Thursday, October 1, 2015

Aging and Belly Dance


Back when I first started this blog, I wrote a post about why I love belly dance. To this day, it's continued to be one of the most popular posts on this site.  However, I was reflecting on this topic recently, and realized there is another big reason why I love belly dance that wasn't included in that original post.

The reason is this: belly dance is open to women (and men) of all ages.

You can start at any age and you can stop at any age.

In many dance forms, ballet especially, if you don't start training as a small child, your body won't develop in accordance with the structure needed to execute the dance at a proficient level. Ballet dancers have to work to change the body's natural state so that the legs can work while turned out from the hip, the feet can carry the weight of the body while balanced on the toes, and body fat stays lean for ease of executing jumps, partner work, and aesthetics. Due to the grueling and taxing nature of the dance, many ballet dancers peak young, frequently in their 20s to 30s, leading them to the path of early retirement (at least as performers).

Belly dance is quite the opposite. Belly dance doesn't required any reshaping of the body. It works with the body's nature alignment and composition, and thus allows dancers to start at any age. In fact, most belly dancers do not start as children or even teenagers. Most start in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, like myself, who started when I was 26.

I also appreciate the fact that belly dancers aren't forced into early retirement. I see belly dancers in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond still regularly teaching, performing, or participating. Usually the attitude I see toward "older" dancers is one of appreciation as wise and experienced voices in the community, as women to be looked up to and emulated for their nuanced and intricate skill at performing and emoting. These are the women who are sought after as teachers and mentors, rather than being issued an expiration date.

Living daily in a culture that revers and worships youth, this opposite attitude enveloped in the belly dance community is a breath of fresh air. It's a wake up call for women to embrace and appreciate themselves and their bodies, knowing that their worth doesn't decline with age.  Age and value aren't correlated like advertisers and popular culture want us to believe.

This is why I love belly dance. As I grow older, belly dance grows with me. It's an art form that is continuously broadening and awakening, allowing me to fall more fully into my authentic self. Leaving judgments behind and embracing and supporting the individuality I continue to excavate. Regardless of age, I know that belly dance will always be there for me when I reach for it,

Photo Credit: Painted by Corporate Art Task Force and available on FineArtAmerica


8 comments:

  1. At 68, I'm not dancing anymore only because I don't have anyone, a group, to dance with... Small town.

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  2. I started bellydancing when I was 20. I find it a wonderful way to express myself, fully and joyfully. It helps me relax my body and mind and get in touch with my graceful soul. Though bellydancing is not my profession, I practise every day. It would add a new dimension to every woman's life.

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  3. I agree with you. Just feel older dancers need to understand what they can do and what not to do. We change as we age whether we like it or not. Those changes do not look good in 2 piece costumes. Also some Beledi dresses are not for older people. I started in the 70s. I still perform but am careful of what I wear and much as it hurts I realize I cannot do the slow beautiful pieces that I find so moving and emotional. So, I do folklore dances from Lebanon. I am covered, I am not trying to be sensual. I am enjoying the dance and the audience. It is different yes but still I do it. We have to grow in our dance as we age. I still teach most days of the week. I love this dance and still have so much to share.

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  4. I agree with you. Just feel older dancers need to understand what they can do and what not to do. We change as we age whether we like it or not. Those changes do not look good in 2 piece costumes. Also some Beledi dresses are not for older people. I started in the 70s. I still perform but am careful of what I wear and much as it hurts I realize I cannot do the slow beautiful pieces that I find so moving and emotional. So, I do folklore dances from Lebanon. I am covered, I am not trying to be sensual. I am enjoying the dance and the audience. It is different yes but still I do it. We have to grow in our dance as we age. I still teach most days of the week. I love this dance and still have so much to share.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was a bellydance teacher for a long time. I retired at 62, I am now 71. At 62 I found my students really needed a younger teacher... It was brilliant whilst it lasted...
    Roz

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  6. I agree with both Digital Art and Drummer and Dancer. I too am now 62. I still teach 9 dance classes and 2 drumming classes per week as well as workshops. My brain and passion is still so very much in the dance but my body is beginning to feel it. I have passed our business over to my daughter and want to retire but my students don’t want me to yet. They keep asking me to stay longer. Their argument..... the younger teachers seem to be more interested in themselves than in their students...... they don’t have the knowledge...... they can’t differentiate between the styles and music correctly. I must admit that since I came to the US and attend workshops here, this has also been my experience from time to time with some “ superstar instructors”. This recognition of my years of hard work is a wonderful feeling for me but I do feel that the time has come. I have never been a fan of cabaret style performance as most of my training was done in the Middle East in the communities with the local people as well as some masters. I have done cabaret on request but rarely wear bedlah. I prefer the Egyptian cabaret dresses or the folkloric costuming. I have scaled my performances back some and hope to retire completely from the company at the end of this school year. I will always be available for advice and will remain the artistic director for the advance dancers and our performance group. I will also continue to drum for them and myself for as long as possible. That way, I will always be part of the the dance and my passion can live on.

    ReplyDelete
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