Why I love belly dancing

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Photo by Brooke Cagle 

I'm always one to have something on the go - there's been Buddhist meditation, 5Rhythms, full moon dancing, morning raving, flamenco, kundalini yoga and of course the obligatory salsa. So for 2017, it's out with the old and in with my new hobby - belly dancing.

There's something very liberating about shaking your wobbly bits about without inhibition, when in everyday life we have to hide our bodies and our femininity.

Women's physiques are so often shamed - as if everything's meant to be rock hard and neatly contained. Breastfeeding in public is frowned upon, mentioning periods is taboo and magazines humiliate less-than-perfect celebrities for 'flaunting' their figures aka daring to leave the house or God forbid sunbathe. Whether they're deemed too skinny or too bootylicious - female bodies are up for judgement. And women can be the harshest critics of ourselves and each other.

For many years, I wore black trousers and cardigans around my waist to disguise my bottom. But apparently my body still wasn't concealed enough. I was mortified on my journalism training course when my tutor took me aside and asked me to not wear v-necks, because my cleavage was 'distracting the class'. I couldn't help feeling resentful that a flat-chested woman wouldn't have been asked something similar. Luckily, intelligence or the ability to do a job is not inversely related to bra size.

Having reached an age of accepting that I'm never going to have a washboard stomach, buns of steel or straight silky hair,  I've given up on trying to conceal my imperfections. Those cardigans were never really me. So rather than hiding my derrière, I'm now adorning it with a sequinned hip belt and shimmying it about. I'm sure my journalism tutor would disapprove.

Belly dancing is all about the hips and the moves are designed to emphasise the natural movements of the female body. Curves are an advantage rather than a hindrance. Surrounded by women of all shapes, sizes and ages - there's no judgement. I love letting my inner Shakira out away from male eyes - just because it feels good. And who cares if my bottom wobbles like plate of jelly?

Moving my body always seems to get my creative juices flowing too.  My book characters talk to me while I swim lengths, poems come to me while I dance and blog posts appear in my mind while I run (the once a year I manage it!). So hopefully belly dancing will bring fresh inspiration. Maybe stories of sheikhs, harems and Arabian princesses...

And at least now if the writing fails, there's always a back-up career in a Turkish restaurant.
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