May 16, 2006

Love your belly

Until now, my belly dancing class has been all women – mainly women in their twenties and thirties – but recently, two little girls joined the class. Their mother had brought them to one of our belly dancing parties, and they had been fascinated with the dancing, the rhythmic music, and the costumes. Belly dancing costumes are colorful and sparkly, with lots of flowing material. My pantaloons have five yards of material on them. Hip scarves are often lined with dangling coins that make cool noises as you move your hips.

The little girls begged their mother to talk to our instructor to let them into the class, and she said, "Sure. Let them try it."

I knew they would like the second part of class, which is lively and fun, when we dance in a circle and play the zills, but during the first half, we do stretches, and drills, and learn new moves. Learning to belly dance means isolating muscles, and the drills are not that exciting. It can be silly too – a whole room full of half-naked women just moving one hip, or one butt cheek, or just her chest and nothing else. Often after we work one muscle intensely, the instructor will tell us to rub the muscle or stretch it out or shake it out. When we do belly rolls, for instance, we always end with the instructor was saying, "Rub your belly! Love your belly!" while we all relax and rub our bare bellies.

I wondered if the first part of class would bore the little girls, but they did great. They stared intently at the instructor, who is an absolutely beautiful young woman, and followed right along. After the class was over, I walked out with their mother into the beautiful spring evening, and I could hear the two girls as they skipped ahead of us on the sidewalk, giggling and shimmying. They were chanting as they moved along: "Love your belly!"

20 comments:

turtlebella said...

So nice for these little girls to learn to love their bellies early on. I took belly dancing last year and I still don't quite love my belly! Perhaps if, as a young woman, I had taken it instead of ballet (where the focus was always on being as thin and strong and flexible as possible and you were never quite enough of any of them) I would have a better self-image now. As always, I wish I was a participant in one of your stories, jo(e).

Kate said...

That is one of the most hopeful images. How lovely, jo(e)! Thanks for sharing.

I'll try and love my belly just like them.

RageyOne said...

What a moving story! Makes me want to take a belly dancing class.

Scrivener said...

I would have thought that this was an inspiring, positive post. But for some strange reason, that line "love your bellies" reminded me of Baby Suggs' sermon in Beloved, which is also a positive image of a sort, but with an underlying image of fear and oppression. So now I've got that running through my head, so, if it's not too awful much of a stretch, all I can think about as I read this post is all of the forces lined up in opposition to girls being able to love their bellies.

Sarah Sometimes said...

Very sweet!

Peri said...

How wonderful of your class (and instructor) to take the girls into your group. They will never forget it. Thanks for brightening my day with your story.

comebacknikki said...

So wonderful for these little girls to get such positive reinforcement of their bodies.

I've been belly dancing for almost five years and I still don't have that love my belly attitude. Perhaps if I had started belly dancing earlier in my life, I would have a betty body image.

comebacknikki said...

That was supposed to say "better" body image. Although maybe betty had a better image that I do. :)

Sue said...

What a beautiful way to teach young women to love their bodies. Hooray for their mom and the instructor for letting them experience the class.

zelda1 said...

Young girls in a rich enviornment. Only good can come from this.

ccw said...

So sweet! I need to make that my mantra.

Psycho Kitty said...

This just makes me want to shout--in a good way. :)

liz said...

Everybody else said what I was going to.

How great for young girls to be in a class that, unlike gymnastics and ballet, actually celebrates the female body.

Jenevieve said...

Scrivener, that's what I was reminded of as well!

Sally said...

absolutely brilliant- what a healthy concept of your own body at such a young age!

Liesl said...

What a healthy thing for little girls to hear. The world abounds with bad body image talk, and a message to the contrary is important.

Rana said...

:) I love your dance instructor. (Did you know that my nephew's mother teaches belly dance?)

Alas, when I tried belly dancing, although the teacher was nice, she also believed that if you wanted to be "good" you had to have more "meat on your bones" than I was capable of. I suppose that's why I haven't sought out a class since. :(

Friday Mom said...

What a great experience for those little girls. May it help reinforce positive images of their bodies for life.

MonkeyPants said...

What a fabulous experience for those little girls!

I haven't been to a class in a year, but still belly dance in my living room. My teacher was (I think) 63 when she retired. She'd been belly dancing for almost forty years and to this day, she's one of the sexiest women I've ever met. Simply because she is so in touch with her body, and loves it not despite of its age, but because of its age. it's been her constant companion on the journey of life, and she cherishes that.

This is an attitude I would do well to cultivate.

kate5kiwis said...

this comments page is filled with so much girl power.. women affirming each other. i feel fabulous now!! and i agree that the young girls will be gaining so much wisdom and life from dancing with the older chicks... very cool.