Why I Love Bellydance
– by Judith Goldfinch Hall
I saw my first belly dancer as a 10 year old migrant aboard ship en route from England to Australia. A beautiful young dancer was hauled over the side of the ship by rope pulley in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
Her stunning jewelled red and gold costume glittered in the sunlight on the deck, her movements mesmerizing to exotic music. As the dance began mothers gathered children and hurried them away – it was regarded as somewhat scandalous in 1951.
I made a fruitless search in my teens for belly dance classes in Brisbane. Purely by chance, in 1991, my husband spotted a newspaper advertisement for adult education belly dance introduction courses. He physically pushed me to the phone saying as I had always expressed the desire to learn I should do it.
The teacher was an English migrant like myself (she admitted to being 60-something though she could have been older). She’d learned belly dance in Africa where she had lived prior to moving to Australia.
I enjoyed the dance form right from the outset, despite never having danced any style before. On the last night of the course the teacher warned me that belly dance was addictive. In the following years I acquired a cupboard full of costumes and accessories so she was proved right.
I subsequently discovered The Academy of Middle Eastern Dance, then in its infancy, had established classes in an inner city location at a Migrant Resource centre – a 45 minute drive from home.
Some evenings I set out already rather tired but once you don a hip scarf or belt and you get into the music and rhythms the tiredness magically disappears. Then one only has to cope with winding down when arriving home late at night thoroughly energized by the activity and the brain whirling with the music and still mentally rehearsing choreography.
I performed with my teacher’s group at a variety of events over a number of years. It’s such a spiritually uplifting high to see genuine excitement from an appreciative migrant audience at a multicultural event when performing dance styles of their region of the world.
I’ve always joked I was never young enough or blonde enough for the restaurant trade, and reminded my husband he brought late dinners on himself as without his encouragement I might never have taken up belly dancing.
Due to injury (admitting not getting younger) I quit classes two years ago – but I’m still a lounge room performer when familiar rhythms get me started – old habits die hard.
Curious to figure out how it was done I published a web page for one of the AMED bellydancer teachers in 1997, then another for the Academy. AMED organize great workshops with visiting teachers from USA and Egypt.
I have had both sites running ever since. My body may not be there all the time but I’m still involved, and hopefully contributing to promoting this beautiful dance to encourage others to enjoy also.