You Asked For It

 

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?

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

35 thoughts on “You Asked For It”

  1. Good morning, everyone. Hope you’re having a great day and enjoying my blog–even if seeing my belly button wasn’t high on your list. I’ll be looking forward to your comments.
    Elizabeth

  2. I always enjoy watching the dancers at festivals and such. There’s a local group that’s made up of mostly voluptuous women who perform tribal dances. I love ’em, and admire their bravery. There always seems to be some jackass who believes only young, slender women can dance.
    Maybe someday I’ll be so brave!

  3. One thing I love about belly dance, Lizzie, is the idea that every woman, and every kind of body, is beautiful. When you’re up there on that stage in that costume you feel like a goddess. Some of the most wonderful dancers I know are voluptuous women. Hope you’ll get brave enough to try it.
    And thanks for the compliment, Cheryl. Am thinking about the book idea.
    🙂

  4. Elizabeth!!!! I had no idea you’d been belly dancing for so long. I am so awestruck. What great exercise and fun. That you stuck with it for so long is amazing and really shows your love and dedication to the art.

    Loved the pics. I am IMPRESSED!!

    Great blog!

  5. Elizabeth you are very beautiful I have always watched belly dancing on TV and at the fairs (they used have ladies dancing there when I lived in Iowa) I always thought wow how can they move like that? Maybe I could get rid of some of this weight if I did belly dancing. LOL I am sure the hubby would like it if I danced it is a beauitful dance.
    My friend went to Hawaii a few years ago and they taught her how to belly dance and I was shocked she learned so quick.

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Pam (and I’ve grown a little less impressive with age)
    🙂
    The basics of belly dance are easy to learn, Brenda, because unlike, say, ballet, the movements are natural to the body. If you find a class you’ll have fun, tone your body and likely meet some cool ladies. You can learn it on video, too, but you need a group to get the whole experience. Hoping you’ll try it.

  7. Great post, Elizabeth…hello hidden talents. 😀
    You look great.
    I love to dance. Rock and roll oldies which they play all the time at wedding dances, at least around here. Which oughta tell you something about how great our music was.
    I told my 20 something daughter – “My generation INVENTED Rock and Roll.”
    She said, “Well, my generation perfected it.”
    I don’t THINK so!!!!!!!!

    The thing is, I love dancing and I really can’t bring myself to care how I look out there on the dance floor.
    but I went through a few painful years … my daughers teen years … when I was a major embarrassment to all of them with my ‘I do NOT qualify for the Senior Discount, you jerk’ body.

  8. Hi Elizabeth: You look great! I think it’s awesome that you belly dance and what terrific and fun exercise.

    Some of the traditional village dances that have been passed down in our family are similar to belly dancing but the costumes vary and both males and females dance either in circles or in lines facing each other. Even though I have two left feet and my kids laugh, we still have fun.

    Thanks for the post.

  9. Elizabeth, I’m overwhelmed by all the daring things you do! My gosh, girl. You go trekking off to far away places with never a second thought and now you tell us you belly dance. What’s next I wonder. I’m sure you have other secrets. 🙂

    I’ve never taken up the art of belly dancing but I love to watch other dancers and daydream that I’m them. They’re all so fluid…and limber! My joints would creak and pop and sound like Chinese fireworks. 🙂

    Reading is the way I unwind and relax. A good book does that for me, especially since I’m not the adventurous type. I also love to play games – Yatzee when I have someone to play it with and computer games when I don’t. I’m also into Suduko. That’s challenging and I hear it might help stave off Alzheimer’s. Ha, maybe I should’ve taken it up years ago!! lol

    Thanks for the fun blog! You’re always such an intriguing sister Filly.

  10. Dancing is such a high, isn’t it Mary? Nothing like just getting lost in the music and the beat.
    And I agree with you–Rock Around the Clock was about as perfect as you can get. And Elvis!!!!

    Wow, Za, I would love to see your family’s traditional line dances. We’ve done similar things in class, so much fun! But when it’s family that would be even better.

  11. No, Elvis is great, but I want “That Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger.

    Just take those old records off the shelf
    I’ll sit and listen to em by myself
    Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
    I like that old time rock n roll

    Don’t try to take me to a disco
    You’ll never even get me out on the
    In ten minutes I’ll be late for the door
    I like that old time rockn roll

    Still like that old time rock’n roll
    That kind of music just soothes the soul
    I reminisce about the days of old
    With that old time rock n roll

    Won’t go to hear them play a tango
    I’d rather hear some blues or funky old soul
    There’s only sure way to get me to go
    Start playing old time rock n roll

    Call me a relic, call me what you will
    Say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill
    Today music ain’t got the same soul
    I like that old time rock n roll

    To slow things down I like My Girl by The Temptations.

