Want To Learn Belly Dancing? Here are 7 Things You Need to Know
Updated: Jun 29
One of the most beautiful classical dance forms of the Egyptian culture, Belly dancing is loved by millions today. While many cultures argue that belly dancing originated in their respective societies, the Arab empire is known to have spread this art form.
Belly dance today has been popularized globally by artists like Rihanna, Beyoncé, Fergie, however it is Shakira, who led this dance to position it as her trademark, with her songs Whenever Wherever and Ojos así, however, thanks to the song Hips Don't Lie, her hip dance skills became known worldwide.
Belly Dancing has evolved to take many different forms depending on the country and region, both in costume and dance style; with the Egyptian styles and costumes being the most recognized worldwide.
Over the past few years- belly dance in India has gained popularity with songs and performances in TV and films. And with time- with more and more people learning this super cool and trendy dance form, it is making its way into the Indian masses.
Are you someone who has been thinking about learning belly dance but don’t know how to get started? Then this article is for you.
To share some practical advice with you, we Interviewed Hema Negi a Mumbai based HR professional and an established belly dance practitioner and sought her expert opinion.
So here are 7 things you need to know about before learning Belly Dancing.
Disclaimer: The article gets interesting with each point as Hema shares her experiences from her 6-year long journey into belly dance- an art form she believes changed her life.
1. First Things first- let's talk basics: Belly dance, more correctly referred to as oriental dance, is an Arabic expressive dance that has its origins in Egypt since the ancient times. It is primarily a torso-driven dance, with an emphasis on articulations of the hips. Unlike many Western dance forms, the focus of the dance is on isolations of the torso muscles, rather than on movements of the limbs through space. Some of the most popular ones include American Cabaret, Egyptian (raqs sharqi) and the tribal.
2. How do I start? All learnings start with finding a good school or a teacher.
While there were not many avenues available in India to learn belly dancing until a few years ago- today the story is different. There has been a lot of movement in the belly dancing space in the country and a number of amazing belly dance instructors have popped up over the last few years. Hema suggests that the best way to find a good instructor is by attending a trial class by a few different instructors and see if your vibe and energy match with your teacher. It would also be great to look at their past teaching experience. And yes- don’t forget to talk to the peeps already learning there. Hema’s recommendation of a few good Belly dance instructors you want to check out: Sanjana Sharma, Meher Malik, Bindu Bolar, Payal Gupta, Dipika Vijay, Tishya Kaul The icing on the cake is that most of these teachers have been taking online session since the lockdown and therefore you can learn for anywhere.
3. Do I have to be physically fit to be a belly dancer?
NO. As the famous movie says – ABCD – Anybody can dance. Body type is one of the many taboos that are associated with the art form and we’re here to tell you otherwise! Whether you’re thin or thick, nothing can stop you from being an amazing dancer. Because in the end, dancing is all about moving your muscles and not about shape and size. Hema jokingly says that that the fatter the tummy - the more visible the steps are. She has been teaching her mom how to Belly dance as well.
4. Do I have to wear those sizzling belly dance costumes? What if I am too shy to show my belly? The answer to this is No. You can wear whatever attire you are comfortable with. Infact a Pune based dance group- Stepz Studio founded by Aziza Degwekar- don’t expose their bellies at all. At times, for the instructor to see if you are doing it right- it is important to show your belly, but it is not at all compulsory. Hema finds a lot of new joiners in her class to be extremely shy in the beginning. But with time- as you grow in the craft- the shyness gets replaced by comfort and a hunger to gain perfection.
5. How will it benefit me both mentally and physically? Hema belives that Belly dancing is one of the few dance styles where there’s such vivid chest and torso work. Apart from getting fitter you also get more confident and comfortable with your own body. When you see yourself move and dance in a dance class is when you realize how capable your body is and it makes you accept yourself and boosts you with confidence. Needless to say, when you dance- you want to look attractive. And therefore, you develop a strong urge to eat healthy and stay fit.
6. It’s a girl's thing, right? Or can boys learn too? OfCourse. Like most dance styles, Belly dancing is gender inclusive. Anybody, belonging to any gender can learn belly dancing, including the boys. Infact, dancers like Eshan Hilal and Shravan Kumar are prime examples of people who have put these stereotypes behind and carved their way in this field. Lately Hema has been witnessing an increased number of males dropping in for sessions.
7. Tabboos : Belly Dancing is still looked down by many. Is the society ready yet?
Hema shares her personal journey of how her family wasn’t okay with her decision of learning belly dancing when she started in 2015. Her friends and relatives also questioned her choice of learning the dance form in the beginning. Later when she appeared on TV, she was able to find acceptance in her circle.
But can the people be blamed? A thing to note here is that the exposure of most people to belly dancing has been through belly dance performances in bollywood item numbers says Hema. From “Mayya” in Guru to “Dilbar” in Satyamev Jayate- sexualization of the dance form is what we have seen on TV.
And this has resulted into some filthy comments she and many other belly dancers occasionally receive on social media.
But Hema does feel that things are changing fast. As more and more belly dancers continue to emerge on the scene and show their craft, there has been greater love and acceptance to the dance form.
Plus, there are some belly dance festivals that has recently started in India including the Mumbai Belly Dancing Festival.
Now that we’ve have got our basics right, we hope you’re motivated to drop in for a Belly Dance Class. Belly dance is about liberation, freedom and finding your own rhythm. It is a meditative experience, which will make you a confident, calm and positive person.
So, what are you waiting for? Book a belly dance class today!
Written by Anubhav Gaur
Founder, Skyshot Arts and Entertainment