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Shake away your Christmas excess

PUBLISHED: 15:54 02 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:39 12 August 2010

BRITAIN S best-loved belly dancer says shimmying is the perfect way to shape up before Christmas. Jacqueline Chapman holds classes each

BRITAIN'S best-loved belly dancer says shimmying is the perfect way to shape up before Christmas.

Jacqueline Chapman holds classes each week in Leas Green, Chislehurst and Park Langley Club in Wickham Way, Beckenham, and is always on the lookout for new recruits to teach the traditional Arabic art form to.

Mrs Chapman, who presented ITV2's Bodyfile programme on belly dancing, says its benefits include toning the stomach, the hips and the arms while having lots of fun.

She said: "It is a brilliant for young and old, men and women. My oldest student was 91! It doesn't matter- some of the elderly women take it gently while the younger ones really go for it.

"It gives you a very womanly shape although men can do it too. It keeps you looking gorgeous. One of the best things is that it is not competitive.

The Egyptian music is wonderful - it is very haunting and beautiful. There is the escapism and mystery of the middle-east. It is a wonderful way to express yourself."

Mrs Chapman had a 10- ear career as a nurse but quit to do belly dancing full-time because she is so convinced of the health benefits.

She said: "It is aerobic, you use all of your body, not just the belly. It is a great way to keep fit. Many of my girls come to me and they say 'I've been going to the gym for a year and nothing has moved' . It's more interesting than the gym.

"If you eat healthily as well this is one of the best ways to stay in shape. My students are all looking very toned now. I'll have to work them extra hard after Christmas when they come back to me with a Christmas pud on each hip."

It is thought that classical Arabic belly dancing was first devised to prepare a woman for childbirth and while in labour members of the community would perform in the hope that the lady would mimic the moves.

Classes cost between £8 and £12 and take place in Chislehurst on Mondays from 11.30am and 6pm and on Wednesdays from 7.30pm. The Beckenham ones take place on Thursdays from 7pm.

* Anyone interested in taking part should call Mrs Chapman 020 8300 7616 or see www.bellydancer.org.uk.

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