Belly Dance

June 14, 2009 by Susan Cypher  
Published in Lifestyle

The growth of belly dancing, as it relates to the rise of the goddess and the sacred feminine.

I want to start this article with the view of a small girl, a girl dancing around the room. She wears her sister’s skirt and imagines herself dancing in far-away lands. She has in her hand a scarf that she twirls and twirls, spinning around the room. In her mind, she is exotic (though at the tender age of 6, she doesn’t know that word), beautiful. She dances in the palaces only heard of in children’s tales. She dances joyfully. In the child, you can see the woman she will someday become. She is already a lover of dress up, of movement, of jewelry. That girl is the author, and her love of movement has never diminished.

Over the past several years, I have become acquainted with the power of belly dance in the average woman’s life. Fairly new on the scene, or at least new to our small valley, is tribal belly dance. The thing that I have noticed is a push back against the ever-so-thin style of ballet that was advanced as “the thing to do” when I was a child growing up. Myself, I have a strong history of dance, mostly modern and jazz, and, being a woman of some size, ran afoul of that particular prejudice against true woman-shaped dancers. If someone had a weight problem, breasts that were larger than average, or she was too tall, she was not encouraged to be a dancer–or at least a ballet dancer, especially professionally. Dancers, for years, have been encouraged to be a certain shape and size. There was even a story (this was a news story I remember from 60 minutes) about women who had collagen injected into their lips and had bone removed in order to look like a particularly favored famous ballet dancer. It was difficult to be a plus-size dancer back then because the scene was not one in which being able to dance well was the ultimate deciding factor, it was how you looked. One of the most beautiful women I know ran into trouble because of the size of her chest. She persisted and even started her own dance group, while I moved to dance types that were a little more tolerant if you didn’t look anorexic. However, in college, it was clear that to go pro, you couldn’t look like me. 

Now there is belly dance. Small women, big women, all women are accepted and encouraged in this type of dance. One of my favorite names of a dance group is “Fat Chance Belly Dance,” and this group sort of formed the template and set down the rules, according to what I have learned, as to the moves that define American Tribal Style. As you can guess, in this troupe the women are of various sizes, beautiful in motion, comfortable (or getting comfortable) with their own bodies. My own dance troupe is a cross-section of body styles and ages, as well. My teacher long and lean, and young. My dance sisters are older and younger, short, willowy, pudgy, voluptuous. In tribal fusion, our style of belly dance, there are elements of jazz, ATS (American Tribal Style), cabaret, modern, and even a little ballet. As its name suggests, the styles are fused. We learn the basic elements of ATS, and then add on.

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One Response to “Belly Dance”
  1. Dejah Says:

    “Beautiful, exotic and complete..” Thank you Susan. You summed it all up.

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