Happy New Year everyone! I’d like to kick off this year with a rather inspirational post if I may. Resolutions are being churned out all over the place right now, and so many of them seem to involve weight loss and dieting and trying to make big physical changes. But is it always necessary to change how you look in order to change how you feel about yourself?
A few months ago the lovely Nina invited me along to a gathering at her house. She and the ladies that she belly dances with were having an informal meet up where they would be donating old bras that didn’t fit, learning more about belly dancing and I was to give a bra fit talk and fit anyone who would like to be fitted. I had a really great time and I was extremely pleased to be invited to their Christmas show. Mr FFFB and I attended and we were blown away at the talent. Women of all ages and sizes and shapes fearlessly took to the stage, some baring their stomach, some baring their legs, some covered up – and they all looked amazing! It was absolutely inspiring, and so I got in touch with Nina to find out a little more about her belly dancing experiences.
When did you first get into belly dancing and why?
I first started going to belly dance classes about five years ago. I wanted to do some form of exercise, I had tried going to the gym and various classes but found it an uncomfortable experience. My local gym was full of yummy mummies in stretch lycra with pert bums and washboard abs and this was something I was not. I was once on the ‘running’ machine (at a fast walking pace rather than a run) and a woman I had never met came up the machine and increased the speed, telling me I needed to ‘speed it up, just going for a stroll won’t do me any good’. It all seemed to be taken very seriously and was quite competitive and intimidating.
I stumbled across Chloe Dent’s (http://www.hipsinc.com/Chloe.html) belly dance classes in a fairly random search online, rang her up first, and she seemed so nice I thought I would give it a go.
The first thing that struck me was that Chloe herself was a voluptuous and curvaceous woman, not a size zero (basically she looked like me!). The class was made up of women of every shape, size and age you could imagine and was taught with such generosity and humour by Chloe, it just felt right, so I kept on going. Chloe is very supportive and encouraging to everyone that comes to the classes. She is a great teacher and a great dancer.
Did it change how you felt about your body?
Definitely YES. Although not immediately. It took me a while to get used to my boobs bouncing (a good bra is essential), or my thighs wobbling when trying to shimmy and to accept that this was not only ok but positively an asset!
The questions most women ask when they find out I do belly dancing are
Does it tone you up? Does is give you a flat stomach? Is it good for losing weight?
I never really know how to answer these specific questions as if you only go once a week, do no other exercise and don’t alter your diet, then nothing on its own will do these things, but for me that’s not the point.
The real answer is yes, a bit, but what it DOES do is make me feel really really good about me, just as I am!
The thing most women find the hardest when they first start class is to allow themselves to wobble! Women seem to spend most of their lives trying to stop their flesh from moving, we find our wobbly bits embarrassing, or disgusting. In belly dancing, if you have wobbly bits you learn how to wobble them to the music with grace and rhythm and then adorn them with sequins and sparkle!!
Belly dancing encompasses many varied styles of music and dance, there is a style to suit any body shape, age and personality. It gives you permission to feel beautiful exactly as you are.
The dancers that appeal to me the most are the ones who dance with intelligence, emotion and humour – ones appeal stops being just about the body and becomes more about your confidence and your personality.
Is the belly dancing community body positive?
For the most part absolutely yes!
The classes I attend and the events I go to are very body positive.
It is not size or shape that matters it’s how you dance. Everyone will have something unique and charming about the way they move and how they interpret the music and that is what matters.
Of course most of the international professional stars will have a more athletic dancer’s physique but this is because that is their job and their livelihood and they work extremely hard at it. It is, after all a physical job and their body will reflect that.
At the amateur level, it really is a dance for anyone and everyone. In life there will always be someone who will make unpleasant remarks about someone else’s size or shape, but I have found that in the belly dance community they are in the minority and that the overwhelming majority are welcoming of everyone, encouraging and positive. I have met many wonderful women through belly dancing that I never would have met in my ‘regular’ life. It has always been a most positive experience.
If you go to a class and are made to feel uncomfortable by either the teacher or the other members of the class then find another class! Belly dancing should make you feel womanly, sexy and confidant just as you are and it should be fun!
I have noticed that over time quite a few of the women in the class begin to take up other forms of exercise in addition to belly dancing and some change their diet. I think this happens not because anyone is made to feel the wrong size or shape, but because they start to feel good about themselves and to like the bodies they have and have the confidence to try something new.
Almost every woman says to me that they have always quite fancied having a go at belly dancing but haven’t because they could never show their belly.
The good news is you don’t ever have to!! (There is a wide variety of costume styles, and for class we just wear t-shirts and leggings) but in the end you will probably want to.
Or, that they would never want to perform – again good news. You don’t have to!! But eventually you will probably want to.
And, yes there are male belly dancers.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMlJemh-nLk – (my current crush)