Interpretive Belly Dance – The Right to be”You”Add to favorites
Interpretive Belly Dance – The Right to be “You”
Every year represents something that each of us holds dearly to our hearts. There are even those experiences that we let go of like dust in the wind. This year I decided to get back to my roots and talk about why I started belly dancing and what intrigued me about it in the first place. I know I stated in my bio that I saw belly dancing at age 6 and fell in love with it, that’s a given. But as I got older there was something else about it that caught my attention. I saw a chance to achieve my individual freedom to move and dance my way and be accepted for it. In my early years the women who stood out in my mind, understood their own unique style. They gave a different take on choreography and dance interpretation. These women have stayed with me all these years because they taught me it was okay to be me.
In the years that it has taken me to understand what my style is all about, I found that there was a price I paid for being “me.” As with any dance form it’s obvious there will be a multitude of opinions that are usually targeted at other people’s dance interpretation and preferences. Dancers tend to follow a doctrine that leaves little room for creative latitude especially if the style is not to their liking. In our world even though it gives the impression that creativity is welcome, there are obvious artistic guide lines everyone is expected to follow.
“As a solo performer sometimes we have to bloom and become one with our community besides being that individual flower” Leyla Najma
I’m not talking about the basic fundamentals of belly dance and good curriculum; I’m talking about a perceived ideology that women carry with them into this dance. Water seeks it’s own level so most dancer’s find their home or community that fits their lifestyle. When we mix ideologies and preferences together the guide lines become fuzzy. Everyone changes what they feel doesn’t fit their creative interpretation of what belly dance is for them. For instance, Tribal Belly Dance is beautiful but it’s not my thing. When I took Tribal in workshops I found it to be confining and confusing. I think the Tribal look with multiple layering and rich textures is eye candy for the soul but even with the vibrant colors it’s not how I choose to present my dance persona. It’s another world to me but one that is apart of belly dance. So I look at Tribal as my first cousin who displays the beauty of belly dance with refined eloquence. Tribal is the ancient sister to modern belly dance, obviously a family of unconventional traditions.
“Combining all of life experiences, lessons learned and not learned creates the most beautiful design of all; the individual dancer.” Leyla Najma
On my quest for finding the “me” in dance I realized that as I performed in shows, restaurants and nightclubs, I was molding and sculpting my dance persona as I went along. The end result was “me,” a dancer that had her own articulacy and style. This doesn’t mean that what I became was always accepted, what it does mean is that I had come full circle and brought to life my artistry in dance. When a dancer stops asking for permission to be creative then you know she has become her own masterpiece.
“Sometimes dancers are born molded and nurtured in the arts becoming the living essence of what they represent” Leyla Najma
The last couple of years have been very interesting for me because I have had problems with some dancers critiquing my on-line videos without even bothering to take a class. They have opinions based on those age old ideologies that they brought into this dance from the beginning. Empty words can echo into any community leaving impressions that aren’t based on personal experience rather personal insecurities. Allowing for creative expression seems to be a thing of the past. I think this is because there are so many dancers vying for the coveted limelight. Acknowledging another dancers success should be a right of passage especially since there are so many fantastic dancers performing now. Maybe it’s fear or self doubt that keeps dancers from giving each other a high five. What ever it is, it’s preventing success from becoming an everyday occurrence because ultimately success knocks at everybody’s door.
“If a woman asks you a question, it’s better to tell her the truth because chances are she’s asking you because she already knows the answer.” Unknown
Interpretive belly dance isn’t only about methodology and curriculums; it’s about incorporating life into your dance persona. The tricky part is making sure each movement and gesture is honestly who you really are. Dancing somebody else’s choreography is okay to learn from but eventually the movement has to make sense to your body by dancing it your way. Becoming “you” in belly dance means that music is interpreted without second guessing how you choreograph to what you hear. It’s beautiful to see dancers performing making movement second nature to the rhythm in the music.
“Walking the path as a dancer takes the same amount of steps as everyone else; it’s important not to compare your footprint with others.” Leyla Najma
Interpretive belly dance in today’s day and age is an expression of a modern day dancer who continually has questions but knows where to put the answers. Belly dance is as complicated or laid back as the individual dancer. How we stand up for our dance and self expression is as varied a statement to the dance world as the individual dancer. So this year I wish all of you a dance of great exploration and rewards. May the treasures you find lead you back to yourself, the greatest treasure of all!