Empowerment of Bellydance

I swore I wouldn’t write another belly dance entry until the fall.  Summer is a dead season, and most dancers don’t want to dance, either in the studio with classes, or in our usual venues.  Air conditioning goes just so far, and the energy put out in practice or performance eats up ac fast.  You can never air condition a restaurant or club enough because patrons either freeze or the dancers sweat.  So the owners try to strike a happy medium, and usually the dancers lose this fight.

So summer is a dreaded and avoided season for belly dancers.  However, I have a student that has been constant since early this last spring.  Every Friday Aya (I’ll give her that name) comes at 10 am….and we have a great class.

When Aya started working with me, I wasn’t sure what I had in front of me.  I wasn’t sure just how much a dancer she would develop into.  But she had a background of ballet when very young (she’s in her mid 40’s), kick boxing, pilates and hot yoga.  For a couple of months she didn’t move in improv. except to move side to side.  That won’t make a dancer.  We worked on some core exercises:  hip drops, lifts, pelvic undulations, shimmies, some body line, snake arms, different core exercises.  The objective, or my objective….was to develop that ol’ black magic of ‘muscle memory’.

Very recently, Aya put it all together.  I’m not sure how that happened for her, but layering movements is hard for most beginning belly dance students.  I tried to ‘distract’ her from this tongue-biting concentration where she was trying sooooo hard to ‘get’ the particular movement, to learn to just trust her body, and in particular …muscle memory.

Today….it really kicked in.  I was so excited and proud of her.  Today she really became a dancer.

She and her husband have remodeled their attic so it’s offices and a longgggg room, rather narrow room perfect for dancing.  When we were finished with some core excercises, I called for her to start to ‘just dance’….trust her body and herself….and move forward down this long room.  She shook her head, claiming she didn’t know what to dance.  But I’m not a teacher to give up easily, and with lots of music, she started to dance….and started to move forward.

In some ways, moving forward down the floor is symbolic of ‘moving forward’.  Breaking self imposed boundaries,  breaking out of the ordinary ‘safe’ methods of living….and dancing.

She did it.  And she did it for a long, long time.  I realized once I started dancing in answer to her movements….setting some tempo, and just demonstrating some simple (and not so simple) layering of zone movements, that we both were getting into a particular ‘zone’.  That’s a mental state where you really are flying: you trust yourself enough to ‘let go’….not be aware of observers, or to be self-conscious, or to be shy, but just to fall into the beauty of what you are doing:  dancing in the most natural way you can possibly do.

Aya was flying: she was trusting herself in ways I had never seen in class before.  She was transforming her movements and really creating  sexy, sensual, enticing dance.  Which is in part what belly dance is about.

I was using zils…those finger cymbals that help set and command rhythm.  I realized my zil usage was changing as we both danced. For some reason it enhanced my own movements….and I think this was because the energy Aya was producing was pushing me to higher levels.  I was actually beating counter-rhythms to the music that I usually don’t trust myself to do.  It wasn’t consistant, but the magic of our dual energy was clearly a leading part of the class.

Dripping with sweat, our hair wet with it, after two hours which is one hour more than we should be dancing for class….we talked a little bit about the empowerment of belly dance.  It is something I know exists…and something I would hang my hat upon.  But when it is discovered by a new dancer,….and I can call Aya a dancer now…not just a student….it is wonderful for both the new dancer and the teacher.  It’s a special bond…this recognization of this power….this so-natural but so distrusted beauty within all of us women.

The beauty for me is this is empowerment that comes from within and can be relied upon at any age.

During the July 4th weekend, I was down in Savannah, Ga. at my mother’s 90th birthday bash.  My mother started ballet at 5 years, with the then-obligatory Russian teachers.  She taught until she was in her mid 80’s.  I was amazed how well the old dame has held up.  But funny enough, she said “Oh, I can teach belly dance.  I have these decades of ballet.”

I laughed.  I started out in ballet with her, but flopped out of the class….numerous times.  Belly dance is a very different strain of dance and movement.  My mother is stiff, not with age, but with the rigidity of ballet in the torso.  A few passes with some demonstrated (belly dance)  movements, she started to realize this was a very different kettle of fish.  I just wish she wouldn’t equate belly dance with pole dancing…..

But I think for the first time in her life, she saw her daughter competent enough as a dancer to befuddle her.  It is a world apart, these two forms of dance, but there are some wonderful connections.

But Aya came to the realization that it was all about empowerment…a very different empowerment than kickboxing, yoga or pilates….but a beautiful and confidence building empowerment.

That ain’t bad for a morning’s discovery.

Lady Nyo

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6 Responses to “Empowerment of Bellydance”

  1. Malcolm Miller Says:

    A delightful account of your uncovering of a talent in a student! How I wish I could see some belly dancing, but, alas, it seems to have disappeared from any local venues and I haven’t seen any for more than ten years.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Malcolm!

    Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Always appreciated….especially in this heat!

    Surely there is belly dancing in Canberra? Look up some local Lebanese or Turkish restaurants….they usually have a belly dancer on the weekends….I do hope you find a venue that does, because there is such a joy in watching a good dancer….hell, any belly dancer. As long as she is moving!

    There is something so wonderful when a new student jumps from student to dancer…and today Aya really did this. I felt so …..well, I was so mama-proud of her!
    She’s got a tremendous amount of energy, and once she began to trust herself, she really surprised me.

    This is the part of teaching I didn’t know before I began. It’s only been two years now…actually a year and half, but it has got its own rewards. I firmly believe that every woman has the potential to belly dance, but so many let weight and figure issues and shyness stop them.

    Confidence comes pretty fast when you are on fire. Aya continues to impress and amaze me.

    Lady Nyo


  3. bren Says:

    Hi Jane! Great teaching experience. Your email is bouncing back again.



  4. ladynyo Says:

    Hi Bren!


    LOL!…well, it really was an exhausting day…but a good one. Teaching has become such a kick….something I didn’t realize I would enjoy to such an extent. I learn as much as I teach here….and watching students bloom in the discipline is wonderful.



  5. Margie Says:

    You seem to enjoy teaching as much as, I imagine, your student enjoys learning. That is a lucky happenstance, indeed! If we lived closer I would definitely want you as my teacher, but I AM having some fun with a few videos I’ve picked up along the way. I also watch Shimmy on FitTV (cable) and Roger is very entertained by my practicing in front of the TV!


  6. ladynyo Says:


    Hey Margie! Men are soooo easily entertained….LOL!

    Well, I try not to be a drill sergeant…..I don’t go for perfection, because there ain’t none in belly dance. It’s all about the individual performer….we don’t try to do ‘lock step’.

    My Friday student (Aya) read my blog entry about her and glowed. She should. She is working very, very hard, and I am amazed that she’s not whining.

    We have covered a lot, even though I was feeling that we were not going far or fast enough, but after yesterday, I can see that these months of developing muscle memory is working.

    I wish we both lived closer, coz, because I would love to have you for a student!

    One thing I have learned….we all are learning even if we don’t look like we are: as long as we move, there is this wonderful stuff….the body developing coordination and the muscles developing memory.

    It’s an honor to teach….I just hope I don’t get stagnant. Through this endeavor, I learn as much as they do.

    Thanks, Margie for reading and leaving a comment. And keep going with those videos. I learned more from a few videos where I could rewind and play again, than I think of some classes in a studio!



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