Like a Middle Eastern princess, Cristalle Henares coils her arms, stylishly rotates her shoulders and ripples her torso like a wave to the percussive beats. Belly dancing comes naturally to the managing director of Intelligence Skin Care Inc. and Sexy Solutions.
Henares has been rehearsing three numbers for the celebrity talent portion of “Talentadong Pinoy.” These include a lyrical number with fan-veils; a rhythmic solo and a Bollywood tribute.
Her mentor Maria Mayla “Lala” Dinglasan, founder of Movement Dance Studio, who trained extensively with the Bellydance Superstars in the US and with master teachers in Egypt and Dubai, says of Henares: “Some may have the technique but lack audience impact. Cristalle has that natural stage presence that can be enhanced with training. She’s genuinely graceful.”
Many women are attracted to belly dancing because of the air of mystery and the fantasy. The costumes are ultra-feminine— diaphanous, flowing skirts and midriff tops adorned with beadwork and jiggling coins that remind dancers if they are moving correctly.
More than anything, belly dancing allows the full expression of being a woman that women don’t usually get in other exercise or dance forms.
Dance has always been a part of Henares’ life.
Like many children, she took up ballet and gymnastics. She looks up to her mother, celebrity doctor Victoria Belo, who danced with the Aldeguer Sisters. In the past few years, she has been bonding with her mom in such activities as Bikram Yoga, Plana Forma and pole dancing.
They also took private jazz lessons with Edgar Bautista and even guested in the anniversary of “Shall We Dance.” The mother and daughter moved fluidly and seamlessly—in high heels.
Henares used to watch her mother run off to belly dance class. She decided to get serious with Dinglasan who taught pole dancing and belly dancing.
Dinglasan describes Henares as a very sexy pole dancer. She is adept in doing gymnastics on the vertical pole as well doing the Vegas Strip style, which is based on the technique of strip teasers. Although sensual, the movements require core strength because they use the body weight for resistance, says Dinglasan.
Taking up belly dancing was a natural move from the sensuous pole dancing. Henares has found greater fulfillment.
The language expresses reverence of the spirit. The palms pressed together and placed over the head symbolize the soul in the temple of the mortal coil. The serpentine movements of the arms embody the flow of love. The wiggles and vibrations represent fire or hotness, while the undulating hands and wrists symbolize water or coolness.
Then there’s the lure of the hip movements, the core of belly dancing. It could be a slide, a thrust, gyration or a figure of eight.
In technique, belly dancing is very challenging. Dinglasan gives her students an overall workout. To strengthen the upper body, they hold bottles of water or rolled up magazines with outstretched arms as they isolate their lower body by swiveling their groins.
As a variation, they twist their torso to the side to shape their waistline. The abdominal flutters can work out the flabby midsection. The leg shimmies strengthen the thighs. The chest isolations and shoulder rolls prevent the posture slump.
Henares admits that she had undergone liposuction in the mid-section and arms years ago when her gym program, though intense, could not melt her baby fat. Belly dancing has been a creative way to maintain her trimmer figure.
“After lipo, I started belly dancing. Without the fat around, the muscles got really toned,” she says.
While the group classes focus on flexibility and endurance, Henares is learning artistry in her private lessons. Doing romantic combinations is easy for her. She’s working at sharper and percussive moves set to staccato beats and double contractions or successive isolations in the torso. She’s learning to use facial expression and eyes to communicate.
“You don’t always need the big movements to get noticed. Even the small movements contribute to the bigger picture,” says Henares.
Every muscle gets worked out, hence increasing the blood circulation.
Belly dance has taught her to respond to music and it has given her a wider vocabulary of movements. In clubs, she’s able to apply what she’s learned by combining the sensual moves with the sharp ones.
She debunks the bawdy misconception associated with belly dancing. Thousands of years ago, it was the dance of high priestesses in temples. Today it is a mystical art that evokes passion and exhilaration.
“They say you embrace the goddess within. In class we have to show our bellies regardless of our sizes, so Lala (Dinglasan) can see how tummies move. You can’t hide anything. You learn to embrace your being,” says Henares.
Belly dancing can burn 300 calories an hour–and heightens sex life
Teacher Lala Dinglasan on the benefits of belly dancing:
A cardiovascular exercise, it can burn 300 calories an hour. “It’s a total body workout. I start with low-intensity workout with slow movements for the head, arms and rib cage with isolations, circles and figure 8 then go to high intensity like shimmies, or I combine all the movements and build to a faster pace.”
Improves posture. Muscle groups connected to the ligaments and vertebrae in the spine initiate movement in the torso and pelvis. Hence, belly dance works out the back muscles and maintains suppleness of the spine.
The hip movements also relieve lower back strain. Small muscle groups in the back that are under-exercised are stimulated and strengthened. “I teach the proper stance—keep the tailbone neutral and imagine toothpaste is squeezed between the shoulder blades.”
Removes inhibitions. It gently lengthens the tight or vulnerable muscles, resulting in relaxation. The woman also tunes into the natural rhythms of her body. “A woman feels sexier when she does belly dancing. It boosts her self-esteem. Students learn to love themselves more and consequently share that love with others.”
A fun prenatal workout. The pelvis goes through a whole range of motion and builds muscle control for natural childbirth. “I was dancing up until my ninth month. I did a lot of exercises in my tummy, I didn’t have back problems after delivery. I was dancing again after a month.”
It’s joint-friendly and low-impact. Correct technique avoids pressure on the knees. “That’s why it’s suitable for all ages. Mature women who can’t jump can dance. But, don’t copy what you see on the video. It can be harmful because there is no one to teach the proper method, which can lead to injuries.”
Heightens sex life. Her oldest student, a 72-year-old retiree couldn’t do the belly roll and body wave in class. But she discovered that it was easier in bed with her husband.
Dinglasan teaches at Movement Dance Studio: Jollijam Arts Center, Three Salcedo Place, Tordesillas St., Salcedo Village, Makati, tel. 3926220, www.jollijamarts.multiply.com; Unionbank Plaza, Meralco Avennue, cor Onyx road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City, tel. 9448075, www.movementdancestudio.com.