Banishing those Belly Myths
Okay children, it’s time for us to use our imaginations. What comes to mind when you think of belly dancing?
The timeless art of seduction? A scantily clad woman tempting a sultan? Exotic dancers employed for some dude’s bachelor party? My guess is that these misconceptions, or ones like them, are what you associate with this form of dance.
Shortly after Jason and I got married, nearly 8 years ago, I decided to take a belly dancing class through UVU’s continuing education program. I loved the class so much that I signed up for others and through the years I’ve had a blast performing this graceful folk dance. That’s why I feel compelled to straighten out all those crazy ideas everyone seems to have about this art.
Belly dancing, more correctly termed Oriental dancing, has been a part of Middle Eastern society for centuries. With the rise of Islam, households were segregated into women’s and men’s quarters. Women would hold their own festivities on special occasions, apart from the men. They would celebrate by dancing together and for each other. They didn’t dance to seduce or tantalize, obviously there weren’t even men present. And they didn’t dance wearing skimpy outfits either. Belly dancing was a dance of celebration and sisterhood, done by women for women.
So where did we get this idea of hussies, sporting coin braziers and leading men to sin? One word: Hollywood. We westerners skewed belly dancing, turned it into something sensational and sinful, something it never was.
It’s time to dispel those Hollywood fantasies. Since I’ve been belly dancing for years now, I can assure all of you that belly dancing is nothing like you think. It truly is an art and an expression of sisterhood and femininity. It is surprisingly difficult and requires an enormous amount of practice to perfect. You have to train your body to move in ways that seem completely alien at first. But the dancers are all extremely supportive of one another and the environment is relaxed, no one laughs at you when you mess up and creativity is encouraged. So it’s easy to see why, despite the complexity of the dance, ladies like me keep coming back for more. Incidentally, belly dancing is also a fantastic abs, butt, and thigh workout. It’s much harder than crunches and so much more enjoyable!
And, in case you are wondering, we don’t perform to swarms of men stuffing dollar bills down our skirts. In fact, we prefer to forget about you men altogether. While Jason does very much like watching me dance, I don’t dance for him, I dance for me. I dance because I love music and rhythm, I dance because I love expressing myself, I dance to forget about everything else for a while and just chill with my chicks, I dance to get a workout-I dance for me.
If you have grasped nothing else from this entry, please remember that belly dancing does not equal seduction. Instead, the words I would use to describe it are: graceful, feminine, art, traditional, creative, folk, and expression.
So next time someone tells you that they belly dance, don’t ask if they are an exotic dancer or offer them a wad of ones; you’ll just make yourself look like an idiot and are more likely to get a slap in the face than a free performance.