I Danced Today

I danced today. For the first time in over a year I put music on and danced. No audience, no teacher, no students. Just me.

I stopped dancing in October 2014 although I’d made the decision to do so months before that. There were many reasons behind that decision which mostly boiled down to: I felt there was no place for me. I don’t fit in with the dancers who want to ignore or erase the cultural background(s) of this dance. Oriental style is turning into dancesport, complete with the thin, tanned, young bodies of its practitioners. As I get older and fatter more and more doors are closed to me. It was pretty disheartening when I had to accept that I just didn’t have the right look to be a successful commercial dancer; it’s really quite disappointing to find the same standards being applied within the community.

I don’t have the energy to fight for a place. I’ve seen what it takes and I’ll leave that to those who are hungry for the spotlight. It would have been nice if there was still somewhere I could just dance – not drill, not teach, not perform, not compete – but social dancing seems to have disappeared. I went to ten events in my last two years, ranging from local haflas to international festivals, and only four of them had any time for social dancing. Isn’t that at the root of what we do? What happened? No criticism of event organisers by the way, I know how hard a job that is and that they have to respond to the wishes of their customers. So the question is: why don’t people want to dance for fun?

Now my life has been turned upside down again after moving country and finding out I’m pregnant within the same month. Even longed-for change can be challenging. I find that I need that connection between body, heart and soul that is unique to bellydance. If the only place I can find it is on my own in my front room, so be it.

I let other people take dance away from me. Now I’m taking it back.


7 thoughts on “I Danced Today

  1. I’ve found that having good friends in the dance community is the most important factor. I love to dance socially, but it’s rare to be able to do so unselfconsciously at events. Even if there is some time put aside for social dancing, there are often so few people on the dancefloor, and everyone is dancing kind of competitively as if they’re on stage, in a little bubble.

    The best times, for me, are invariably with a couple of dance friends, in someone’s living room, totally unplanned. Meeting up to chat and sew, and then someone’s favourite tune comes up on the playlist, and before you know it we’re all up dancing to Ahmad Adaweia, still with a cup of tea (and/or glass of prosecco) in one hand. It’s probably what I miss the most since moving to a new area, actually.

    Not to knock organised events too much – I’ve been to some very enjoyable ones in the last few years. The Friday night show with the Baladi Blues ensemble at JoY a couple of years ago was memorably good, with most of the night set aside for social dancing, but sadly there doesn’t seem to have been the desire to repeat it. I also always appreciate the audience boogie time at the Arab Quarterly events. We’ve made an effort in Oxford to put on informal social dance parties a couple of times a year, with mixed success (some have been amazing, and some have had a low enough turnout that it has been a bit awkward). But I definitely share your feeling that social dance is hard to find, and often depressingly absent where you would hope to find it.

    • Kay Taylor has always been particularly good at getting people up on the dancefloor and I’ve copied her ideas for my own events. Sometimes you just need a few people to set the tone.

      Good to know that not all events have given up on social dancing. I think the Arab Quarterly venue isn’t too far from where I live now, maybe I should check it out…

      • I can’t recommend the Arab Quarterly highly enough. It’s worth going for the band alone, and I have also seen some truly excellent dance performances there.

  2. Excellently expressed. Dance at its core is a shared social experience. From ancient shamanic rituals to dancing around the Beltane fires, it brings people together and creates the feeling of joy. Glad you have come back to your own joy!

  3. Dear Sweet Emma, You have never lost the dance because that is forever in your soul. It doesn’t matter if you perform publicly, or teach or have gained weight or even if nobody knows who you are. All that matters is the love you have for the art. People cannot rob your passion.
    Wishing you all the best, Hugs Thia “)

  4. Dancing with you at JoY was one of my fav dance memories! It has all become bendy barbies and/or showtime. I think it is because people like performing. When I had relaxed haflas in past mostly tribal dancers came with most Egyptian/oriental dancers seeming only wanting to perform.
    I miss those days of kicking the shoes off and dancing like wild women!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.