I was a professional belly dancer for many years. Occasionally, I would give classes for fund raising events, or for groups of women that wanted to try something new for their “girls’ night out”. What I realized was, they didn’t necessarily want to learn how to belly dance, as much as they wanted to regain their femininity. They forgot what it felt like to be sexy: They were busy being wives, mothers, and employees. Belly Dancing was a way to feel exotic, to be free to let loose and to feel like a woman again. It wasn’t easy for many of these women. They looked at my hip movements and decided that their hips did not move. The dance lessons would turn into a kind of therapy session. Each woman had a reason why her hips didn’t move easily. I explained that belly dancing is the oldest dance form in history. Yes, there are techniques that can be learned thru practice, but the core movements are based on women’s natural abilities. I reminded the women that when they were little girls, they danced. There was no judgment then, and there wasn’t any judgment now. When I broke the movements down, little by little the mental block started to move away. They started to have a better understanding of how easy their bodies would flow thru the exercise when they relaxed and stopped worrying about being perfect. The transformations always amazed me. Suddenly, these women were dancing and laughing. They would tell me later, that they were surprised at how good they feel. The awkwardness disappeared and they felt a lot better about themselves.
All women come in different shapes and sizes. That’s why belly dancing will always look different on different women. There is no wrong way to dance. I find dancing is the quickest way to connect ourselves with our bodies. Moving slowly and gracefully with the music, in the privacy of home, is like it’s own meditation. It immediately reminds us that we are beautiful and fun. I tell women to put on music that makes them feel happy. You can’t feel bad or sad when you are dancing.
I have been backstage at belly dance conventions, waiting for my turn to dance, with other belly dancers. Each one will ask me, “How do I look?” “Is my hair alright?” “How’s my makeup?” “I am trying to lose weight, does my costume look tight?’ The moment they get on stage, a wonderful thing happens. They are smiling, they are confident, they do a great show and they are perfect. All of their insecurities disappear. I want to tell them to hold onto that feeling and don’t let it go. We all possess the ability to feel positive about ourselves. It may take practice, but it’s worth it.