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HEALTH & FITNESS - Exotic Dancing: let those inhibitions go!

Published:Monday | January 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Latoya Grindley, Gleaner Writer

Let your hair down - literally. Here Renée O'Connor (centre), leads Nicola Barnett (left) and Selena DeLeon through a chair routine. - photos by Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer

It is about being comfortable in your own skin and building your confidence through dance. But it is not just a regular dance routine or class, it is actually exploring yourself and releasing all inhibitions through The art of exotic dancing. Relatively new to Jamaica, it is 'high energy' and, most of all, it's sexy, compounded with the fact that it is a good workout which helps in toning those muscles.

Taking a trip back to her home country, Jamaican owner/instructor of the Miami Territory of The Art of Exotic Dancing for Everyday Women, Renée O'Connor, has been hosting classes at Body by Selena fitness centre in St Andrew since December.

Hearing the words exotic dancing may excite some and, at the same time raise a few eyebrows. But, to clear any misconceptions, the class is not about the stripping of clothes and the training of future strippers. "Many ladies come to the class and we tell them that it is about the experience they get and, after the first five minutes or so, it clicks to them, what it actually is."

The gears

Well what do you need to get this experience? High heels, comfortable clothing that you would most likely wear to a dance class or yoga session as well as a men's long sleeved button down shirt. The intention of the class is to allow women to break free from their inhibitions, break out of their shells, and appreciate and accept themselves. According to O'Connor, many women start the class very reserved and by the end of a session or a few sessions, depending on the person, they break free and begin to have fun in their own skin. "I host many of these seminars, sometimes with about 600 women. "During the sessions, some want to leave, some even cry and there are others who can't even look in the mirror because they are not comfortable with their bodies. Some people, for years, just take glances at the mirror, trying to avoid it and, once forced to stand and perform in front of the mirror, it is almost like an eye-opener".

The 36-year-old O'Connor says the class isn't routine-based and, while certain moves are shown in different phases, most of the sessions consist of the students doing their own moves, guided by the basic moves shown, to songs that are played throughout the session. "It is not about emulating me, it is about building your self-esteem and to not focus on the little things". She continues, "Women are always trying to fit in a mould, thinking they have to look a certain way. They don't feel good about themselves, saying 'I have a big tummy', 'I'm not slim enough', 'my hair is not a certain way', and they go on and think about all these things. In class, it is a workout from inside out, with you learning to accept yourself. Because once you feel good, it will show, and others around you will feel good to be around you too."

Breaking the monotony

At the different classes, both here and abroad, there are different themes. And students will also have to be exposed to the introduction of exotic dancing before moving on to level two, which is chair dancing. Each session lasts 90 minutes.

The art of exotic dancing, according to O'Connor, should be useful for women who live monotonous lives. "For some women, it is just about the children, home and work and nothing else really. So coming to this class would be a fun way of breaking the monotony."

The former corporate girl who had a nine-to-five job in risk management, attached to the Ritz Carlton hotel chain, only had to take one class before falling in love with the art. She became the first instructor in Florida and is a part of 75 instructors in the United States of America and one of nine trainers. Since being an instructor, O'Connor has been to Jamaica three times to teach classes. While she is about to end her stay in Jamaica, to return to Miami, she is expecting to take a trip back to Jamaica shortly after Valentine's Day, where she will resume classes.

Sensual moves

Giving the Flair team a taste of what the class offers, the demonstration was filled with sensual moves, flexibility, hip and waist movements, crawling and gliding on the floor, and chair moves of course, in front of mirrors. Filled with energy, this will definitely be a hit for those who are in touch with their femininity and sex appeal, as well as those who want to reach to that level of self-comfort and confidence.

Making herself available for bachelorette parties, retirement parties and other occasions, O'Connor says this type of class is perfect for a bonding experience for friends. And, if women want to add a little spice to their relationships, the confidence and the basic moves that are gained from the class will no doubt assist in the execution of this.

This class is suitable for women between the ages of 18 up to 85. "I have had daughters, mothers and granddaughters coming to my classes" the instructor highlights.

For more information contact Body by Selena at 784-4770.

Being free and comfortably expressing yourself are the main objectives of the Art of Exotic Dancing for every-day women.

Renee O'Connor

"It is not about emulating me, it is about building your self esteem and to not focus on the little things"

Nicola Barnett (left), instructor, Renee O'Connor (centre) and Selena DeLeon get comfortable with each giving their own twist to the 'step and drag' walk. - photos by Colin Hamilton/Freelance Photographer