I flailed my arms and hands, trying to keep my voice down.
“You know how it is, I said to her, we’re supposed to be ashamed of our bellies. We’re made to feel bad about them, think they’re ugly if they’re not flat and tight.” And this is our power center” I said, still waving my arm around,” If you look at the Chakra’s, this is where our power is and we’re taught to hate that part of ourselves.”
The advanced Bellydancing Class (I’m in the beginner class) was doing another hour of Dancing In The Flow, and I didn’t want to interrupt them. I was sure I couldn’t dance another hour. I was tired, but also exhilarated from dancing for just one hour. And now the reporter, Elodie Reed, from The Bennington Banner, who interviewed Julz and Kitty before the class, was asking me a few questions.
Elodie nodded her head as if she understood exactly what I was saying and was encouraging me to go on. Whether she agreed with me or not, she was doing a good job of getting me to talk. Before she left, several of us tried to talk her into taking a Bellydancig class.
The last few times I put up a video on Youtube, there was an ad, with a visual of a woman’s stomach. Her stomach was tanned and not just flat, but it actually looked concave.
I never looked to see what the ad was for, but the image stuck with me.
Because I’ve written about my own stomach and Bellydancing, I get a lot of ads about women’s stomaches. Or maybe they just target women my age. The ads are inevitably telling me, and everyone else who sees them, what foods to avoid or exercises to do, to reduce belly fat.
I remember seeing an exhibit years ago at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in NYC focused on corsets in women’s fashion. They had examples of corsets beginning in the 1700’s and showed how the corset transformed into the girdle. The exhibit made the point that the new corset is exercise, dieting and surgery.
Even thought I’ve mostly not only accepted, but have come to see my belly as beautiful, over the past year or so, I still catch myself looking down at my protruding stomach and wishing it was flatter. That track in my brain, of thinking my belly is ugly, is old and deep, and sometimes I fall into it. But now, I immediately climb out by touching my stomach and saying out loud, “I love you belly, you are powerful and beautiful”.
I keep thinking of that idea that the third chakra, which is in our bellies, is where our power lies. The place of our self-esteem, self-respect and strength. I think of how I spent so much of my life trying to reduce or control the size of my belly. How I hid it, as if it was something to be ashamed of.
When I started Bellydancing I had no idea how far it would reach inside of me. How deep it would go. How much inner strength I would harvest from it.
It was when Elodie asked me if Bellydancing had any significance to what is going on politically with women in our country now, that I started ranting about the power of our bellies and what they represent.
For me Bellydancing is an act of rebellion.
Personally, a rebellion against the stunted idea of beauty I learned growing up in my family and from our society. Politically, it’s a rebellion against all the people in power who are trying to bully women into remaining silent and still trying to make us feel ashamed of our true strength and abilities.
Every time I dance, I can feel myself get stronger.