Why I Love Bellydance
I am standing in the wings with my three fellow troupe members, Jeannine, Angela and Melody, and we are waiting to go on. Huddled together in the dark, each of us tries our best to smoosh down the rows of tinkling coins draped in abundance around our hips.
Soon, the poetry on stage ends and our names are announced. Standing in a pale blue pool of light, Dr. Thomas reads from an introduction she had asked me to write. She’d wanted me to give some background information, she'd said, about the troupe and, in particular, about the dance itself.
“Bellydance celebrates the woman’s belly as the cup of life,” she reads, glancing up from the page. These words, though not my own, are some of the best I could find. They are words borrowed (like so much else) from my teacher, Delilah. With their simplicity and eloquence, they speak to the heart of the dance--or rather, I should say, to the belly.
We wait for the black out, prepare to jingle our way on stage, to take our positions. Right at this moment, Melody’s stomach, which has been denied lunch in lieu of needing to undulate, unleashes a mighty growl. “Shhh, cup of life,” she whispers, looking down, soothing her belly with both hands, “I’ll feed you later.”
With bellydance, you’re never quite sure where it’s going to take you or who exactly it’s going to put you in front of. I even love these instances, though--the awkward times where your audience is cold to the experience of hip snaps and snake arms and the luminescent glitter of bedlah. In particular, I love to watch the faces of the women in these audiences as they slowly give themselves permission to absorb the motion of our poetry. I can see the question arise in their faces, “is this something I could do?” I love watching this because I remember how that was the way it happened for me.
I love bellydance because it invites--no--embraces me just the way I am, wide hipped, thick legged and big haired. I love bellydance because of its audacity and its innate ability to shred the corset strings of society and topple the often deranged “beauty” ideals of modern culture. I love bellydance because, as Melody taught me that day, no matter how seriously we take it, it never takes itself too seriously.
I love bellydance mostly because it has afforded me the possession of that one glimmering capability which, for the longest time, only winked at me from a distance so far out of my reach. No, I’m not talking about the Turkish Drop. I’m talking about that one golden gift I thought that I could never acquire--the ability to unobtrusively, unconditionally and irrevocably love myself.
If the belly is the cup of life, then bellydance must be the nectar. Love yourself, I say, love your belly, love the dance and drink up sisters.