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Body Image and Belly Dance

by Anthea Kawakib Poole
Zaghareet! Magazine (Jan/Feb 2012)

Dealing With Body Issues

Who doesn’t have body image issues? There’s not many “perfect” looking people out there, whatever that means. So we all sometimes feel like there’s something “wrong” with our looks that everyone is staring at or talking about behind our backs. Even if that’s true, so what!

Beginners often have fears about joining class: are they too old, too out of shape, too overweight, too skinny - and sometimes they bring it up in class. Once or twice is okay, but let’s not keep hearing about how bad you feel about yourself, it only makes the other students uncomfortable, and when people are uncomfortable they just want to be rid of the problem. To make friends in class, stop focusing on yourself and your issues and just focus on having fun with your new dance friends.

Remember that you are learning belly dance for yourself, not for anyone else. It’s about YOU, your fitness, fun, friends. Often people call me about signing up for Beginner class and mention they are overweight, or “less than ideal” weight, or “out of shape” and wonder if it’s okay or even ask if people will laugh at them. Fortunately I can tell them to look at my YouTube channel or photos online and see that my students and specifically, my performing group, is non-discriminatory. I don’t care how much someone weighs (or how old they are, or what gender or color) as long as they can dance and are easy to work with. As I tell these potential students, some of my best dancers are large-sized.

If you want to see belly dancers that have pushed past the limitations of the “average” size world, Shira has an entire website devoted to plus-size dancers: www.bellydanceplus.com with photos, articles, and costuming tips. One of the common mistakes larger dancers make is to wear too much, as if they’re trying to “hide” in their costuming. That’s not the answer; the answer is to find out what look flatters your size and shape - it’s best to try on your costume choices, and take photos and/or perhaps get another dancer’s opinion before buying.

Stop Obsessing On Your Weight

Life is too short to worry about what others think. Besides, no matter what you look like, someone somewhere thinks you are appealing!

What you SHOULD focus on is being fit - eating for energy, not just for fun; practicing the dance moves you learn in class (so you’re getting exercise), and finding costuming that looks good on you. Belly dancing is ideal for large people because it’s low-impact and gentle while still being aerobic, as long as you dance long enough to raise your heart rate. If you’re a plus-size dancer, coming to belly dance class is one of the best choices you can make!

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