Bellydancers come in all sizes, ages, and ethnicities. I’ve met many bellydancers in my career and have noticed that most have something in common besides their obvious love for this dance form. That something is a real passion for living and a desire to pursue that passion on their own terms. Of all the various dances that exist, bellydance is certainly one of the most emotional and individually expressive.
In the 1970’s, when bellydancing was first becoming popular with large numbers of American women, the dance had a rather negative image to many people. Much of the general public thought that bellydance was not respectable, that it was nothing more than a Middle Eastern strip tease or a way to ‘please your sultan’. Dancers who understood bellydancing to be so much more than that faced an uphill battle for respect. You had to have a thick skin to call yourself a bellydancer in those days!
However, bellydancers of that time and beyond persevered and by educating the public through their performances and classroom instruction, the image and understanding of bellydancing improved. Today bellydance is mainstream and is known as a beautiful and beneficial art form that is taught in some of the most prestigious learning institutions in the country. To come this far, bellydancers not only needed a thick skin, but also great conviction, persistence, and a passion for their art form.
Whether a bellydancer is a professional, a dedicated student, or hobbyist, this dance seems to attract people with a real enthusiasm for living and doing it their own way. These are dancers who don’t let society or other people tell them how to enjoy their life. If some people say that bellydancing isn’t respectable, these dancers say, “then don’t look – I dance for myself and others who love this art”.
Bellydancing not only attracts dancers who have an enthusiasm for life, the dance itself further enhances ones’ capacity to be happy, energetic, and healthy. So the next time you see a belly dance performance or a class, look beyond the differences of body type, age, and dance style of each individual dancer and you’ll see the common thread of a passion for movement, joyful expression, and for life itself. If you’re lucky, some of that zest for living may even rub off on you.