When I was in Lebanon, I asked my friends and family to take me to see a belly dancer. Their responses were: “They aren’t really around. It’s not a hugely popular thing over here. It’s looked down upon. Some women are prostitutes and they do it to make money. Some do it for entertainment at weddings.” I learned that in Lebanon, belly dance was not widely accepted as an open performance or fitness routine. It is still looked down upon by many.
In the United States, you’ll find the exact opposite. Many women in various states form troupes, attend classes, and perform on stage or restaurants, and some are booked to perform at special events across the world. American belly dancers may meet other dancers at various Belly Dance festivals and parties with exciting titles like Shimmy Shake Off or Belly Dancer of the Universe. It’s exciting, fun, and beautiful, and most importantly a celebration of unity. America is a melting pot made up of a blend of cultures, ethnicity, and religions. In America, belly dance is beautiful and fun and an opportunity to be creative with your life.
As I grew up in the United States in the 90s, my family had many parties: birthdays, holidays, religious celebrations, etc. We always played international music and some of the artists were: The Gypsy Kings, Fairouz, Julio Iglesias, Joe Dassin, and of course modern pop. I remember we hired a belly dancer to come to some of our parties, to make it fun and exciting. We socially belly danced and incorporated Latin styles and just had fun.
Today, I belly dance the Lebanese style for a few reasons: 1. It’s the dance that I can fully express myself with, since I tried other dances and felt like they were missing something. 2. Fitness and Health 3. I love listening to different types of music and exploring the art of interpretation, improvisation, and choreography and also just being in the moment, and 4. I feel connected to my roots.
What I have learned by putting my self out there, into the world, on social media, is that, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. People may not agree or like your story. They may judge your looks and intentions harshly. What matters most is the love I have for belly dance and to explore it as an art form. Belly dancing offers many positives in life: dancing, learning new movements and combinations, hearing other languages and instruments, having fun and shaking off stress.
I certainly hope to inspire women who want to embrace this beautiful art, wherever in the world they may be.