Chislehurst belly dancer brings exotic touch to suburbs
PUBLISHED: 13:20 24 May 2013 | UPDATED: 13:20 24 May 2013
You might think leaving your job as a nurse with four children and a mortgage to pay is madness.
But that’s exactly what belly dancer Jacqueline Chapman did when she decided to pursue a career swinging her hips, twisting her hands and rolling her stomach.
Countless television appearances and her own ITV series later, Jacqueline now runs her own belly dancing school that teaches girls as young as eight, up to grandmothers of 80.
“Some do it because of the culture, some do it because of the costumes and others because it makes them feel good about themselves,” explains Jacqueline.
“Belly dancing is what you want it to be. I like to keep fit and a nice body shape, but everyone has their reasons, whether it’s just trying something new or making yourself feel sexy.”
The mother-of-four from Chislehurst began her dancing career with ballet as a child but was denied the chance to aim for the stage by her parents.
She would eventually take an academic route into nursing, though her love of dancing never faded.
“I heard belly dancing music one day and then saw the moves for myself,” said Jacqueline. “I wanted to learn and you could find the odd person in Soho offering lessons for £50, but I got started without much knowledge in about 1980.
“Eventually the nurses asked me to teach them some moves and they loved it, so I started running classes.”
After quitting nursing, Jacqueline received a call from Yorkshire Television who came in search of a belly dancing nurse for Dr Miriam Stoppard’s new show.
She said: “The phone didn’t stop ringing and it all kicked off from there. Everyone needs a bit of luck in showbiz and I haven’t looked back since.”
Jacqueline became a regular face on screens across the country in the 1980s and 1990s, rubbing shoulders with stars of the time including Jeremy Beadle, Ernie Wise and Lionel Blair.
In 1999, it was suggested that Jacqueline front her own show, ITV’s Bodyfile, which taught viewers how to shake their hips from the comfort of their living room.
She describes her dancing as “sensual”, but not “sexual” and dismissed misconceptions that belly dancing should end with “someone taking their top off”.
She said: “I could dance for a vicar because I don’t do anything sexual. There is a corrupted image of belly dancing and I’m sure you could find dancers in red light districts presenting themselves as belly dancers.
“But it’s essentially an Arabic folk dance that has its origins in about 500 BC. It’s a great lung and heart exercise, and if I can inspire one little girl or one old lady to try out the classical style then I’m happy.”
Jacqueline has danced her way across the globe over the past few decades, appearing in Paris and New York, but also spending more time in the likes of Egypt, Turkey and Marrakesh where the dance has its origins.
She currently focuses on her belly dancing classes which she offers in Chislehurst and Beckenham, including weekend workshops.
She will be performing, alongside her students at the Chislehurst Summer Fair on June 8.
For more information on Jacqueline and her belly dancing classes, visit bellydancer.org.uk.