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Belly dancing no waste of time

Lorrie Pierce with some of her many students at Hourglass Bellydance Studio at 6500 South Padre Island Drive #19 in Corpus Christi. Photo by Jane Kathleen Gregorio.

For Lorrie Pierce, belly dancing is more than just an exotic, 1,000-year-old practice; it’s a confidence-builder for women that also promotes coordination, muscle tone and weight loss along with a sense of femininity and body comfort. Best of all is the sense of camaraderie that develops among the women.

“Our studio has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere,” said Pierce, owner of Hourglass Bellydance Studio.” We have all sizes, all shapes, all ethnicities, people from all walks of life. The ladies are supportive of each other’s endeavors. We laugh together. We talk about our families. Sometimes, we cry together. We get together for social events. Overall, we just have a blast.”

The studio handles every level of dancer from beginner to expert.

“I tell you, 95 percent of the ladies who show up have never had any formal dance experiences,” Pierce said. “For those who feel that they are uncoordinated, well, that’s why you should come to class, so you can become coordinated.”

You can also lose a little weight, she added.

“I lost 10 pounds without any extra dieting,” Pierce said, “because belly dancing builds your muscle tone.”

With an influx of students pouring into her mirrored studio week after week, Pierce said that, 10 years ago, she never imagined she would ever even take a belly dance class, much less become an instructor with a permanent location.

The idea came after watching her kids in classical dance recitals. She wanted to jump right in with them and dance. When she discovered her only options were with partners — mom and daughter tap and ballroom dancing — she found a belly dance class in Corpus Christi. She has been dancing ever since.

“It goes to show that you should try different things because you never know what you’ll actually enjoy,” she said.

After her first year of belly dancing, Pierce decided to bring it to the next level and become a teacher. Starting with the studio where her children danced, she taught lessons until her growing practice required her to rent space at other studios. She also taught for the city Parks and Recreation centers. Over the years, her clientele grew until Pierce decided it was time to open her own studio.

“At first, I was concerned because anyone knows the first years will be kind of tough,” she said. “But once you expand your student base, it gets easier all the time. I try to attend to each student personally and listen to their needs while applying good business practices.”

She called her new business the Hourglass Bellydance Studio because the name represents the essence of the female form, she said. Since opening five years ago, her client base has grown to 80 students.

She focuses on technique and provides classes from basic belly dance to specialty classes such as a capella finger cymbals. She also teaches a double veils class. Another class treats the basic moves as an hour-long exercise class, which builds skill and keeps the women in shape.

Students show off their hard work and training in annual recitals, which this year, will be held at the Harbor Playhouse on July 30.

“It’s about a two-and-a-half-hour show, and that’s where everyone can display their choreography and what they’ve learned,” Pierce said. “It’s always a big blast for us.”

Students also have the opportunity to perform at public events throughout the year as well as privately paid gigs, all of which are family-friendly.

“We have some ladies who come to dance class and maybe perform just once a year, and we have others that like to perform at events every month,” she continued. “There are lots of performance opportunities for whomever wants to participate.”

For dancers and audience alike, the colorful veils, coin belts, hip wraps and accessories add to the allure of the performance. While students wear whatever they feel comfortable in to class, recitals let their inner performers shine.

“Costuming is a lot of fun. It’s like being a grown-up but still able to play dress-up,” she said. “And when it comes to dressing for recitals, we’re very good at looking around the classroom and knowing that everyone is not built the same, so we let everyone choose costumes that are best for their own bodies.”

The exotic rhythm of Middle Eastern music serves as a constant backdrop for this ancient form with a beat and allure that can become addictive.

“I rarely listen to anything else anymore,” Pierce said. “Dance is the art of making music three-dimensional, so when you hear a strong pulsing drum, you swing your hips left and right. If you hear a lyrical violin, then you might use very sensuous, snaky arms. A good belly dancer is one who acts out the music in visual form.”

Prospective students need not ever worry about having prior dance knowledge. Students of all levels work together to help each other perfect the moves.

“Belly dancing is all about you as well as the others you’re dancing with and all about sharing that joy with your audience,” Pierce said. “It’s nice to just be able to get up and dance.”

Hourglass Bellydance Studio is located at 6500 South Padre Island Drive #19 in Corpus Christi. For more information, call (361) 946-4052 or visit hourglassbellydance.com.

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