Why I Love Bellydance
– by Kristen Windmuller
From the clink of a coin belt to the rhinestoned bling of a Bella, belly dance ignites your senses and mind like nothing else. When chance first introduced me to this dance over seven years ago, I never could have fathomed how much this art would weave itself into the fabric of my life.
Frustrated after unfulfilling years of jazz and modern dance, I quit dancing, thinking that part of my life was over. As fate would have it, a brochure arrived in my mailbox, informing me that a former teacher was instructing a new class on “middle eastern dance.” I signed up to take her class, not knowing what I’d be studying, or that this decision I made on a whim would lead to finding the major passion of my life. As the only member in the beginner’s class, I was moved to the advanced class, where I tried to keep up with the girls who had been dancing for years. My movements weren’t always smooth; my jazz-trained body’s stylized stiffness resisted the undulating, muscle-based movements to often-comical effects. As the class progressed and my own practicing increased, the comedy act began to disappear and hints of a real belly dancer began to appear.
When I made the transition to college, chance would again throw me thick into the world of belly dance. While just a freshman, I became the president of the university’s belly dance society, responsible for running the group, teaching its classes and creating new choreographies. With a challenge far beyond my three paltry years of experience, I threw myself into the task of not only learning the steps but also learning about the dance itself in order to become as informed a leader as possible.
From the occasional facts mentioned by my first teacher, I had a vague idea that belly dance was not just born fully formed, but that it had a long and complex history. With the encouraging help of friends willing to share their knowledge, hours spent scouring the internet and library for resources, and as many classes as I could take, I started building a picture of the belly dance world at large. To the three traditional academic ‘R’s’ of “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic”, I added rhythm, rakkasah and raqs sharqui. While learning about the ancient Romans one day, I would learn the moves of the Rom people later that night, combining research and dance in my day-to-day life. I love belly dance because it’s not just about movements, but also about myriad styles, countries, music types, costumes and techniques. Learning about different aspects of the dance enhances the moves while fulfilling my thirst for knowledge about all things belly dance.
I hope to pass on the joy and love I have for this dance to those around me, and to continue my learning for the rest of my life. I am fortunate to have found a dance where I not only can express myself and learn physically, but where my opportunities to learn and expand my horizons are limitless.