Why I dance: a student’s perspective

Why I dance: a student’s perspective
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Why I dance: a student’s perspective by Sapphire

A few years ago I stepped into the world of belly dance. I fell into it, really, because I hadn’t intended to become a dancer. I was still getting used to being a new mom and discovering that I was physically never going to be the same again. I was primed to do something – anything – to get myself back in shape, and I needed to do something that was just for me. So I signed up for a beginning belly dance class, never dreaming how it would change my life.

Those first classes brought me smack up against the limitations of my own body. I had kind of expected that. After all, I already knew my body had gotten creaky, flabby, and weak from disuse. As I slowly began to reconnect with my physical being, I often felt like stiff clay trying to flow like water.

Sometimes trying to learn a new technique in class was downright frustrating. I felt blocked – my body was not picking up on the cues, not feeling the music, not flowing. And sometimes it was (and still is) just plain dirty. Grimy feet, sweaty clothes, mottled face, frizzed out hair, gasping breath – definitely not the picture of elegance!

I watched the advanced students in class with admiration, wishing I could be as graceful as they were. I certainly didn’t have any grand ideas of performing in front of an audience. It never occurred to me that I could be anything like the beautiful, powerful dancers we studied.

I knew getting back into shape wouldn’t be easy. I was beginning to realize that learning how to dance would challenge me in ways I had never imagined. But what I didn’t expect was just how much fun it could be. I had discovered something I could be good at – but more importantly, something that I enjoyed immensely. My body seemed to like this kind of motion – the rolling undulations, the soft, graceful curves, the strong belly core, the feeling of power and strength clothed in softness and femininity. It was fantastic!

Dancing sometimes feels like drawing shapes and lines in space using my body as the brush, feeling the flow of movement from one position to the next, like the passage of a brush across paper. I can move now in ways I never imagined were possible for me back then. And these days I’m finding the lines of dance in ordinary movement like sitting or walking or just standing still. When I remember those lines, any tension fades away and I feel completely at ease with myself.

The first time I felt touched by the joy of dance, I was practicing turns across the studio floor. With each turn, I opened up my arms and chest, as if to embrace the world or expand my space into the infinite. I could feel the smile all over my face. It was so spontaneous and I felt so free and alive. Somehow out of the stillness at the very center of that moment, I found my expression.  It startled me –  up till then, I didn’t know dance could be like that.

One of my sister dancers told me recently, you need to have your own compelling reasons to dance, especially for others, before you are going to feel like it’s the right thing for you to be doing. I think if I can keep touching that feeling of joy, of being totally in the moment while I’m dancing, then it won’t matter if I’m good at it. It will be good for me!

belly dancer veil

Sapphire has been a member of New Moon Belly Dance Troupe, directed by Mellilah, for the past 3 years.  When she’s not shimmying , Sapphire is a busy mom and works full time in environmental consulting. Belly dancing has given her an invaluable creative outlet and a huge boost in self confidence as well. She often finds herself shimmying in the kitchen, practicing hand florets at work (it’s great for relieving wrist tension), and dancing wildly to loud music with her family in the living room.

Did you enjoy this article? You might also like “A Blossoming Dream: One Student’s Story.”

Published on June 03, 2014

About Mellilah Jamal

Mellilah teaches belly dance classes in Redmond and Bothell and performs for private parties and restaurants throughout Seattle.

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