“Whenever a little girl ran to the dancers in the middle of the room and started dancing, the faces of the older women lit up, they laughed loudly, for life had taken on a new rhythm, a rhythm that was before us and would continue after we had gone. Of course, these performances were also used by the mothers-in-law to take a close look at their future daughters-in-law. And we girls knew about it. Yet when an old woman got up to dance, suddenly, something that was there could not be expressed in words—a gift, a woman’s prayer filled the room, borne by the subtle, nearly wise movements of one who stood far ahead of us in the long chain of women.” — From Grandmother’s Secret
I don’t profess to be an expert on belly dancing. I can’t even confess to understanding the journey to master the gift of dance since it was not significant in my childhood. I can testify learning belly dance awakened culture conditioning including forbidden zones and expectations from me as a woman in a Western society. It conjured old ghosts and required me to let go of a lifetime of disappointment. As I learned the new lingo and standards, my personality shaped and molded the dancer I was becoming. Sinuous movement, pageantry of costumes and bond of the dancers muted the concern of body image.
The art of belly dancing is perceived as an art or in the eyes of some, a sexual dance. I’ve watched the sensuality of the dance mislabeled stripping. The intensity of the movements reach deep into a woman’s soul and retell her story. The body becomes an instrument of expression. There is a loss of rigidity and a new place of vulnerability. An attitude and joy that is drawn from deep within the exploration of one’s identity and journey comes from belly dancing summoning the heart. It opened my eyes to learn the story of other women, rituals and cultures. My instructor pushed me to find courage to look at the road behind and believe it is why I am where I am.
For the past five years, I attended dance conferences with members of my dance circle. I’ve met Ansuya, Tamalyn and Amani. I explored tribal and tribal fusion in Ft. Lauderdale at Spirit of the Tribes. On a weekday, we caravanned to Newberry to attend Bellydance Superstars and return on the same night. In California, I sat at the feet of Jamila and Suhaila Salimpour seeking jewels to add to my dance chest. Jamila shared a lifetime of dance which she passed onto her daughter at a very young age. I admired the pride of a Persian ancestry and felt embraced into the Salimpour circle even in my inexperienced state. So, like the little girl in the above quote, I sensed their smiles as I stepped onto the studio floor wanting to hone my new found love.
I thank all the women who saw something in me that needed to be reclaimed and fulfill the little girl in me. She loves her sparkly community and bonds…