Belly dance and Zumba, total body benefits |

Belly dance and Zumba, total body benefits

Montana Cramer and Irene Albanil take a Zumba class from Christina Russell at the Grand Park Community Center in June.

On Sunday June 10 at Grand Park Community Recreation Center Christina Russell taught a The Belly Dancing workshop at the Grand Park Recreation Center

She typically teaches two to three workshops a year.

She was first introduced to belly dance in the Fraser Valley when Cassie Dindinger co-taught a class with Cathy Walton-Smith.

“I saw the class in the paper and thought, belly dancing, how exotic. I enjoy dancing, and had taken a few classes, like African and hip hop.”

Belly dancing is a combination of controlled movements surrounded in fluidity.

“I couldn’t get half the moves, my body didn’t move that way. But it resonated with me. It’s earthy, grounding, powerful – the drum beat. I was loyal and kept going and trying to get the moves in my body.”

Belly dance benefits many parts of the body including using quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes to hold your body steady as you move your hips and travel across the floor. Impact to knees and ankles is minimal.

Belly dancers use their torsos much more than ballet, modern or tap dancers. Belly dancers have to hold their arms up for long periods of time, and it actually takes quite a lot of strength to perform arm movements slowly and gracefully, she said.

In belly dancing you can wear 15-coin belts and silk scarves. Shimmy is when a belly dancer is shaking really fast, and the coins are making a fast sound. It’s all in the hips with soft knees. There are different types of shimmies and you shimmy different part of your body.

“There are benefits to learning something new, something that you’ve never done before,” said Russell.

But it is also just plain fun.

“Everyone is trying to figure it out so you don’t need to be self-conscious.”

Russell also teaches Kickboxing Turbo Kick™, Pilates/Yoga, Piyo™, summer spin/sculpt, and Fusion Fitness. She has an Indoor Cycling certification and teaches general conditioning class, using circuits, balls, bands, and mixes up her classes using a variety of sports equipment.

At Howard Head Sports Medicine (formerly Alpine Physical Therapy), she teaches Ski Conditioning, a seven-week progressive class with ski-specific types of exercises, core condition, and agility coordination in the fall. She is currently working with the Winter Park Ski Team using core strengthening and stretching exercises. Massage therapy is her full time job at Howard Head Sports Medicine, and she has a private practice.


Russell also teaches Zumba. Learning to belly dance is much like learning the routines in Zumba, a Latin-inspired dance and workout.

On Tuesday evening at the Grand Park Community Recreation center, two local women are enjoying Russell’s Zumba class, and there is much laughter and smiles all around. Russell is wearing a black tank top with “I love Zumba” printed in pink on the back.

Her two participants, Montana Cramer, 33, of Fraser and Irene Albanil, 30, of Winter Park are following the choreography well – tapping their toes and reaching their arms to the sky in time with the Latin beat.

Some of the routines resemble aerobic workouts and there is a lot of hip movement. The music changes from Latin beats to hip-hop, and back again.

Albanil hopes more Latin and Hispanic women will come out and try Zumba.

“I think everyone should try it. Men, women, any ages.

“Consistency is important to really get the moves,” Russell said.

Although there is only one week left of indoor Zumba, after that she will be taking her music and dance moves to a new, outdoor venue at Hideaway Park in downtown Winter Park.

In July and August, Russell will offer free Zumba at Hideaway Park on Sundays from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Donations are welcome.

Other outdoor exercise classes, sponsored by the Winter Park Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce, start July 7: Yoga on Thursdays 12-1 p.m.; Yoga and Pilates Sundays 9:30-10:15 a.m. More details will be posted soon at