The Belly Dancing Sisterhood

Me wearing my new hip scarf with coins

For thousands of years older women have taught younger women….women have passed on stories and traditions….younger women have taught older women new things. They take care of each other, look out for each other. They are there for each other in good times and bad. They know spending time with their sisters makes things better on a day that wasn’t so great to start with. They lift each other up and support each other. This is the tribal way or The Tribal Sisterhood.”  Julz Irion

Jackie tied her hip scarf around my waist.  “Here” she said, “this will help”.

I stood there like a kid being dressed by her mother, as she tucked the top of the sash into the waist of my Bellydancing skirt.    Normally, someone being so close to my bare belly would have made me uncomfortable.  But Jackie was so matter-of-fact about it, I just felt touched by her thoughtfulness and  grateful.

A moment before I asked our teacher Julz if she could review the Shimmy, a dance move we had learned.

A hip sash with coins on it, like the one Jackie tied around my waist,  jiggles and makes noise when you move.  It makes it easier to feel and hear the movement of your own hips.  And when you look in the mirror and see that sash swinging back and forth, it looks so good, it’s encouraging.

I understand now, that this is what Tribal Sisterhood is.

It’s Jackie giving me her hip scarf because she knows it’s easier for me to learn how to do the Shimmy when I’m wearing one.  And she wants to pass on what she knows to me.  She wants me to do well.

The kind of Belly Dancing I’m learning is called American Tribal Style or ATS.

It was started in the 1980’s in San Francisco with its roots going back thousands of years.  It’s more closely derived from a style of Belly Dancing that was competitive.  Each dancer trying to show up their fellow dancers.  In ATS, “the challenge style”  as it is known, was dropped.  Instead the dancers were encouraged to help each other look and do their best.

It’s based in the feminist idea of collaboration instead of competition.

I had no idea what I was getting into when I took my first Bellydancing class almost a year ago.  Now I find myself involved in a sisterhood that seems to be connecting to a part of me I didn’t know existed, but I feel l’ve been craving  my whole life.



13 thoughts on “The Belly Dancing Sisterhood

  1. Dear Maria, I’ve been trying to leave comments for over a week, maybe two, and the OLD computer at home is just not letting me do it. I’m at the library with WiFi on my NEW laptop, so maybe now I can comment again! I sure loved what you said about your wedding anniversary. Annie

  2. Sisters have been such a gift to me since I grew up enough to let other women close, AGE 5O!! These rituals of belly dancing are the definition of sisterhood. YOU LOOK WONDERFUL IN THE SCARF W/ ‘MONEY’!! Annie

  3. Maria, You are officially the bravest woman I know! You are tiny, gorgeous, and completely authentic. You’re a very fit woman, and this photo proves it. I kneel at the foot of a true Goddess. Shake those coins!


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