At least I gave them all a belly laugh...

PUBLISHED: 16:27 01 June 2006 | UPDATED: 13:30 04 May 2010

A MERRY DANCE: Our man Jones prepares to go with the rhythm.

A MERRY DANCE: Our man Jones prepares to go with the rhythm.

PREPARE yourselves for a conquered frontier. In the name of research, I am about to enter the world of belly-dance. An hour of hip-swaying, stomach-thrusting madness, with a bunch of women. This is not without sacrifice, I might add. I missed the England

PREPARE yourselves for a conquered frontier. In the name of research, I am about to enter the world of belly-dance.

An hour of hip-swaying, stomach-thrusting madness, with a bunch of women.

This is not without sacrifice, I might add. I missed the England B-Belarus game for it, so let's not have any accusations about my cushy lifestyle or workshy ways.

This is work, believe me.

Becky Finnimore has been dancing for seven years. She doesn't quite know why, other than it was something she always wanted to do, but then, not everything needs an explanation.

She can dance. Watching her is like watching poetry. I'm more like watching a limerick. Anyway, before I write about my inevitable humiliation, I'd better fill you in on some history.

Belly-dancing is almost as old as civilisation itself. It is believed to have been around for 30,000 years, much like Teddy Sheringham's football career.

It is mainly practised in the Middle-East and north Africa where, believe it or not, it is even popular among men. In a commendable show of male solidarity - males even dance together, as do women.

Some of the folk dances have particular hand-gestures, and I'm not talking about the kind you use when somebody cuts you up on a roundabout.

Yet, like so much about belly-dancing, their precise meanings remain a mystery, because they are particular to the tribe in which they were practised.

I'll tell you one thing - it'll keep you fit. After an hour, I can feel the toning of my stomach, which is valiantly fighting the years of lager and curry which have seen my tummy muscles go into self-imposed exile.

We're four weeks into a 10-week term, and I suppose the class has about 15 ladies.

To be honest, trying to listen to Becky's instructions, carry out the moves, all with The Only Egyptian Album You'll Ever Need as a constant soundtrack, made it rather difficult to do a head-count.

I'm given one of those shimmery belly-dancing belts, although on reflection, perhaps jeans and nearly-new plimsolls weren't the way to go as far as costume is concerned.

Everyone else has the right idea, though. Which only serves to make me look more of an idiot.

There's a group of women here from Highfields School, and it is a very inclusive class.

When I told the office that I was going, one female colleague volunteered to join me almost instantly, and it does have a habit of getting people involved who might otherwise feel intimidated by a different type of class.

Maybe it's because you don't need to bring a partner, I don't know. Although frankly, I was disappointed - but not surprised - to be the only man there.

It did nothing for my image, either, when the blokes walking past Chequers Studio on their way to the Hereward or kebab shop felt obliged to peek inside through the open window.

They clearly lack any sense of style, rhythm or fun. The hour gets under way with some warm-ups, which involve plenty of hip-swaying and stretching.

There will be much hip movement, which is hardly surprising.

Too much for me to manage, but my muscles are feeling the benefit.

It is a fun, non-competitive environment, with the throng often dissolving into laughter at its own expense.

It's always a positive thing when people can laugh at themselves, I find. It drowns out my own ineptitude.

After half an hour or so, we have built up a sequence of moves to choreograph.

Becky leads the class in every sense, but she does it in a fun way.

I've met some dance teachers who get visibly angry if you can't manage a sequence of moves, but Becky is nothing like that. In fact, she never stops smiling.

The rest of the class never stop smiling, either. You can't help but like them.

Of course, the joy of the class is only outweighed by my sheer hopelessness, but no matter.

After an hour, I'm a great deal fitter than I was when I came in, so that has to be a plus.

Becky estimates that you can become proficient after just one term, so there seems no reason for all you women - and hopefully a few men? - to delay any further.

To book a place in Becky's class for September - this term's class is really too far advanced - or to find out more information, e-mail her on: midnightdakini@yahoo.co.uk

You'll be glad you did. Trust me.

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