Saturday, October 16, 2010

Acceptance in Movement

In any state of being, there are bound to be disagreements. In nature a collision of atoms creates both life and vastly destructive storms. In beasts a confrontation may arise from a need to claim a territory or a mate. In humans, because we have the gift of thought and freewill, the results are varied and far reaching - from opening doors for new opportunities to closing entire sections of someone’s life.

Bellydance is a personal journey and is different for every individual who experiences it. For some it becomes an entire subculture of their lives consuming their waking moments through thought and action (and shopping!). For others it’s simply something to try or passing fad. Still others may find themselves somewhere in between the mix.

The people who become embraced within bellydance choose to follow one of the many schools of thought surrounding this multicultural art form or they create their own ideal and niche. Some view it as a chance to learn about another culture’s rites of passage, customs, and lifestyle. Some choose to use it as an opportunity for self-growth in mind-body-spirit health and wellness. Some experience it through the simple sheer joy of movement!

Within bellydance, as in any multifaceted, long-standing activity, there are naturalists (the people who want the art to stay as it has always been, or how they believe it has always been) and fusionists (the people who choose to take what they know about one art and fuse it with what they know about other arts and possibly throw in some of their own personal flare along the way). To many naturalists, those who fuse are viewed as a threat to the sacredness of the puritanical form. To the fusionists, the individuals who choose not to deviate may be seen as unaccepting, intolerant, and unwilling to change.

The key is to acknowledge the strengths of both groups and to accept of both schools of thought. Additionally, one needs to be knowledgeable of where they come from and the opportunities available for themselves and others. What one person chooses as their “right” may not (and often will not) be the same “right” for someone else.

Look at something as trivial as toilet paper selection - hard or soft; giant roll or standard size; dispense with sheets rolling off top or pulling underneath; buy one pack of four rolls or stock quantity; store under sink, on back of toilet or in special holder? It’s TP; who cares! Many people. In fact, so many in results in heated debates, outright arguments, and in some instance could be the final straw to break the camel’s back. And that’s just with toilet paper. Now imagine all the “rights” within someone’s personal scope of bellydance. Not only are their more variances, it is also a much more personal act and choice. It is a way of life embraced with mind, body, and soul. It doesn’t take much, then, to wonder why so many are easily offended within this community.

So what do we do? We must remain vigilant in our tolerance and acceptance of others who choose a different style of bellydance or who choose to embrace the art form in an alternate fashion than our own. We also have to recognize what we do may not always be a good fit for others so we have to be open to others exploring and finding what’s a “right” choice for themselves.

For those of us who choose to teach, we have to share with students the various bellydance schools of thought, what we follow and why, and then allow them to experience and choose. If a student breaks off from our class and pursue their own journey, we need to both encourage and embrace them. We can offer guidance and recommendations (such as alternate teachers, continued workshops, and always stressing the importance of constantly increasing skills through additional training).

For those of us who are students, we have to be open to more than one style of bellydance and embrace the full spectrum of our local, national, and worldwide dance community. We need to be respectful of our dance ancestors as well as our current teachers. We should seek their guidance and wisdom with an open heart and a willingness to trust them to guide us. If we choose to branch out into the realm of teaching, we must recognize it is significantly different than being a student. We must also then be upfront and forthcoming with our students regarding our own school of thought, training, and experience. And if a student wants to train with someone else, we should be the first to offer them introduction and recommendation of other teachers.

This passion and life we call bellydance spans centuries of time, varied cultures, a plethora of countries, and an ever-increasing community of diverse women (and men). Let us respect, honor, acknowledge, accept, and love one another.

May we find connection in the movement and friendship in the dance!


  1. From your mouth to the communities' ears! It makes me so sad when someone says "Tribal isn't bellydance" or "Oh, she does *cabaret*" with a sneer. I don't expect everyone to LIKE other styles, just to be polite and accepting that the people who perform it love what they do.

  2. Being a dancer for 14 years, I have taken ballet, ballroom, and now, belly dance. I have experienced first hand how "tolerant" some dancers are towards others, and decided against joining a specific school BECAUSE the woman who runs it practically shunned the troupe i'm in because we weren't tribal. And that was just wrong, and we all agreed that we wouldn't dance with them again. That's sad because it should be a networking experience. But earlier this year, we went to perform at a DIFFERENT tribal studio, and was welcomed with warm and open arms!

    A sister dancer was told once that she was "too fat" to be in a troupe! Personally i think its better to have a little extra so one can SEE the movements and the belly rolls and the full body shimmies.
    But it is what it is, and you expand and perform with those that treat each other with love respect and friendship.

  3. That was the single best take on this subject I have EVER read. Hitting the nail on the proverbial head. Thank you :)

  4. Such a good comment, AJ. It totally can go either way. While I've certainly felt a certain amount of snootiness from a few cab dancers, we tribal girls should be very careful to not fall into this trap, too! I know several cab and folkloric dancers who've been hurt by that!

  5. Very well written. These are words that some dancers need to hear and be reminded of (with gentle nudging and much love).

  6. Thank you to each and every one of you for reading and for your kind words!