The Body of A Bellydancer

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So now that I have your attention with that title (I know, pretty awesome, right?) I would like to talk a little bit about body issues. First and foremost, let me start of by saying that I personally know bellydancers with all types and sizes of body. Tall, thin, short, medium, goddess size, skinny, fit, not so fit, used to to be fit and man! look at her!. I think you all rock!!!! You’re all beautiful!!!

Now, everyone has their own body issues, but this post isn’t for whether you think your thighs are fat, have cankles or small boobs. I want to talk about how we view OTHER bellydancers. I read an article lately that upset me a great deal. It insinuated that all that “thinspiration” stuff on Pinterest and the like is awful and that we as dancers may not be looking up to some of the best bellydancers in the world because they ARE some of the best bellydancers in the world, but because they are thin/fit. So I want to talk about it. Because this is my blog and I can. *insert dastardly giggling* Ok, ok I’m good.

So….thin/fitspiration…. Well, here are my thoughts. Some go way too far. Collarbones or cake? Oh please, I totally used to eat cake and still had a nice set of collarbones. I also worked out a minimum of 2 hours 4x a week. Yeah. I was a crazy actress back then. I guess the collarbones or cake one pops up to me because the pictures on it are of these teeny, tiny women. Are those women gorgeous? Yes. If you naturally look like that is there something wrong with you? Umm, no. If you starve yourself to look like that is it an issue? Yeah. So moderation! But let’s not just condemn all that stuff! What about the pictures of “fit/thinspiration” that are of a woman who has worked her butt off to be fit and in great health. Why on earth would we condemn that? Just because she doesn’t sit on the couch eating potato chips? I don’t care what you eat as long as you’re healthy. Just because you don’t look like or even want to look like the women in those pictures, lets not condemn them for looking like they do.

So are we making fitspiration out of top bellydancers? Yes they are smaller and in better shape than the average bellydancer who also has a 40 hour a week job, plus dancing. Guess what?!?!?!? Dancing is their job! Pro dancers can dance for up to 8 hours in rehearsals in a day. (This goes for all types of dance) add on to that Yoga/Pilates which is very popular for stretching and strengthening the muscles so you don’t injure yourself while doing all that dancing, strength training, cardio or the chosen cross trainer of choice PLUS teaching classes and performing. That’s ALOT of exercise! If I danced that much I’d be much smaller too! That’s their job. Not necessarily to be thin, but think about how many calories the average pro dancer would burn in a day with that kind of schedule. Bunches! And yeah, I guess I do make fitspiration out of top bellydancers. I want to be fit enough to do this move or that one. I want my muscles to work like hers, so I’m going to train like her.

So! Why is it assumed that just because you may love the way the big Pro dancers dance, you only do so because they are thin, not because they are spectacular dancers? Honestly, I don’t know. But unfortunately, I see a lot of smaller women being condemned right along with bigger ones. You’re not “too skinny” the same way she’s not “too fat”. Personally, I admire a lot of smaller dancers, but not because of their size, but because they are really, really good. I also admire bigger dancers not because of their size, but because they are awesome dancers. Quality of technique, showmanship, entertainment value and passion is really what matters to me in a performer not what size their costume is. The simple fact is that many of those qualities show up in Pro dancers who have worked so hard to attain those and the careers they have as well.

So, in closing, I don’t care what size you are. I care that you are healthy or trying to get healthy. And guess what you can be skinny and not be healthy or fit. I love that bellydance can make women feel good about their bodies. Maybe they feel too skinny and Bellydance helps them appreicate that they are still beautiful and look great as a tiny person. Maybe they feel fat and Bellydance helps them appreciate their curves and embrace their size. Maybe they’re shy and Bellydance gives them a way to open up to not only others, but themselves. Yes, I want to encourage you if you’re larger to feel confident and happy dancing. But I want to do the same with everyone no matter what your size is.

Smiles and shimmies. 🙂 E

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3 responses »

  1. I think I know which article you’re referring to, and I actually thought it had a very valid point. Criticising the idea of thinspiration/fitspiration isn’t the same as criticising thin people or fit people, it’s criticising the whole thing of holding up certain body types as ideals that others should try to attain, which is very unhealthy. Whether you have visible collarbones, or a ‘thigh gap’ or whatever random thing is being held up as the epitome of female physical beauty at the moment is usually less down to health and lifestyle, and more down to genetics, and trying to get a body type you don’t have is a path to misery. Whether that’s beating yourself up for not having a visible 6-pack, or for not having big boobs, or anything else, it’s not going to make you happier or healthier.

    I am never going to have a gap between my thighs unless I’m actually starving to death, and looking at photos of women shaped like that telling me not to eat cakes would do nothing but make me miserable and mess up my relationship with food, if I cared about that stuff. On the other hand, my collarbones (and probably ribs) would still be visible even if I put on a load of weight, because that’s how I’m built.

    If someone wants to, and is able to, work hard and reach a good level of fitness, good for them. But using their pictures to essentially shame other people (or yourself, for that matter) into dieting or working out is not OK. A sustainable healthy lifestyle really needs to come from knowing what is best for your body and what will make you feel healthy and strong, not from feeling guilty and inadequate and comparing yourself to other people. I would be pretty upset if pictures of me were ever used for this (probably unlikely, I’m in respectable shape for someone with a full time day job but I’m no gym bunny, but still…).

    • Yes, I agree, which is why I stated I felt the “collarbones or cake” picture is going too far. My main problem with the article in question really had nothing to do with fit/thinspiration, although honestly if you’re looking at those things for healthy attainable goals, more power to you (when it really goes to far, is like you said people starving themselves to attain that). My main problem was with the idea that certain dancers are respected and looked up to because of their thin figure. I personally don’t know one single bellydancer who would value a thin body over great technique. The fact that those two often coincide with professional bellydancers comes from the physical shape you have to been in to sustain that career and also the fact that dance is exercise. You train that much-you exercise that much. I just personally dislike when I am talking to a dancer who says “I’m too thin, I don’t have anything to shimmy” just as much as I dislike hearing “I have too much belly to bellydance” or just straight up “I’m too fat to bellydance, I’d have to loose weight first”. ALL body types should be celebrated, not the very thin and fit, not the large and goddess size, not the medium, but EVERY one.

      • Yes, I agree with you on that 🙂 I definitely don’t think it would be reasonable to complain that a pro dancer has a body shape that comes from serious amounts of daily training when it’s their job to do that. Then again, it’s possible to be a world-class dancer and not be overly thin (e.g. Fifi Abdou), and yet most Western bellydance stars do tend to conform to that Hollywood physical ideal. I do think that raises some issues about what we, in the West, value in a dancer.

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