Ask the Professional Belly Dancer

Everyone else has an “Ask the” thread but me, so here goes.

Let me answer a few things right off the bat.

It’s not stripping. It’s not done solely for the titillation of the watcher. It’s a cultural thing- not just for women.

Do you teach?

How long did you take classes before you started dancing professionally?

Do you do anything else for a living (dance being only part of your income)?

Are you of middle-eastern heritage at all?

What style?

Can not…Control…Thoughts…

My head is filled with images…


Ethnic or cabaret?

I do teach. I danced for about two years, learning by watching, before I took a year of actual lessons, then I began teaching informally for a year, then started a formal class.
I had danced about five years before I had my first professional performance. I think of myself as more of a teacher than a solo “bellygram” type person. I also do cultural and arts event performances and Rennaissance Faires.
I am also a henna artist and sell henna supplies.
I’m pretty much standard American of Irish-Welsh descent. Pale skin, brown eyes, hennaed red hair but without the henna it’s wheat colored.
I have my own style. It’s very similar to Saidi Egyptian in that it’s very hip-oriented. I know several bits of various styles and dance turkish-esque to folkloric turkish music, and egyptian-esque to ethnic egyptian music.

I prefer “folkloric”, which means ethnic music and dance ornamentation and clthing based on ethnic dress but glitzier.
I also teach and dance in the SCA (where my presona is NOT “a dancer”, thank you!) and there I am a stickler for as-correct-as-I-came make it.

Wanna see pictures?

Depending on the images, you could be pretty far off, which is why I started this thread.
Take a look here:
This is not my performance clothing but it is me.

One of my teen magazines awhile back had an article about doing belly-dancing for excercise, and said that it helped tone muscles. Now, seeing as I don’t excercise much, I was wondering if you knew of any websites with a kind of “how to” thing for belly dancing? It would only be for excercise, and sounds like fun. Oh, and what music do you dance to?

CBS’ Early Morning show this morning had something about doing this for fitness. You can read more about it by clicking right here.

I was flipping channels and saw these belly dancers and one of them said “and it is also great for sex.” The hosts looked like somebody had just said something “naughty” or something!

I dance to whatever moves me. I actually started selling some of the artists that are independent and harder to find, such as Solace and Turku. I really like Natasha Atlas, Hossam Ramzy, Elvia, and Culture Club.
I don’t EVER exercise. I dance for fun. If you hate the drudgery of aerobics, then dance is for you.
However, you will be training your body into a new form, and you WILL need a teacher. It’s possible that repeated stretching of the wrong muscles could damage you. Try for a worldwide teacher listing, or if you’re withink a couple hours of New York, try, or if in New England, try You also learn much faster with a teacher.

The Truth: one of the dance moves, the full-body undulation, tones the pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that support you when you’re pregnant, keep your pee in your bladder until you release it, and help in actual childbirth to get the kid out easier and faster. It is also (in men and women) the muscle which more than any other controls the naughty bits. You can actually massage your partner during sex… internally… if you have conscious control.





[hijack]That sounds similar to Kegel exercises, which some women do for similar reasons. They can be done merely while sitting, however, and don’t involve any external movement. I can see why the full-body undulation would involve those muscles, though.[/hijack]

OK, thats it, I wanna learn to belly dance!

Seriously though, we were at a restaurant last year, and there were several dancers there who were very good. But the real showstoppers were the women in the audience who got up to join them. Most of them were older, like grandmother-older, none were what you’d call statuesque or stunningly beautiful. But they were the most sensual women I have ever seen!

Do you have any idea how extensively belly dance schools are in the U.S.? I know they’re in all the major cities, but I have the impression they also exist in most smaller cities, too.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff about belly dancing online and I was wondering if it represented a real cultural trend reflected in the real world, or just the increased visibility of subcultures thanks to the Web.

That is, is belly dancing really growing rapidly as it appears to be, or am I mistaken?

Full disclosure: I’m writing a novel about a private eye who’s looking for a kidnaped bellydancer --I’m about 75,000 words into it-- and I’ve done a fair amount of research but am always interested in new sources. Ive not been able to get a handle on the popularity thing, however.

If I wanted to become a professional belly dancer… starting from scratch, what would I have to do and how long would it take me to do it?
Also, is it one of those things I would have needed to started 10 years ago? Is there an upper age limit for a beginning professional? (well, not “limit” but point where people will think it odd that you’re at “your age” and just beginning, instead of at “your age” but have been doing this for years)

Exactly the same muscle and the same effect- just a lot more fun to dance them stronger. I was never good at remembering to do the squeezing thing while sitting at traffic ilghts or whatever but I performed two weeks before my last son was born.

That’s one of things I treasure most about this dance. Because it is made of natural movements (not exaggerated or unnatural like ballet) you can do it forever and your technique never suffers. ALso, because it is a personally expressive dance, the more life experience you have, the more you can express. I have seem plenty of pretty, cute, talented 20-somethings (and I’m 29 now) but my favorite dancers are in their 50s, and two are pushing 70.
It looks sensual because it feels so good to do. Your body becomes the music. Imagine the music’s joy at being played- that’s what I feel when I dance.

Reply to dance schools and how to get started:

First try for a listing of hundreds of teachers worldwide. If no luck, look in your Yellow Pages under entertainment and call anything that lists belly dancing and tell them you have some questions for the dancer and could she call you. Don’t expect to get her number from the service but they’ll usually give her yours. If she doesn’t teach, she will probably know who does. Ask at a local ethnic restaurant, too.

There is no upper age for dance. My favorite student was 50 when she started. She was an awful dancer but so beautiful to watch because she was having so much fun. My best students were 61 and 23. I encourage people to start young because you get the benefits during childbirth, but you’re never too old.
So far as performance goes, my fiftyish friend gets ethnic gigs all the time. For restaurants, they tend to go for the young and cute because that’s what they think Americans want, but not always. You can find performance space in charity and arts gigs and at fairs and dance parties. Your teacher will know.