    I like country rock, too. “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.

    And country ballads. Nothing better than Shania Twain singing “You’re Still The One I Run To”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XENujsU3Wg

    After 31 years of marriage and another 4 dating, I feel like this is my husband’s and my song.

  12. No belly dancing music there is there??? 🙂
    Do they make those belly dancing outfits without a bare midriff???
    Otherwise, I don’t think belly dancing is going to happen for me!!!!!!!!!!

  13. The bare midriff is optional, Mary. A lot of costumes are more covered (does that mean you’re going to try it?). And thanks for sharing the songs. I remember and love all of them.

    And Linda, you are warm and wonderful and don’t need to do all this crazy stuff. My problem is I never grew up. Underneath this aging skin is a little girl playing dress up.

  14. Elizabeth, I’m all for the dancing. When I was younger all my friends and I used to go out country dancing, but even that has gone the way of family and work and growing up and apart. I do know that they offer a class at the local YMCA, and I may have to go and sign up, if you think I have what it takes…*G*
    Amy

  15. My baby fat…LOL I would like to do something for me. This summer I have decided that my entire family needs to do more of that. This sounds like an awsome “for me” thing to try. If this fall I want to try something else all I have to do is try right?!?!?!?

  16. Oh, I LOVE to dance. I’ve never belly danced, but line dances, two step, French waltz, jitterbug…I love them all.

    We don’t dance nearly as much as we used to since my husbands illness…but I still love it.

    Also, dancing is in the genes – my son is a choreographer on staff @ NDA and a dance coach for SFA 🙂

    PamT

  17. How wonderful! what a wonderful way to enjoy yourself i was taught belly dancing when i was younger. Looked quite hot for it then i can honestly say I wouldn’t do it now needing to loose 30 pounds but you look Marvelous!!! I loved all kinds of dance it helps you let go of the tension we keep bottled up it’s a good stress buster, and the only way i’ll excersize is to throw some music on. Wonderful post!!

  18. Hi Elizabeth! I love your blog about belly dancing. You look WONDERFUL in your costumes! I’ve never been good with “core” exercises, so I guess that’s why I’ve never tried it, but it looks so freeing and fun. I love to dance, though I think my moves are sooo outdated.
    What a great fun thing for you to do. My goal now, is to not trip over myself at my daughter’s wedding. I may take a ballroom dancing class!

  19. It’s fun hearing those of you who have dancing in your souls (and genes, Pamela). Lori you should try it again, but any kind of dance is a great stress buster. Charlene, you will look beautiful at your daughter’s wedding, I know. Make sure you remind us when it is, and we want photos.
    I’m a klutz myself, Tanya (embarassed my poor mother to death as a little girl with two left feet). I’ve stayed with dancing out of love, but will never be a star. Talent and desire are two different things.

  20. I would love to hear about other people’s hobbies, Mary. Hey, Linda says she’s a sudoko fan, too. I confess I don’t have the concentration to do them.

  21. We have always danced and enjoyed music in our
    family! Our Dad was called “El Rey del Valse”
    (King of the Waltz) by people of his day. They
    would clear the floor to watch Mom and Dad dance.
    As we grew older, we began winning dance contests
    at various events. It was fun and kept us fairly
    well fit. From the “jitterbug” to the “Twist”
    to all the Latin dances, we enjoyed them all, we rested to the slow music! Today, even at my age,
    (my advanced age! LOL) music still draws me out
    of my chair!!

    Pat Cochran

  22. What a fun story, Pat. Wish I could have seen your family dance–there’s a good story in there somewhere.
    I remember the twist–it was great exercise.
    🙂

  23. Elizabeth, thanks for sharing today! I loved hearing more about belly dancing–I’ve always been intrigued but haven’t taken a class yet. It sounds like such fun! And how funny that you’re still loving it long after your daughter’s moved on 🙂

  24. Thanks, Fedora. My daughter was the one who was gifted, she even danced professionally for a while, but she just got tired of it. She’s now doing flamenco.
    Thanks again for your comment. Hope you get a chance to try belly dance yourself.

  25. Suduko, now that involves numbers, right? ARGH! My eye twitches just thinking abut it.

    Mary, I played that song a million times when I was writing The Truth About Toby. If you read it, you might even hear it playing on the pages. LOL

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