BENGALURU: Belly dancers who are performing at Wahdah, fest open in city till Jan 27, share their fears of training in this form, journey so far and myths fanned by Bollywood. They believe this dance celebrates womanhood
This is not stripping, and it’s definitely not immoral: Shruti
How did you start belly dancing?
I remember watching a live bellydance performance on the Nile River Cruise in Cairo at the age of 11. I was in awe of the artiste and, since I was already living in the Middle East back then, I had a natural affinity towards Middle-Eastern music and culture. For the first sixteen years of my life, I devoted all my time to Bharatnatyam and my studies but, when we shifted back to India for my higher education, I was determined to learn bellydance - a secret desire I had harbored for close to seven years.
How did you find your teacher ?
I was looking for someone who could teach me to dance like Sadie Marquardt. She was my bellydance idol back then and I had heard of Sanaz Dance Studio for bellydance classes. I immediately Googled the institutes number and enrolled myself.
One myth about the dance form?
Bellydance is often considered adult entertainment. To put it plainly, when I wanted to attend my first bellydance class, I was nervous, because of what people would think and how my family would react. I was even told that bellydance was something that was done to “entertain men” in “harems”. That was the first misconception I had. There were plenty more, but that will take a while to list. We are raised and live in an environment where bellydance is associated with “stripping” and is considered “taboo”. After a good seven years and in-depth, personal research, I have come to realise that this notion is a fantasy, created by male western travellers to the Middle East in the late 1800s and further perpetuated by the Hollywood film industry. The association with stripping can be due to the fact that Europeans and Americans did not understand the vocabulary of this dance form. In particular, moving the torso and the hip was considered immoral, in a society where women had to wear tight-fitted corsets and dresses.
One movie that got bellydancing terribly wrong ?
Pretty much all Bollywood and regional films.
I assumed it to be easy, but it’s hard work: Bindu
How did you start?
My first stint with belly dancing was in 1999 or 2000 when the pop song by Shakira ‘Whenever wherever’ was released. Some hip movements in the video fascinated me. I recall standing in front of the mirror and trying to imitate them, unaware that it was called bellydancing.
How did you find your teacher?
My first professional teacher Anna Olkinuora from Finland, who actually walked into my studio asking if we needed a belly dance teacher. I remembering thanking my stars then. She had married an Indian and was just settling in. I was getting frustrated learning from online videos. My passion for tribal genres made me fly across the globe to USA to learn from them.
One myth about the dance form?
I have been dancing ever since I remember. I assumed belly dancing would be a piece of cake. But to my surprise, it took passion, dedication and discipline to get the techniques and styling right. It’s hardwork and loads and loads of practice…
One movie which got it terribly wrong.
Bollywood movies… Lot of them have moves derived from this dance form, but none of them can be classified under belly dance. Say an actor uses a Bharathanatyam mudra while dancing to a Bollywood song, will you call it a Bharathanatyam recital?
Why should people try this once in their life?
Because if belly dance chooses you in return, you will no more be the same person. Belly Dancing transforms you - emotionally, physically and spiritually!
This will help women embrace their bodies: Payal
How did you start?
Throughout my childhood, I was enrolling myself into various dance classes and learning new styles every year. By the time I was 16. my mother wanted me to try something different, a dance form that not many people do. We stumbled upon a belly-dance performance on TV in 2005 and spontaneously my mother said that I should try it too. Unfortunately, we didn’t find teachers immediately. Months later, we found a teacher through a newspaper article.
Your favourite belly dancing move?
My favourite moves are the undulations since they are extremely powerful in strengthening the pelvis and opening the root chakra and has multiple benefits for women. Also these undulations are known to help women during pregnancy and child birth.
One movie that got belly dancing terribly wrong?
Mayya Mayya by Mallika Sherawat in the movie Guru.
Why should people try belly dancing atleast once in their life?
Women should try it at least once in their life since this is the only dance form that celebrates woman hood and helps them discover their body like nothing else. It loosens up the hips, empowers the core, helps woman in pregnancy and child birth, helps them break their inhibitions and embrace their bodies.