Harlem Word: Jannelle Cortes, "dancing: it's all about moving"

Jannelle Cortes began dancing when she was four. She learned ballet, jazz and tap at the Academy of Theatrical Arts in Washington, D.C. When she came to New York City, Jannelle became interested in West African dancing, belly dancing, Salsa, Samba and Hip Hop. She began teaching others the joys of dancing in various places around New York City, including a belly dancing class at the New York Sports Club on 125th Street.

Q: As a dancer, were you always interested in exercising?

A: Although I always loved to dance, I never thought of it as a way to exercise. Once I decided to teach dance, my ideas changed. I realized that it can be a great way to become or stay healthy. Dancing is easy and simple. As long as you are moving and keeping your heart pumping, you can be in shape.

Q: One of the types of dance classes you teach is belly dancing. Is this what Shakira and Beyonce do?

A: It's more than that. Yes, some people come to my classes wanting to do what Shakira and Beyonce do in their videos, but most students want to get in shape. Belly dancing is a high energy activity so it's very good for your heart and can help you lose weight. Belly dancing also helps you focus on moving one body part while holding another part still. This helps your muscles get stronger.

Q: Is belly dancing about showing your belly?

A: Some students are self conscious about the way their belly looks or think they have too much tummy to belly dance. But that's the point! The more you have to shake, the better! By the end of a few classes, you will roll up your shirt because you have more confidence in your body. Belly dancing is a great way to get in touch with your shape. We all have different bodies and different ways of moving to the music. It's not about doing it the right way, it's about having fun and moving.

Harlem Word is a series of interviews with Northern Manhattan health experts, written by HHPC and reviewed by our Health Advisory Board.

1 Comment

Dancing is fun and can also be a great form of exercise. Just by reading this article makes me want shake my belly and work up a sweat! I never knew I could sweat so much yet still have fun while exercising, until I took my first Zumba class. I sometimes going to the gym to exercise can be boring and a bit routine, but dancing and moving your body to music can be exciting. Also, going to a belly dancing or Zumba class will motivate you to work out longer because they last about 45 to 60 minutes per session. I definitely enjoy exercising a lot more when it involves learning new dance moves and styles.

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