Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Art of the Belly Dance

Jessica spreads her wings
Last Thursday we had a delightful evening at our Pickering Ward Relief Society birthday celebration.  As you may know, the Relief Society is the world's oldest and largest women's organization.  It is a world-wide sisterhood embracing a multitude of cultures and millions of women.  Our little ward Relief Society is small, but we are mighty talented.

To celebrate this year, our ward decided to put on a talent show.  I'll chronicle the rest later, but today wanted to focus on our beautiful Jessica and her belly dancing.

Entering the cultural hall in a flurry of shimmering gold
 I suppose some may look askance at such a display at church.  (I hope that sentence made you smile.)  However, belly dancing is an ancient folk dance form from the Middle East and is really beautiful to watch.

Jessica performs her belly dance while the lady missionaries look on
(There's a sentence you don't often see in print!)
Our Relief Society really enjoyed Jessica's performance.

I have to admit I took a belly dancing class in my youth.  It was a lot of fun. Sadly, you need knees to be able to belly dance, so my belly dancing days are over.  It's your knees popping up and down that actually give you the undulating hips needed for this dance form.

Besides giving you good muscle tone, belly dancing can increase the suppleness of your torso, increase spine strength, improve posture, and do other good things for your health.

In ancient cultures, both men and women belly danced.  Actually, they still do.

Jessica without her wings
 I wish I'd been able to get a better photo of Jessica's costume, but she was always in motion. (It never occurred to me that night to just ask her to pose later!  Doh!)  The costume was beautiful.  It had detailed embroidery, sequins and beads sewn into it.  It was a good color for her, with her flaming red hair, as well.

Poetry in motion
I loved the lovely fan work she did with the "wings" of her costume.  Jessica told us she used to perform with a troupe locally.

There are apparently lots of local troupes.

If you'd like to take a belly dancing class for fun and health, do it!  It's really a lot of fun.  My co-worker Sabrina did precisely that and is now performing with a dance troupe out of Long Beach.

My friend Sabrina's Long Beach Belly Dance Fusion troupe (she's second from the left)
You get to wear really cool outfits, too.  I was once told that what we perceive as "tradiitional" belly dancing costumes were actually cooked up by some 19th century Parisian costume designer for an Arabian Nights sequence of the ballet at the Paris Opera.  Traditional costumes in the Middle East are much more conservative, modest, and often, at social gatherings, Belly Dancing is done in regular clothing by regular people, not professionals.

Kinda blows the mystique, though, doesn't it?

I think I prefer the really cool, exotic costuming.

Shake it, baby!  Shake it!

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