So it was Culture Days in Winnipeg this past weekend and I figured that would be the perfect opportunity for me to do another artistic endeavour. For those of you who don’t know, Culture Days is a non-profit organization that puts on free events in cities across Canada for people to learn more about culture and arts.

It’s pretty much the best weekend for people who aren’t artistic to experiment with the arts, so I was obviously pumped. I went to multiple events, but my favourite one was an introduction to Raqs Sharqi. If you don’t know what Raqs Sharqi is don’t worry, because I didn’t either.

It’s a little something us Westerners call bellydance.

Au Set Bellydance Emporium put on the event and it was a ton of fun. I went with two of my friends from CreComm and the lovely instructor Beth Syrnyk did a great job at holding in her laughter while she taught us how to properly bellydance.

Beth Syrnyk, our lovely instructor
Our instructor Beth Syrnyk

I should probably clear up that I’ve actually taken bellydancing classes before, but now I’m starting to realize that they weren’t the most authentic. My mom and I took bellydancing classes for 10 weeks a couple years ago, and from what I can remember it was basically me and 15 middle-age women rotating our hips and doing squats. I realize now that this class was more focused on the exercise component of bellydance, rather than the traditional moves.

Although there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the exercise component, having already “learned” the dance, I walked into Au Set Bellydance’s introduction with false assurance in my abilities. It was about two minutes into the class until I realized how false that assurance was.

I was actually stunned at how hard it was to execute some of the most basic Raqs Sharqi moves. You don’t realize how restricted you’re movement naturally is until someone tells you to stick your belly out while bending your left knee and keeping your back straight, and all you can do is stand there staring in the mirror thinking “Bend my what?”

There was actually a moment during the class where I couldn’t understand the concept of bending one knee while straightening the other. It sounds ridiculous now, but something that seems so obvious got so complicated once I had to consciously execute the move. I think my ultimate moment of shame was when Beth pointed out that the one guy in our class was the only one who was properly rotating his hips back and forth. Seriously everyone, it’s harder than it looks!!

I’ve attached a link below to a YouTube video of a Raqs Sharqi performance so you guys can see what I’m talking about. At first glance it doesn’t seem all too difficult, but trust me, it’s not nearly as easy as it looks.

All in all, I had a blast shaking my sequin-covered hips regardless whether or not it was considered proper Raqs Sharqi. It was an awesome experience and I would definitely recommend checking out Au Set’s classes if anyone is interested in learning more about authentic bellydance (rather than joining a class held in a gym that you discovered through a pamphlet like my mother and I).

You can learn more about the classes offered from Au Set’s website at:

Cheers, and happy hip-shaking my friends!

Beth posted this photo to her Instagram account