Toe Shoes, Bellydancing, & Fusion

Throughout my years of involvement in bellydancing, I’ve observed and performed many different styles of bellydance, including belly dance fusion.  I’m fine with almost all kinds of belly dance fusion as long as the performer labels it as such (for example, don’t call your dance ‘traditional Middle Eastern bellydance’ if you’re combining belly dance moves with hip hop – that is ‘fusion bellydance’).

Everyone involved in bellydancing has his or her own reasons for participating in it.  What is most important for me is the fun, the holistic health benefits, and the self-empowerment that bellydancing generates. That’s why I have mixed feelings about seeing performers bellydance in toe shoes.

While I can admire the dancers’ skill and creativity ‘On Pointe’, I am wincing inside because of the potential damage the dancer is doing to her feet and the rest of her body.  Toe shoes not only concentrate the dancers’ full body weight on the very tips of her toes, they also put a great deal of stress on the ankles and throw the body out of healthy alignment.  The feet of professional ballet dancers usually become deformed and it’s difficult to prevent foot problems that can last for life.  It’s a painful art form to master!

In fact, there are a number of dance forms that while entertaining to watch are really harsh on the body. These days, there are a lot of people who seem to think that it’s cool to push themselves too hard (excluding bellydance, dance injuries are up 37% in children and teens since 1991).   In contrast, bellydance is a beautiful dance art that is healthy for the body.  So why would I want to see a dancer take the beauty and healthfulness of bellydancing and introduce other dance elements that can cause so much damage?

Bellydance, like most art forms, continues to evolve.  Fusion bellydance is a part of that process.  Some of the types of fusion bellydance that are being created today will become the new ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ styles in the future.  Other types of belly dance fusion will not stand the test of time and will fade away.  Of those that vanish, I personally hope they’re the styles that are physically, mentally, or emotionally damaging to dancers.

As for the innovative dancers who are bellydancing in toe shoes, I hope they continue to express their courage to experiment with dance.  Leaving toe shoes aside, they may be the dancers who create new works of art that are not only entertaining and inspirational to watch, but also respectful of the dancers’ health and well-being.



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