The Belly Dance Book : Rediscovering
the Oldest Dance
by Tazz Richards (Editor)
Backbeat Press
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The Gilded Serpent presents...
The Healing Power of Dance
Understanding Ourselves Through Movement
by Sharifa

For those dancers who have never heard of me, please allow me to first introduce myself. My dance name is Sharifa and I have been involved in performing and teaching Middle Eastern dance for 31 years. I have chosen a low profile in the dance world, after having been burnt out by bitter competitions, gossip, and games I don't wish to play in order to be"renowned". I was a single parent most of this time, trying out relationships that didn't work, raising my son without help, as well as working fulltime shift work. But as rough as it was for me, I continued my teaching and performing, not so much for the money or the fame, but because dancing has been my personal therapy. Now that I have become a licensed psychotherapist, having completed extra training and experience in therapy through expressive arts, I am able to integrate my education with my experience as a dance mentor, coach, and teacher. Through this integration, I can now write about my observations of dancers and healing interventions with dancers, with some credibility.

It is my hope that I can guide you on a path to explore how your own needs have been met through the dance; and if you are a teacher, discover how you can assist others to reconnect with lost or unexplored, parts of the self.

I cannot think of a better way to start except to pose to you the question, "What attracts people to the dance, in the first place?"
Answers often are:
"I want to surprise my boyfriend, husband."
"I want to look, dance, or act sexier."
"I need more exercise, to lose weight."
...and so on.
If you look beyond the superficial answers, the first thing you see is that many people do not accept themselves as they are. Many dancers, especially, suffer from low self-esteem and are looking for some way to transform themselves into a sexier, thinner, more self-confidant, more feminine version. Others go into the dance with a healthier self-esteem and want to add to their talents.

How many people do you know in this category? Fun-seekers, dabblers, and artists may be in this smaller category, but they don't remain interested very long, because this dance isn't something they really "need" to nourish and heal their spirit. They don't become enamored to this dance, unlike those who need it as therapy.

Many dancer enthusiasts I have encountered come from wounded childhoods.

Abusive childhoods are those in which the child has been treated in any way that is less than nurturing. The scars of this maltreatment are low self-worth, lack of a clear identity-"who am I?" and a belief that one is defective in some way. These traits may be unconscious, as the person goes through life looking for some person or some thing to complete them and make them feel whole. A nurturing childhood, in contrast, can produce an adult who has had her developmental needs met and does not show the world how "needy" she is, for men, money, adoration, sex and other addictive attractions (which is not to say that all of these items mentioned are necessarily addictions). To this person, belly dancing has a different meaning. They can take it or leave it, and still feel great about themselves.

Am I saying that belly dancing is an addiction, or is it a therapy?

If Belly Dancing is not a job or a business, it may be defined as an addiction by the following test: If you spend a majority of your time around dance activity so that it takes you away from more important priorities in life (for example: your job, family care, important relationships). When the avoidance of ordinary responsibilities is consistently resulting in negative consequences, your dance activity may be seen, by definition, as an "addiction" by psychotherapists. Two nights a week is moderate, healthy involvement. However, the point is that this dance can become an obsession when you start getting your needs for attention met, and you start realizing the emotional and physical benefits inherent in dancing. As long as you can see your dancing as a healthy part of yourself that you can chose to enact at the appropriate time and place, it is what I call a "Healthy Obsession" just like your favorite music you may play every time you get into you car.

Next time…examples of how belly dancing has healed life-long wounds and how regular practice can build self-esteem and get you through your life's challenges.

Ready for more?

more by Sharifa-
The Legend of Julius Squeezer by Sharifa

12-19-01 MultiKulti, San Francisco's Marketplace of Treasures! by Princesse Meroe
True to his culture as one would see at Cairo's famous bazaar, the Khan el-Khalili...

11-29-01 Nomads of the Spirit by Sierra Suraci
Know what are you contributing - either to their dilution as a people or the strengthening of their true image.

12-20-01 Frank Words about the Whimsy of Costume, A Review of The Costume Goddess’
Flattering Costume for Bellydancers
by Krista
Book 1 in Dina's costuming series


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