Experience

The power of belly dancing

I wrote this probably a year ago. I’ve been lazy and I miss belly dancing so much. Hopefully, I’ll find something in the area soon, as online classes are really not the real deal!

“Sometimes in life confusion tends to arise and only dialogue of dance seems to make sense.” – Shah Asad Rizvi

An Arab party is the kind of gathering where old and young come together to celebrate. It can be a wedding, a graduation or some kind of religious celebration. My family usually tried to make me dance to their Arab tunes which never ended very well. Back then I felt embarrassed to dance in front of random people to music that I didn’t really enjoy. Also –  belly dancing – the way that a lot of Arabs dance, didn’t feel quite right to me. I had no access to it yet – really, I felt embarrassed.

Then something mysterious happened. It was at another wedding. One of the traditional kind where women and men celebrate separately. A lady – big and curvy – danced, completely immersed in herself. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She was shimmying and swaying her hips intensely. Not to flirt or in any way coquette. There were moments when she had her eyes shut, and she seemed to dance on clouds. It felt therapeutic and out-of-worldly. This touched my inner strings and resonated with me in so many ways. Completely consumed by the music, dancing for yourself, that felt absolutely right.

But first came Salsa to me. Salsa is a form of social dance and as such involves a dance partner. It is a lot of fun and I really love the music. It was difficult though to get used to be led by a partner. It trains the ability of physical communication. You learn to read where your partner is going and where they want you to go. In response, you apply Salsa steps to follow them to the rhythm of the music. It is divine to watch couples who have grown up with the rhythm making it their own. Even though I enjoyed it, I felt like I couldn’t break free within its framework. How can you break free when you are being led?

In 2014, I started my journey with Melissa Bellydance. She is one of the few teachers – if not the only – in London who offer free tasters. And having done acting, dancing and other sports classes, I knew how important the connection to a teacher was for one’s own development and to have fun! Melissa is supportive, always happy and encouraging. Belly dance is sensual. It can be snaky, mind-boggling and it always is hard work. You use tummy muscles, back muscles and your glutes, but really your whole body is involved. It trains your flexibility, your refinement of movement and your mind. Learning with Melissa is always accompanied by learning a routine which is amazing for your brain! As a woman, you discover your own beauty, your strength and what makes you stand out as a dancer compared to others. You learn different movements isolated and repeat them until your body translates them into your own language. You learn to push yourself and you realise that by repetition your body learns movements that feel very wrong at the beginning. And change in general feels wrong at the beginning. In 2015, I joined the Mahira Girls as well – Melissa’s semi-professional dance group. They are strong, positive and supportive women. I felt blessed to be part of it, because it gave me confidence, taught me endurance and a sense of what female support can mean to other women. It was my shelter in a chaotic London where I could completely focus on my own development and beauty. I’m still a student and after trying so many different things, I feel that the female support is a big contributor to me sticking to it and not giving up.

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