A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in a post that I belly danced. Since then I’ve received several requests to blog about belly dancing and to include a photo or two. It’s been a while since these were taken. Can’t remember how long, but that’s definitely my pre-menopausal body you’re seeing…
I started belly dancing about 19 years ago when my then high school age daughter signed up for a class. After seeing a couple of her performances, I decided it was too much fun to sit and watch. I signed up too, and stayed with it long after she’d burned out and quit. I’m not a great dancer but I have fun performing at community events—and you should see my costume closet!
Here are some belly basics for you.
- It’s old. The history of belly dance goes back thousands of years and has evolved into many different styles. Best known is the cabaret style with the bare bellies and glittery costumes, but there are tribal, folk and gypsy styles as well as many others. Most dancers are women, but I’ve seen some terrific men as well. Some folk styles can be very masculine.
- It’s about celebration, not seduction. At its best, belly dance takes place in a happy crowd with the audience clapping, whooping and cheering the dancer on. The dancer draws energy from her audience and gives it back. At Middle Eastern celebrations many of the women get up and dance—they all know how. Its about family and community.
- If you can move, you can dance. Belly dance is based on natural movement. Some of the showy techniques—the shimmies, the swords, finger cymbals, etc. need to be learned, but you don’t need them to dance. All you need is the joy of movement. Dancers use their torsos, feet, their arms and hands, their fingers, their heads, even their eyes. I’ve never seen a belly dance done from a wheelchair, but truly believe it’s possible. And you can be any age and size (just ask this statuesque senior citizen). Perfect young bodies are a pleasure to watch, but it’s the mature dancer with something to shake and that certain “been around the block” look who can really blow an audience away. It all comes down to attitude.
- Belly dance has a link to the Old West, believe it or not. The dancer known as “Little Egypt” who caused a sensation at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, had many imitators (some of whom actually claimed to be her—there’s gotta be a book there and someday I may write it). Many traveling shows of the time included belly dancers. One of the most famous was Fatima, an amply curved damsel who starred at Tombstone’s notorious Bird Cage Theatre.
Why do I dance? I do it because I love the music and costumes and because it’s good for my body, mind and soul. When I’m dancing, I’m totally “in the moment.” I forget everything but the dance. How about you? Have you ever tried belly dancing or thought you might like to? Do you have any questions about it? If not, what do you do to relax and unwind?