Some say you find belly dance when you’re in a transition. I sure was. In 2013, I wrecked on my mountain bike and broke my wrist, so I was out of work until I healed. At the time I was also going through a divorce and felt pretty miserable. As I sat on my couch and pondered what to do for 5 weeks while my wrist healed, I decided to sign up for a healing dance session- I had never formally danced as a child but really enjoy dancing as an adult, so why not?
I arrived for my session and heard my practitioner mention belly dance in passing, and I immediately thought to myself: “I’ll never do that. Who would want to do that?“ My teacher did share belly dance with me during the session, and it was one of the most powerful movement practices I had ever attempted. I felt gold light running through my body deep within my bones and I felt a connected-ness to my body that I had never felt before. My body felt awake for the first time- more than just mental alertness- my senses sharpened. As a result, I felt calmer and more grounded and focused. I thought to myself, “what is this magic?“ And so my belly dance journey began…
I had no idea that belly dance was actually created for women by women to assist with labor and delivery. It was also used in healing rituals for both men and women because utilizing our core helps to metabolize stored traumas. Belly dance was also used to assist girls transitioning to womanhood in rites of passages so they could carry themselves in a graceful, centered way. This type of dance can teach us, too, how to carry ourselves in the world and own our own power vs giving it away.
I remember very clearly in 6th grade feeling “less than” the so called “popular people”. I noticed some of the girls standing around with their tailbones out which appeared more attractive. I forced myself to stick my butt out just like them thinking, “ I can do that too and be cool.“ Little did I know that standing in this “duck butt” position is the body language for giving our power away; it’s an attention-seeking position as well as somewhat submissive. I hurt my lower back daily, forcing my tailbone out only to find out during my first belly dance session decades later that keeping the tailbone down is a way to keep our life force, our energy, inside of our own bodies. Still to this day, I have too much of a curve in my lower spine probably due to how I forced myself to stick my butt out and appear more attractive “like every one else”. I continue to receive body work to assist my spine and pelvis in returning to their natural positions. I eventually learned to hold my own power, not agreeing to just agree, and increasing my self-confidence and self-esteem through what I learned in belly dance, and now I’ve been working for myself part time since 2016.
When we stand with our tailbone out in what I call the “duck butt” position we are non-consciously giving our power away through our sacrum and tailbone. Standing with the tailbone out also causes physical problems such as: decreasing space and increasing pressure at the lumbar spine and increasing tension at the gut including the bladder and uterus. In general people understand ‘proper posture’ means sitting or standing up straight, but what about from the waist down? From the waist down we must have our knees slightly bent and tailbone pointed down, connecting us to the Earth in order to own our power, stay grounded, and conserve energy. No duck butt!
Belly dance affects our mental state- not just because we are moving our bodies and exercising, but certain moves will help ground us, increase mental alertness, draw energy in/ out, or balance the hemispheres of the brain. Other moves help balance the chakras or even help us increase our capacity to receive. Depending on how we feel we can do certain moves to change our mental state based on our needs. When dancing barefoot on the Earth, the dance has a greater impact as we interact more directly with the energy field of the Earth. There are many layers and an infinite amount that belly dance can teach- enjoy the journey back to yourself through belly dance.
Erin Passarello, PT, CST 2020