Chatting with some teacher friends the other day I was struck by the different ways we all came to bellydance. Some people start bellydancing for fun, for fitness, to make friends, to connect with their heritage, to learn about a new culture, to gain confidence, to do something a bit unusual…this is my story.
I was drawn to bellydance because I’d heard the “a dance by women, for women” line, which resonated nicely with my proto-feminist self. I remember saving an article about bellydance from a Sunday newspaper and going back to read it time and time again. When I saw a poster for classes in a local alternative/hippy type shop I went along and never looked back. Here I am 15 years later
Of course I soon learned that “by women, for women” wasn’t really true. Seeing Khaled dance for the first time definitely knocked any traces of that out of my head and he has been on of my very favourite dancers and teachers ever since. I think a lot of people probably have ideas about bellydance when they start which aren’t true – sometimes wishtory, fantasy or outright misinformation – but what you learn in class to replace those ideas is hopefully far more interesting than the fantasy and is what will keep you bellydancing for a long time!
So if my initial idea about what bellydancing was turned out to be wrong, what kept me doing it? Simply, I fell in love with the music and this way of moving. I’ve always loved music, but I didn’t spend my childhood dancing. I did the obligatory little girl ballet classes, then found that swimming suited me more so that was that. I’d watch my friends at school discos, unable to do what they did. It felt wrong on me, so I perfected the nervous teenage shuffle instead. Then I found bellydance and it just felt RIGHT. I don’t have a body suited for ballet, or jazz, or contemporary dance but with bellydance it didn’t matter if I wasn’t thin as a whippet, or couldn’t do the splits. I could move my hips and that was all that was needed.
Of course there are other things that have kept me dancing and part of the dance community, principally the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, but it was that initial “Hey, I CAN do this!” that got me hooked.