says.

Pang is Singaporean and has been teaching belly dance in Taranaki for 16 years. It’s clear from her warm manner she loves getting women together to share the art.

Having its roots in the oriental and Middle Eastern regions, belly dancing has expanded across cultures and been interspersed with different styles as it’s gathered popularity in the West.

The movement is driven by the torso with an emphasis on gyrations of the hips of varying speeds.

Pang gives me an outfit; black skirt, orange crop top (choli) and bright pink coin scarf to tie around my hips.

I join the circle of about 12 women as we begin the warm up twirls, shimmies and rolls and find the movement comes naturally with the rhythm.

Any self consciousness soon evaporates as we forget the tensions and worries of the mundane and allow our bodies to flow with the music.

It’s refreshing to see women dancing sensually for themselves, not to impress men in a bar.

What sets belly dancing apart from your standard Beyonce-style hip shaking is the satisfying jangle of coins with each shimmy of the hips, I’m hooked already.

Vanessa Norton has been belly dancing for six months.

For her, it’s an escape.

“It’s nice to let go and get lost in the music.

“It’s calming for my mind, I feel very relaxed after a class.”

Working in the oil and gas industry, Norton spends her days in a male- dominated environment so the weekly belly dance class is a “nice female thing to do”.

It’s a welcoming environment in which no one feels out of place, she says.

As a young woman with no background in dance, what was it that drew Norton to belly dancing?

“Probably because I really liked Aladdin when I was a kid.”

Katie Stewart’s goal for this year is to learn how to dance. This is her sixth week of belly dancing and a day earlier she’d had her first breakdancing class.

“My thighs are really sore,” she laughs.

Stewart says belly dancing is about confidence.

“It’s not about being the most beautiful, it’s about having a smile and giving it a go, and I think that’s really cool.”

The class consists of a range of skill levels and age groups which Pang caters to fabulously, Stewart says.

“I just really enjoy it. She’s a wonderful teacher.”

Filipina Janet Estrere travels from Eltham to New Plymouth for the weekly classes.

“I just love it, I always love it.

“I love the dancing.”

She’d love to do more dancing, she does modern jive at the New Plymouth Club, but the trip from Eltham is just a bit far.

Estrere says belly dancing is a “woman thing”.

“It makes you feel sexy, with the hips and the bling bling.

“I just love the thrill.”

She says it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, for women it’s important to feel good about your body.

“I’m getting old and I want to feel good about myself.”

Estrere does not look old.

Perhaps it’s the dancing.

– Taranaki Daily News