Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When a Belly Dancer isn’t Belly Dancing

I’m a belly dancer. I have been for many years. I spend time working on improving my technique and expression; I like to watch good dancers for pleasure and ideas; my leave is usually spent on belly dance related activities; my best clothes are belly dance costumes.

Yet, I am not belly dancing every time I dance. I take an exercise with dance class – yes, there is an occasional hip drop – but I’d say the class uses more Jazz aesthetic than Belly Dance.

Some years back I attended a gathering of women to celebrate the female divine. Arriving on a whim I didn’t know we were expected to bring gifts – some sang or recited poetry, some played music, - and I danced. I think I did a good job off the cuff to music I’d never heard before. But it is still slightly uncomfortable when I run into people who were present and get tagged as “that wonderful belly dancer”. I wasn’t belly dancing – I was just dancing.

Then, some times I’ve been at parties and asked to “do a belly dance”. Well, apart from the fact I normally charge to do that (are other people giving free medical consultations? fixing someone’s diff? perhaps, handing out samples of their merchandise?) – the music is all wrong. No, I don’t belly dance to “Copperhead Row”.

Belly dance isn’t just a bunch of moves. It involves an approach and musicality; it is tied to a culture. But more to the point, belly dancers are allowed to dance in other styles. There are belly dancers who also do Latin, Ceroc, ballet, jazz, line dancing, Highland … When they are doing these forms they may be still technically belly dancers – but they are no longer belly dancing.