WHY Do You Dance?
What Brought You To Belly
(reprinted from ZAGHAREET! Jan/Feb. 2003)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole
In other articles I've focused on how-to's. or the
"nuts and bolts" of our dancing. Now take a mental step back
and think of what brought you to this dance in the first
place. As the saying goes, "everything happens for a reason."
When I ask students why they signed up for belly
dance, many list "exercise" as their reason for taking class;
a handful will say they want to surprise the man in their
life; and a few others have actually seen real belly dancing
somewhere and want to learn how to do it. Many people begin
out of plain curiosity. I'd say that's what brings the
majority of people into the classroom - but why are they
The fact is, SOMETHING brought you to belly dance
class, but maybe not be what you thought!
My Personal Story
stumbled upon the dance (in the form of Ozel Turkbas' book
"The Bellydancer In You" - what a great title!) while
looking for how-to-dance books at the library. I'd begun
going to see local rock bands and wanted to join in the
dancing, but didn't know how. One thing I did know was I
sure didn't want to dance the way I saw other people dancing
- if they didn't look stiff as boards, they were flitting
and flowing about the room in a way that was downright
strange! Ozel's picture on the book cover really grabbed me,
and I was hooked.
I began to use dance as a method of
self-expression, creating dances left and right. Talking
wasn't my thing, didn't work for me at all - in fact, I was
so shy I actually couldn't really talk to anyone outside my
family! So dancing, and soon teaching, became my
therapy, as I worked out "how" a normal person actually
behaves in everyday life. Of course I didn't realize this at
the time, but now as I look back I see what really happened.
I'm sure no one meeting me now would believe how shy I had
This Dance Is
few people realize what studying this dance can do for them.
All you can do is trust yourself, give yourself a chance to
grow and develop within it.
This dance gives you what you put into it. If
it's a lark for you, a hobby, a distraction from life, you
won't find any deeper meanings in it. But if you go
beyond using it as "mindless movement" it can also
serve as a mirror, presenting you with a view of your
personal issues (the ones you try not to think about in the
normal course of things), and giving you an opportunity to
sort them out and work through them. This is weird, wild,
scary stuff! Maybe it even accounts for some of the
drop-outs - it's hard for some people to trust themselves
enough to get past their old fears.
Trust doesn't happen overnight - give yourself
time. Don't feel rushed or harassed by all the academic
material, workshops, tours, etc. that you might think you
"should" take. No one will know it all; no one will master
it all; no one (mega-bio's notwithstanding!) is the perfect
expert on the dance - we each have our own eyes and our own
outlook on the dance and what it means.
Trust that you'll do what you need to do - be
open to the possibilities... and see what happens.
Instead of getting the next new instructional
video, opt for one that features professional performers, or
"top stars" of the dance - and just watch and absorb their
style. Put your feet up and relax. If the dance hasn't
been an integral part of your upbringing, then you need some
"passive instruction" - it teaches you in a very different
way than our usual sweaty struggle in the classroom or
studio. It's also good to watch dancers live, but there are
often so many other distractions that you can't relax or
focus enough to take it in.
Then after INspiration, PERspiration: put on
your music and explore the dance. Turn off the extraneous
chatter, stop striving, and grok* it - to find out what the
dance means to you.
* "grok": to understand profoundly through intuition or
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