Friday, 17 May 2013

Belly Dance: The Spiritual Art Form

I have been Belly Dancing for about 4 years now and am preparing to teach a class of spiritual Belly Dance to our local women's group. There are aspects of the dance that I would like to talk about in this post:
1) The Respectable Art Form
2) The Spiritual aspect of Belly Dance

1) Perhaps because of the costumes or the nature of the feminine body, Belly Dancing has a stigma around it and a stereotype of being highly sexualised and inappropriate. Every time I see fantastic dancers appear on talent shows the male judges shamelessly gape at them and make jokes of letting them pass the round, without needing to see their dancing ability. I danced for a charity event last year and was actually told to aim our shimmies at the 'rich older men' in the crowd and even allow them to donate money to our hip scarves! - I was appalled at the lack of respect and obvious misunderstanding of our dance form.

We are performers and skilled entertainers, with thorough training and discipline behind our dancing. In most cases I've seen the women dance for themselves, for their love of the dance and how it makes them feel; they also dance for other women. Shows like Project Belly Dance and dancing Haflas, where most Belly Dancer's perform, are watched by other women (maybe the occasional and rare male dancer included). We do not aim ourselves at all men's clubs and dance for men. It is a feminine art form for the most part and is shared by women.

The costumes are often but not always revealing. You will commonly see a dancer in a bra and split skirt. Again, this is for her own beauty and the practicality is that the dance is focused on hip and belly movements - which is not best appreciated behind a t-shirt and jeans! But there are a whole range of other costumes too.

There are instances where Belly Dancers choose to show case themselves in the more stereotyped light, which is their choice, but it does not reflect the bulk of us. I must stress that it is a hard earned skill to master and certainly an art form. Give it a go yourself and see.

"Our troupe will not perform for Stag Do's or to male only audiences", says one dance teacher's website.

2) It is also a spiritual practice for many women. Even if a dancer is not normally spiritually inclined, the dance does connect her to her feminine body and lifts her spirits. It is a dance that celebrates the female form, in all of her forms. What is so freeing about it is that women of any age and size can look beautiful doing it and indeed feel beautiful too.

For some, they can enter a moving trance or meditation, feeling the divine feminine take over and express herself. It is a dance form that allows you to know what your body can naturally do.

In our group we plan to explore this dance spiritually together; some women feel uncomfortable or insecure about themselves when dancing in front of others. They feel like other women will be watching and judging. They may all feel that way, and the likelihood is, they'll either be concentrating too hard on themselves to look at you, or they may catch a glimpse at you and think that anyone is better than they are. What I plan to do is to teach the basic moves and then with safety measures taken, blind fold the women and allow them to dance freely without anyone watching. When they feel their body move naturally and freely they will become more comfortable and eventually the blindfold will come off. 

May Hathor move with you ladies )O(


  1. Very cool post :-) I've started belly dancing for fitness recently (perhaps a few months now) and I love it! It's quite difficult and requires dedication. I currently use a DVD called "The BellyDance RHYTHMS Workout" by "Neon" (or World Dance New York).
    Since I'm interested and I look up many videos on YouTube of dancers, I've noticed a disturbing trend~ the heavier-set ladies are always told they are beautiful in the comments, while the more thin or busty women are shamed. It is definitely a dance that is perceived in a negative light by a lot of people, but hopefully that will start changing with time.

    1. Good that you've started dancing!!

      I have noticed too that many people are getting supportive of the bigger girls but talk down to the thin ones. Sadly I hear a lot of people say that thin girls look disgusting!

      Both are beautiful, the key thing is health! If you are majorly obese and it is damaging you then it isn't good. If you are terribly anorexic then that is bad too. But big and thin don't immediately mean unhealthy.