I am so gratefull to have received the first two of many more guest posts to come! Please welcome Aspa as she shares her journey into belly dance!
We Are All Dancers
I was never a woman who was comfortable with her body. As we know, there are a lot of social influences that affect women’s perceptions of their bodies. Being academically inclined, I had the additional challenge of always thinking of myself as a brain with legs. When I turned 40, my life changed drastically because of external circumstances I could not control. It was at this point that belly dancing came into my life.
There was so much change already, so much that was new. I think I had to challenge every limiting thought I had ever had about myself — including about my body and my relationship to it. My body was more than just a carrier for my brain, after all.
So I took a class. And to my amazement, I learned to move my hips — in front of other people no less! Flash forward in time, and I am showing my cousins how to do the camel at Christmas dinner!
When friends or colleagues ask me about belly dancing , I always tell them how important it has been to building my confidence and my self-esteem. I always tell them, too, how wonderful it is to see women of all ages and body types expressing themselves and their femininity through this form. More and more, too, I am growing to enjoy the sense of community I see — belly dancing brings together women from all walks of life to celebrate the beauty of movement and the strength to be found in that.
Ever being in the pursuit of knowledge (not everything in my life changed!), I have also come to appreciate learning about different cultures through belly dancing — it is truly cross-cultural. I have been fascinated by how belly dancing persists as a form not only across cultures but across time because it adapts to context. We can see this with the newer styles of belly dancing, which are very much adapted to contemporary times. This ability to adapt is what keeps belly dancing so alive and so vital as a form of expression.
I still consider myself a beginner belly dancer. But one thing I never say any more is that I am not a dancer. Because I am! I learned that I could be graceful and sensual in my movements, and that we are all dancers. The limiting thoughts I once had about my body are gone now. I have gone from “I can’t possibly do that” to “I can do that — with patience and with practice.” And a touch of bravery.
Belly dancing came into my life in a time of crisis. The crisis passed, but the dancing stayed, and for that, I am grateful. Through belly dancing, we honour our uniqueness and our strength, our ability to endure just as surely as the form itself has endured the centuries.
Aspa is a student of Zena’s at Dance with Alana Studios.