The Beauty of Belly Dance: A personal journey

By Myra Krien In Tumbleweeds March, 2007

My mother says I came out dancing. All I can remember is that I loved to dance. My mother also loved to dance. It was the early 1960’s in San Francisco, and belly dance was big. From the time I was three years old I accompanied my mother to her belly dance classes. When we came home we would practice together. These are some of my fondest childhood memories.

I will never forget my earliest impressions of the dancers my mother would take me to see. They were so magical, beautiful beyond compare, and so self-possessed. I was in awe. I never thought of them as provocative. All I saw was the beauty  of their movement. Somehow I already knew that it was the dance itself that created the beauty. It was language that spoke to the deepest parts of myself even then.

I grew up belly dancing. I began performing at age 11 and taught my first class at age 14. Dance was my sanctuary throughout high school. When life was almost too much to bear, dance gave life back to me. Always overweight and self-conscious, I found in belly dance a place to feel safe. I could move my body without ridicule. It allowed me to express the graceful soul that was inside, an experience both ecstatic and sublime. When I was dancing I felt beautiful; I knew I was beautiful. It was the only time I felt this way. Dance was my joy, my ritual, my meditation. Dance became my spiritual center.

In my twenties, I used to perform (I still do) for many of the local schools. One day I went to perform for a Montessori school. The children oohed and aahed as I danced for them, their eyes wide with delight and their smiles as broad as their faces. When I had finished they all wanted to touch me, stroke my hands and arms, touch my costume. We danced together for a while. Afterwards the teacher asked if I would go outside with the children for recess and enjoy the sun. As I sat conversing, a young boy emerged from the classroom pulling his mother by the arm behind him. He was exclaiming excitedly, “See mother there she is! There’s the ANGEL!” as he said the word ‘angel’ it took his breath away. The way he looked at me that day is something I will never forget. It is one of my most precious memories.

I find that children experience belly dance for what it truly is, a pure expression of beauty. There is a deep satisfaction in mastering the movements of this form. Regardless of the perception of others, enacting the movements of belly dance offers the performer an experience that is empowering, uplifting and joyful.