How Belly Dance Can Help Boost Your Self-Confidence!
The first time in a belly dance class often feels clumsy and weird. All movements are strange, not to mention that you most likely look funny in the mirror reflection! Great beginning for an article about self-confidence, isn’t it? Lol. Stay with me. Because just a couple classes afterwards you realize that you are no longer struggling with a shimmy, or that hip circle feels awesome rather than awkward, and maybe you can even challenge yourself with the next level and add arm movements on top of your hip drop. Mastering even the smallest movement builds your confidence with unlimited potential, and teaches you that if given enough time and necessary effort, everything is possible!
Looking at your teacher, or other professional dancers: They all have started as beginners one day. If they could achieve their goals, you can do it too! They are walking examples and proof that dreams are achievable. Use those reminders to your advantage, and apply them beyond dance classroom!
Showing your body: You don’t necessarily need to show your skin in order to belly dance. Many people wear totally covered training outfits, and even performance costumes on stage. Many students are not comfortable at first to show their naked belly, as well as seeing their reflections in the mirror. And that’s ok. But it’s interesting to observe how this changes with time. You may suddenly catch yourself with a t-shirt tucked up in order to see how exactly your belly muscles work. It comes naturally. Yes, belly dance is not about showing skin, and you still can wear completely covered cloths. But the point is that with time you get comfortable with both, you learn to love and accept yourself, and be grateful for what your body can do. Now you have a choice, an inner freedom of how you want to view your body!
Acknowledging your hobby to the world: This sometimes can be a challenge. Not everyone will share your excitement to belly dance, and may even think it’s silly, not to mention lots of stereotypes around this dance form. I remember at first I felt very uncomfortable talking about belly dance, almost embarrassed to acknowledge my dance hobby. But the more my passion for dance grew, the more “brave” I became. I’ve learnt that I love what I love, and that I don’t need to apologize for it. If people don’t like or understand what I do, it’s their problem, not mine. It’s not my job to change their worldview, and as much as I want them to respect my opinions, I should learn to respect theirs, even if they are different from mine. And lastly, my decisions regarding my time, energy and body are entirely my own, and none of anyone else’s business.
Being in public: It starts from the very small - a teacher pulls you in the middle of class for an unexpected improvisation on spot. Then you decide to participate in a group performance at the student party, then solo dance at a dance competition, etc. Every kind of performance strengthen your confidence in day-to-day life, improves your skills to speak or present projects and ideas to a group of people. Believe me, if you can handle doing a shimmy with undulation wearing a belly dance costume and feeling the pressure of being observed by strangers, you can handle literally ANYTHING else!
Finding your tribe: I won’t idealize belly dance community by saying that it’s an absolutely perfect paradise world of pure angels, but in general it’s pretty amazing! You can find so many like-minded people, live or online, who are just willing to support each other and share their art for the sake of the art. Yes, it’s still competitive if we are talking about professional dancing, but I sincerely believe that because this dance style forces us to be so vulnerable, at least with ourselves, that we are more likely to support each other and recognize that we all share the same insecurities, struggles and issues. And once you find your true tribe, it’s unbelievable what a transformation you can do with your own world!
Playing around with different characters: Belly dance is not just a shimmy and Shakira move. It’s the whole world of different styles and moods that you need to learn and master. It’s almost like an acting class! My personal break-through moment was what I consider my first solo performance on a big stage. I was selected among all students in the class to perform our teacher’s choreography to an Arabic pop song. I had to be very playful and flirtatious to portray that character. Here, I also should mention that in my day-to-day life I was considered a very shy, introverted girl. Nobody expected that I would perform so successfully, not even myself. But to be honest, I didn’t even think about all this while preparing for the show. I simply didn’t realize that I was doing something out of my usual behaviour. It came very naturally and I was just excited to dance! All those thoughts came afterwards, once I heard the feedback from audience, friends and relatives. Why so?.. Because I believe that character was always inside me. Belly dance just helped to bring it up under the sun light, and it was a very smooth process without any painful effort. For that I’m forever grateful to belly dance and to my teacher who saw that seed inside me, even despite I myself didn’t recognize it at first.
Author: Iana Komarnytska
Photographer: Pedro Bonatto
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