I meet Alice Bracegirdle at her home in Victoria’s Cadboro Bay and we walk to the beach for our interview. I’m here to talk to the founder and CEO of Bellyfit Inc. about the Bellyfit Summit, an event that she has organized in Victoria, BC on Sept 26-28.
She tells me about a recent experience at a fitness conference, where she had a booth for Bellyfit. In a blog post, she wrote about feeling like a black sheep at the conference and tells me about the stagnancy in the fitness industry.
“It promotes one body type that isn’t attainable by 99% of the population,” she observes. “And there we were at the Bellyfit booth, with ‘practice radical body love’ t-shirts. Some women walked by booth and didn’t even see it. But others did, and were happy to find something that fosters positive body image in the industry.”
Bracegirdle founded Bellyfit, a fusion of fitness, dance and yoga, in 2007 mainly to satisfy a need in her own life. She had “reached that place where I was a single mom on welfare, totally depressed with my two year old.” With her background in fitness, belly dance and yoga, she drew the elements from each that resonated with her.
“Bellyfit was an answer to healing, at a time when I needed to reconnect with my body.” Raised by yogis, Bracegirdle was steeped in yoga lifestyle and was aware of the transformative aspects of the practice. “I was able to draw from yoga and dance to connect into a feminine energy way of moving.”
She fused them together in the fitness model of high energy classes accompanied by upbeat music and perky instructions. An appreciator of the structure and accessibility of fitness, Bracegirdle knew that it could speak to a large mainstream audience in a way that yoga and dance don’t.
The peak of Bellyfit
“The summit is the peak of the expression of bellyfit,” says Bracegirdle. “It’s all the aspects of Bellyfit coming together under one roof.”
The three-day event features over 30 world-renowned and local presenters in a celebration of women’s empowerment through dance, fitness and positive body image (some of IAYB’s favourite things!).
A powerhouse of presenters, including Jill Miller of Yoga Tune-Up, Hemalayaa, Misty Tripoli and Taryn Brumfitt of the Body Image Movement, will share their cutting edge wisdom. The schedule includes sessions on topics such as belly dance, African dance, Indian dance, body image, yoga, Ayurveda, divination, pelvic floor health, sacred business and much more.
“Over the course of developing Bellyfit, I’ve discovered a lot of amazing people. So I’ve invited them here to share their wisdom. These women are huge inspirations and I love them because they look at female empowerment from different perspectives: from the goddess to how is your spine aligned. They all get that their area of expertise is just one aspect and we need to look at the full picture.”
Reclaiming the belly
You have to admit that it’s pretty ballsy to use the word “belly” in the name of your fitness system. How many women have complicated and challenging relationships with their bellies? How many of us are pursuing fitness as a way to overcome or “get rid of” our bellies?
“I want Bellyfit to reclaim the belly,” says Bracegirdle. “I want to help women navigate a new relationship with their bellies.”
Fostering a positive and healthy body image, including our bellies and whatever other parts we’re told not to love, is at the baseline and foundation of Bellyfit. While she may feely like a black sheep in an industry that values an unattainable ideal more than healthy bodies and fun, her response to that is to find her own tribe looking for positive body messaging and empowerment. That’s what the Bellyfit Summit will be all about.