The history of belly dance is easily debated because it began before records were kept on such things. Many believe it began as a fertility rite, and others say it was a religious dance. In the Middle East, belly dance was passed down through oral traditions and imitation. Men and women both danced, but practiced separately, far from the prying eyes of the opposite sex.
It is believed to have first gained attention in the U.S. in the 1830s at the Chicago World’s Fair when dancers from Syria, Turkey and Algeria both shocked and thrilled the audience by performing without their corsets. And thus, the sexy reputation of belly dance, which still holds today, was born.
Fast forward to today and the Amerianization of the art, women like Carolena Nericcio and her contemporary, Rachel Brice have both revolutionized and added feminist thought to belly dance. Carolena is the inventor of “American Tribal Style” belly dance, an improvisational and grounded practice intended to communicate feminine friendship and strength. Rachel Brice is known as a goddess among belly dancers for perfecting Urban Tribal belly dance, a style that fuses dance from all over the world as well as components of hip hop and Gothic culture.
Belly dance welcomes women (and men) of all shapes and sizes. Many continue to dance into old age, and enjoy the physical fitness benefits. Often ignored, however, are the neurological benefits of dance. Studies have shown that the combination of music, memorization and physical activity can build neural pathways that help the mind stay active and pliable as one grows older.
This month, Todd and I are opening The Rubber Room Dance and Flexibility Studio. I am teaching performing-level tribal fusion belly dance as well as basic, intermediate and advanced classes in our newly-remodeled, yet century-year old, space. Yoga will be offered on Thursday evenings, taught by Portia Early. The studio is attached to our home, and is nothing fancy, but has quickly become a sanctuary of movement and music. Because our studio is in our home, classes are small and only offered by invitation, but we would love it if you would drop us a note if you are interested in studying yoga or dance in our space.