I am so gratefull to have received the first two of many more guest posts to come! Please welcome Aspa as she shares her journey into belly dance!
We Are All Dancers
I was never a woman who was comfortable with her body. As we know, there are a lot of social influences that affect women’s perceptions of their bodies. Being academically inclined, I had the additional challenge of always thinking of myself as a brain with legs. When I turned 40, my life changed drastically because of external circumstances I could not control. It was at this point that belly dancing came into my life.
There was so much change already, so much that was new. I think I had to challenge every limiting thought I had ever had about myself — including about my body and my relationship to it. My body was more than just a carrier for my brain, after all.
So I took a class. And to my amazement, I learned to move my hips — in front of other people no less! Flash forward in time, and I am showing my cousins how to do the camel at Christmas dinner!
When friends or colleagues ask me about belly dancing , I always tell them how important it has been to building my confidence and my self-esteem. I always tell them, too, how wonderful it is to see women of all ages and body types expressing themselves and their femininity through this form. More and more, too, I am growing to enjoy the sense of community I see — belly dancing brings together women from all walks of life to celebrate the beauty of movement and the strength to be found in that.
Ever being in the pursuit of knowledge (not everything in my life changed!), I have also come to appreciate learning about different cultures through belly dancing — it is truly cross-cultural. I have been fascinated by how belly dancing persists as a form not only across cultures but across time because it adapts to context. We can see this with the newer styles of belly dancing, which are very much adapted to contemporary times. This ability to adapt is what keeps belly dancing so alive and so vital as a form of expression.
I still consider myself a beginner belly dancer. But one thing I never say any more is that I am not a dancer. Because I am! I learned that I could be graceful and sensual in my movements, and that we are all dancers. The limiting thoughts I once had about my body are gone now. I have gone from “I can’t possibly do that” to “I can do that — with patience and with practice.” And a touch of bravery.
Belly dancing came into my life in a time of crisis. The crisis passed, but the dancing stayed, and for that, I am grateful. Through belly dancing, we honour our uniqueness and our strength, our ability to endure just as surely as the form itself has endured the centuries.
Aspa is a student of Zena’s at Dance with Alana Studios.
0 thoughts on “Dancers’ Newsletter Extra Feature – Guest post 2”
I smiled all the way through your article. I could not agree more with your description of the influence of belly dance on a woman’s self-confidence. Belly dancing has changed my life, too – I can see its effects in my relationships, in my attitude at work, and in the way I socialise.
It’s great to feel part of a community – and the belly dance community has many devote members.
Sorry to gatecrash this discussion – but…
My band has just posted a track for free download from our website. It is called Journeys Across Deserts and I think it would be a good track for belly dance/raqs sharki. Details are here:
I hope you like it!
It’s affirming to read your words Aspa. My world has been reinvented through dancing too – but in my case it’s a love affair with tango. Like you, I have found myself in awe of the layers of influence this dance has had on me. It starts to sound clichéd, but on the ground it is incredibly profound. I am reconciling aspects of my character – physical, emotional, intellectual – that have been at odds with me for most of my life. I’m learning to enjoy the process and to seek the company of others in a genuine, respectful and joyous way. I laugh more. I flirt more. I dress up more. I nap more. I’m acknowledging moments as they are, and as they come. And most of all, I’m listening with more care: to my partners, to the music (oh the music!), to my body and to my little soul, in its little-big world.
Dancing is an incredibly personal form of expression, with very personal rewards – but I understand now too, the value that comes in sharing this experience. Tango is partner dance – and with every embrace you venture into, you risk the tentative balance of bravery and dependency. But in the end, it’s these risks that you have in common with those around you – and I treasure the community that I now find myself a part of.
So I’m a dancer now too – and will be from here on in.