Why I Love Bellydance
– by Laura Smith
I wanted a ruby in my navel.
And in my typical brassy style, I had talked the girl scout leaders into finding an instructor to teach the troop bellydancing so we could get our folk dancing badge.
You can’t begin to imagine my horror when I found out we’d be dancing at the scout jamboree–in our uniforms. No navel jewels, no sequins…it was horror, I tell you.
And it was my last experience with middle eastern dance for more than 20 years.
By the time the dance called me back, I was no longer that sassy girl scout. I was a hollow shell who’d finally left an abusive husband and had no idea who I really was or where I belonged in the world. I had two little girls looking up to me, and all I had ever modeled for them were fear and resignation. Nothing terrified me more than the thought my daughters might grow up to be weak and timid, like me.
Then I found a bellydance class. I signed up, proud of myself for even that small step. At my first class, I bought a hipscarf–purple and green with joyously jingly silver coins that reminded my hips to slink with a long-forgotten sauciness.
I continued classes with Kimahri, who taught us to bow envisioning the Sultan of Dubai about to fly us off to his palace. I caught the infectious enthusiasm of my classmates: women of a myriad of shapes and ages who had danced through all of life’s trials. Though they stubbornly refused for months, I finally convinced my hips to shimmy.
After my first hafla, I bawled–the beauty of the music, the dancers, the costumes had literally left me breathless– but best, I finally felt that among these women, I belonged.
Two years later, I performed my first solo. It was awful, but it didn’t matter. I had a gorgeous purple bedlah and a jewel in my navel–and two delighted daughters, a kind and supportive new husband, wonderful new in-laws, and whole flock of zaghareeting classmates all there with me.
In such a short time, my love for this dance had transformed me, as it has so many women before me. For my daughters, I can be secure woman who shares her passion joyously. My husband has a wife who is a playful, self-assured nonconformist. Best of all, though, I have let go of my image of myself as a victim, and released myself to be a sensuous woman, self-assured enough to dance for strangers.
That intrepid girl who wanted a navel jewel was lost for while, but I am grateful this dance has brought her back in all her sequinned glory.