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Belly Dancing: 'It allows you to become someone else for an hour'

Hips don't lie -- foxy forty-something Breda Flanagan has a body the envy of women half her age thanks to belly dancing. But there's more to the Middle Eastern art than shaking your booty like Shakira, says the mum-of-one from Athboy, Co Meath.

"I've been to Eygpt eight times and totally fell in love with their music and dance. Then about five years ago, I saw an ad for belly-dancing classes locally. I remember arriving late for my first class and almost didn't have the courage to go in. But once I walked through the door, I never looked back.

"Pretty soon, I was teaching the class after the instructor went on maternity leave. People have this perception of belly dancing as being like pole dancing. But while the dance and costumes are sexy, there's nothing sleazy about it -- it's actually very elegant.

"Women are usually fascinated when I tell them I belly-dance for fitness. As soon as you invite them along to a class, though, the response is: 'I'm too old' or 'too fat'. But there's a lot more to belly- dancing than showing off your belly and shaking your hips.

"Belly dance is brilliant for your abs, back, pelvis, arms -- even the double chin! Even if you've got 10 kids at home, it allows you to become someone else for an hour.

"People think that once you hit 40, you have to hang up your dancing shoes -- but I'm 46 now and have no intention of slowing down.

"When my daughter Kim (24) first saw me belly-dancing, she was so proud she cried.

"My husband's friends slag him off about getting private shows at home -- but as he'll tell you, the only thing I dance around in at home is my pyjamas!"

Irish Independent