Updated: May 5
I remember my first ever belly dance class. There was always something beautiful about the music to me. Something sensual and full of emotion that drew me to it. I remember so many people asking me, "why belly dance?" To some I guess it is quite an obscure or niche thing to dance a dance that originates from so far away. I remember feeling drawn to dance at home with myself at times. I'll admit it felt strange to belly dance with myself at first. But after the first time, I felt how uplifting and inspiring it was to move my body however I wanted. To feel the music and allow it to guide my soul and my body to move in ways that expressed something deep within. I remember the after glow. And even today, twenty years later I still feel sparkly after I dance. I feel energised. I feel more confident in myself on every level. All the picking at my body or my appearance just fades away and I honestly feel more like how I feel I'm supposed to feel. It seems to dust the cobwebs of the mundane and the general monotony of life away.
Belly dance is also such a diverse dance form. There are so many different styles: Turkish, Raqs Baladi, Raqs Sharki, Fusion, even Metal belly dance and Pirate Fusion. All across the world, belly dance has been a medicine, an art form, a creative tool for people to express themselves and to make their own.
People often think of belly dance as a sexual dance women do for men. Let me start by saying there are some incredible people of all kinds of genders out there who are famous and revered for their skills in belly dance. In Egypt the people seem to have very conflicting views on belly dance. The belly dancers are both loved but also have a hard time being accepted by society. Some Egyptian women who choose to belly dance from a young age can be ostracized by their families. Asked to leave the home. Some of them are beaten. Honour killings and more are not unheard of. Yet many of the women desire to belly dance so much that they push through the stigma and dedicate their whole lives to the dance. There is so much more to belly dance than the sexy, outer layer that seems so apparent.
One of the things I have always loved about the belly dance community is something that is so close to my heart: Women supporting women. Go to any belly dance Hafla, it is going to be full of women. Cheering each other on, supporting each other. There aren't many places that you can find that in today's society which encourages competition and judgement.
Another thing I have always loved is that no matter what size or how old you are, belly dance will always welcome you with open arms. Many cultures see that older people have the wisdom to express deeper emotions as belly dancers. And any body shape can and will be celebrated. Another rare thing in todays societies. It is always a space and a community where you can celebrate your unique expression of beauty and your relationship to your body. Belly dance has always been a medicine for my soul. It's been a way for me to escape the beauty shame campaigns of the pharmaceutical industries. It's been a way to express and play with my creative flow. I welcome you to come and play with yours at my classes and workshops. Or to someone else's close by to you.
Below I have included some useful links to some of the dancers in the Belly Dancers of Cairo documentary who pushed through extreme issues of violence to themselves and threats of violence to their families to pursue their love of the dance. A real reminder of how lucky we are as women to be able to dance freely in our society. And some pioneers of fusion belly dance:
The Belly Dancers Of Cairo Documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap0Xw780gIM
Some of the dancers featured in The Belly Dancers Of Cairo Documentary:
Traditional Ghawazee dancer Khyriyya Mazin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfcFiHwGQBw&list=PL5TSW1Romje_XloNNMZOGtjrC1OSUlzmV&index=67
Rachel Brice. Fusion Belly Dance Pioneer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKkJzCuV1IM
Olga Meos. Fusion Dancer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUGinrX_sDI