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Copyright 2006 Amber Zeta, All Rights Reserved.

"Come sit next to me. I'd like to teach you an ancient craft. Now draw a dot and concentrate all your energy into the dot. It is the beginning and the end, the navel of the world... When you whirl or circle your pelvis, you are drawing the dot, the origins. From this shape all other movements are born-they all stem from this dot, from the navel in your belly." Grandmother Fawzia Grandmother's Secrets: Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dance by Rosina-Fawzia Al-Rawi.

Her hips sway back and forth, calling your attention to her feminine form. She dips her hip and spins, her veil flying around her. Her belly undulates and her arms snake up and down, whispering the ancient worship, the oldest religions. Imagine a time when women were honored, where women were revered as life givers, wisdoms bearers, and nurturing healers. Women were proud of their sexuality and their sensual nature was sacred, seen as the essence of fertility and life sustaining energy. In her womb, children are formed. Through her body, life is renewed. Without her, life would end. Her body was a temple. Once, we worshiped the large robust woman, heavy with flesh and curves. Women longed to be her, praying for the plump soft body of the Goddess, praying for the land and their own bodies to keep the races alive.

So what does this all have to do with belly dancing? Often mistaken for an erotic dance form, belly dancing is more than moving your hips around and toning your core muscles. Regardless of what path a woman is on, this ancient dance style speaks to the Goddess within every woman. Whether the dancer admits or acknowledges it, bellydancing is directly tapping into her own feminine divinity, the Goddess power each woman holds inside her. Bellydancing has always been a mysterious and beautiful dance form, if done with skill and grace, rather than merely lewd and suggestive movements. It teaches a woman to gently strengthen her back, arms, legs, neck, and of course, belly. When you watch a bellydancer, her movements are seamless, rhythmic, and appear easy. However, try it for an hour and you will find muscles you did not even know you had.

Said to have originated in Persia, eventually moving out to the Mediterranean, down into the South reaching Egypt, and finally up North into Turkey, belly dancing follows the natural movements of the female body and is therefore safe for all ages and levels of fitness. Young or old, belly dancing can tone any woman's body and soul. Unlike other forms of dance, which require special shoes or awkward poses to master, bellydancing needs only comfortable clothing, bare feet, and a willingness to learn.

Passed down from one generation to the next, bellydancing is not only great exercise, but actually helps a woman prepare for childbirth. Often part of rituals and ceremonies of fertility, bellydancing trains the stomach muscles in not only tightening, but relaxing and expanding. These movements mimic the childbirth and many women have reported easier childbirths and recovery experiences. Not only practical, bellydancing also can be spiritual and often is for a good portion of dancers. The dance form naturally leads into finding your personal power and learning a confidence women are not taught in mainstream society. It also blends into the forms of trance and ecstatic dance that brings bliss and tranquility to its dancers. Like the whirling dervishes, the images of the spinning Turkish dancers can make you dizzy or make you transcend. Dance is moving the body to tell a story, to express emotions we lack words for. Bellydancing can move you into another world, filled with female admiration and love.

The first time I really tried to do belly dancing, the belly circles, hip lifting, and dropping, I felt something shift within me, like gears switching into place. Like the moving spiral, I could feel my life force, my mojo rising up within me and spreading out as waves. Belly dancing makes me feel the compelling force of my own femininity. I am suddenly outrageously proud to have breasts and hips, to have a yoni and to be a woman. I celebrate myself when I shake my hips back and forth. I sing women's praises when I drop my hips.

We women still have a long way to go to embrace our own power. Locked inside our XX chromosome, our strength hidden within our DNA, the embodiment of a creatrix of the universe, we still deny ourselves who we really are. With the art of bellydancing, we can reclaim our bodies and our own sacred selves.

To learn more about bellydancing, check out your local library for resources. Classes, workshops, and performances are plentiful, as long as you look for them. Frequently, professional dancers will offer not only classes and workshops, but private instruction as well. As for music, my personal favorites include Immortal Egypt, which includes haunting melodies and steady beats, Bellylicious, a modern spin on the oldest dance form's music, and Turkish Bellydance, great for a variety of dancing styles and tempos.

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