was love at first sight. Watching my first Bellydance performance was like being re-united with an old and intimate lover.
The movements and music captured my heart and from that day on I was taken on an uncharted and life-changing journey.
I tried to get away a few times, thinking that I was meant to go in another direction, but the dance always pulled me back.
It became something that I did not want to live without.
The beauty and power of Oriental Dance has taken many of us, calling forth our inherent femininity and speaking
to our souls. It has empowered us from the inside, reflecting back to us the truth of who we are through it's flowing
and fluid movements. In the midst of our daily lives among computers, traffic, corporate fashion and the many roles that we
play each day, it has given us the opportunity to love our curves, ourselves and our sensuality. It has created an avenue
to express what has often been repressed and to awaken what has been aching to come alive.
Sometimes, in our quest to achieve technical prowess and create dazzling
performances, we take alot about this dance for granted. We all agree that it makes us feel so much better and more
alive and the exercise gurus would say that it's just those endorphines being stimulated. but those of us involved
in this art form know that it is much more than that. As I've looked through my notes, reviewed testimonials from other
dancers and students and looked back over my many years of performing and teaching, what I have realized is very clear.
Bellydance is different from other dance forms in that it is uniquely healing and empowering in ways that I feel are
important for us to explore.
Some of the
benefits are obvious. Women throughout history, from the most primitive to modern cultures, have loved to adorn themselves
and their environments. The dressing up, costuming and exotic images that are a part of this dance and it's culture, satisfy
our intrinsic need to decorate, beautify, and embellish. We cherish the many new friendships that are developed and the feelings
of bonding and sisterhood. In fact, a UCLA study on friendships between women reveals that "friendships between
woman causes a greater release of oxytocin, a hormone which counters stress and has a calming effect." It is said that
this may be one of the reasons that women consistently outlive men.
The deep abdominal breathing that accompanies many of the movements, soothes and nourishes our nervous
systems, so important in our culture of shallow chest breathers. Lifting the rib cage and the upper body isolations
expand breathing and lung capacity and can reverse the effects of having been hunched over the computer or steering wheel
all day. It's wonderful to see this change in posture create a more regal and confident appearance.
The slow snakey movements have a power of their own. They force us
to slow down no matter how busy or chaotic our day has been. The fluid softness of ripples and waves elasticizes our body
as tension melts away. For myself, some of the most profound moments are during the slow dance sequences when I touch upon
an inner stillness, a luxurious and rejuvenating reprieve which brings renewed vitality and creativity.
often, a scattered, busy mind is organized by the astute focus it takes to do the moves that we do. The attention to
detail, alignment, posture, isolations and layering, create a body-mind connection that is quite phenomenal. Engaging core
muscles for intricate movements creates a deep inner strength and the undulations, figure eights, and circles massage internal
organs while balancing energy flows and meridians. Stiff necks can be relieved and carpal tunnel syndrome prevented
by working with wrist circles and waves throughout the hands and into the shoulders.
Shimmies are energizing,
grounding, and one of the best ways I have found to 'shake off the blues'. They help us find the groove between control
and letting go, teaching us to relax while in motion. Wouldn't it be great if we could have movement breaks instead
of coffee breaks in the workplace. Many repetitive motion injuries and stress related illnesses could be reduced and
Veil dancing taps us into
our gentleness. The way a silk veil moves through the air and the feeling of the fabric touching skin transforms a roomful
of tense, anxious people into soft and floating butterflies. Aggression and anger, channeled into sharp hip and pelvis movements, are
turned into power and passion. Harsh emotions can then be softened by softening the intensity of the movement.
The diversity in the music leads us through an array of different
tempos and feelings (slow, sensual, lively, joyful, soft, subtle, sharp, dynamic, snakey) often within one dance. The many
changes that the music asks of us break us out of our familiar patterns and habitual ways of moving. Hypnotic rhythms and
otherwordly sounds take us into altered states, a vacation of sorts, tapping us into more intuitive ways of thinking and
And then, of course, there
is performing. Performance artistry and theatre have always been a powerful communicative resource for communities
and society at large. I see performing as a co-journey that creates an intimate connection between the
performer and audience. The states of mind and healing feelings that we feel when performing are felt by the audience
as well. Part of the beauty of performing, for me, is to have the opportunity to share the magnificence of our dance while expressing my
passion and joy, the same passion and joy that resonates in the hearts of all people. Dance gives us a universal language
that goes beyond cultures and ethnicities. To speak with our body in this way allows us to communicate
from the deepest part of ourselves.
now, I've just skimmed surface of how our dance can and does heal the body, mind and spirit. Still to be explored
are the benefits of zill playing, sword balancing, trance dancing, expression of our sexuality and so many other aspects
that have personal therapeutic as well as global value. As we, the dancers of this dance know, the list goes on
and on. I see an immense amount of untapped potential still to be uncovered and look forward to
the day when our exquisite 'Ancient Dance' is finally revered as a fine art and a healing art in it's
On this, I am sure we
agree---Oriental Dance is a great gift for us all.