What's missing from Belly Dance today

You might have noticed I've been a bit withdrawn from the dance world lately. I've stepped back trying to understand why I just don't feel right in this more modern Belly Dance world. I still absolutely love this dance, but it is harder to be part of the greater community. Granted, I'm naturally a little more introverted and shy away often to recharge. This time it's different. I guess I should consider myself "old" in Belly Dance years, because I've now watched the dance scene change for nearly 20 years. I know like any artform, dance, culture, or economy, things chang based on consumers. Am I becoming one of those, "back in the day" types, or is there a reason why I'm feeling a bit unfulfilled?

We've gone from a dance scene that used to perform for families of the cultures of which we borrow the dance (and western audiences who appreciated it too), to Eastern music, to movements associated with enunciating the Eastern ear...all the way to performing for mainstream audiences that don't have the same ear, who don't understand the cultural aspect, who expect circus-style and extreme entertainment (maybe we can blame the various TV shows), and just see us as commercialized things to look at and take photos with. 

Other dance styles aren't treated like this. So how did we get thrown into this bucket?


My theory:

We've gone from dancers who danced WITH our audiences versus today, where we are dancers who dance AT our audience.


We've lost our audience connection and the social part of the dance. We're all in our heads instead of our hearts, worried about how not to be boring, making sure we're balancing things nonstop on our heads, playing with fire, and moving at such a fast pace. We are so afraid to be accepted as ourselves that we put on more layers. As dancers, we used to take off the layers of daily life- the bleh- and just take time to enjoy the music and movement. We used to help, or guide our audiences to do the same. We no longer savor the music as if it was a piece of really rich chocolate, taking the time to let melt in our mouths. 

We're eating chocolate so fast behind closed doors so people don't even know we had chocolate...just so we can get back to eating salad in public. Everyone wants kale instead of chocolate, right?

So I struggle with this: who is really driving the belly bus? Are we as dancers, truly happier dancing AT audiences versus WITH? Does dancing AT our audiences truly make our audiences happier, or is this change the reason why audiences are smaller, the demographic changes in who is watching, and our attendees not as engaged (or missing altogether), and a million other changes we're experiencing? Could this be why dancers are burning out and feeling unfulfilled?

I think we're missing "it." I believe the "it" is interchangeable with, well, "with."

I'm going to try to explain "it." I try to explain this concept in my online class, More from your Core. Imagine having a stove as your belly. It's maintains this nice, warm, fire. you can keep it closed and keep it to yourself, and enjoy the heat. You can crack it open juuuust enough so that you are warm and the audience can see you are warm. In return, they are breathing better and taking in more oxygen. In return, their fires burn more and are warm too.

You can open up your stove wiiiiiidde open and share the flames with everyone. When you add oxygen to fire, it grows bigger. Sometimes your flame will get so big when you open the door and share too much, it will get too hot and overheat the audience. You too will have nothing for yourself. Your flame will eventually have no fuel and will burnout. 

Audiences want different things. They may expect they want the whole fire, but maybe that day, what they really need is to see someone enjoying their own fire to feel warm. Maybe that will inspire them to grown their own or share a bit of theirs.

Audiences need breaks too. They love seeing human. When we feed audiences non-stop entertainment and movement, we lose the human connection. We overfeed the AT, folks get burned. When we feed the WITH, we all feel warm.

The role of a dancer is different in every country. But this one experience (that is not isolated, I've seen this over and over again) back in 2007 was an ah-ha moment for me. The first time in Egypt I realized how many women want to dance. But for various social, economic, and family roles, they cannot. They sit at home and watch dancers on the TV and daydream. They dance with joy in their kitchens and with friends. When around dancers, depending on the situation, they still have to keep their fire to themselves, but it's burning bright. Their joy and love of music still warms the room even though the flame is theirs. Sometimes they too get to dance, but sometimes they may have to sit in the audience and live vicariously through the dancer. If the dancer is dancing AT them, versus WITH them, these women don't get to share in the dance. Who would want to sit and watch someone else's flame burn them while theirs is being put out? Woa. This was big for me in my own understanding. I'm a white chick who gets to do whatever she wants, dance whenever I want. I have never experienced NOT being able to dance when I want to.

When these Egyptian women dance, they give me oxygen. When they get the chance to dance, their faces are full of joy and their souls are shared with those who are lucky enough to experience it. They don't need costumes, props, or fast. They feed my flame when I watch them. I realized part of the dance that we're missing is holding back, enjoying my own warmth. And theirs too. And the people who we are lucky enough to share our fire with in the audience. Only once I understood this, I understood why I love dance so much. It's not a movement, it's not technique. It's the WITH. So simple. Yet so hard to not let all the other crap in the dance world force you to be the AT.

How everyone shares their own fire is up to them to decide. But I realized that keeping some fire to yourself and dancing WITH the audience is the esthetic that I love and miss about the dance. It's becoming more rare. And I need more of this oxygen for my own fire.

We love dancing with each other in kitchens, the connections made in classes, and keeping each other warm by sharing our stoves on our own terms. A room full of stoves still keeps us warm without catching the place on fire in competition of who's flame is the largest.

Now, I take breaks and intentionally and don't take jobs because I need to miss the dance in order to keep that flame going. I am enjoying not having to be the entertainer again. I am enjoying being WITH people who love the dance and music. I go to more events and shows I'm not part of to feed my own fire. I sit in the audience and enjoy the warmth of other dancers.

But I need more dancers I watch to feed their own own stove too.

Continue reading
3462 Hits
1 Comment

The Belly Dancer and the Five-Year Itch


The Belly Dancer and the Five-Year Itch


I can see it coming almost every time. A dancer enters the studio with a long face and a lost look that says it all. Although the timing happens differently for everyone, it usually begins around year five of dance.

You see, years one through three are usually full of aha moments, your first hip drop, the joy when you finally figure out how to get over the flat tire shimmy (where one leg works harder than the other), and the costumes! OMG the costumes! And glitter! Glitter and coin paraphernalia by now has your vacuum malfunctioning. You have an amazing group of fellow baby bellies who you have grown to love and adore. Your weekends include filling a car full of dancers and snacks to drive 3 hours to go see a show or attend a workshop.

Years four and five bring something different. You’ve realize that now you have to learn to travel around, strengthen musicality skills, five part routines, and those arms, gah! All at once even. And props! (&^#*# Zills! To grow as a dancer you may begin to take harder workshops with different teachers who have a different teaching method or style new to you. You hold your weight differently than the featured instructor and you find yourself tripping over your feet at the back of the workshop. You look to the dancers in the front of the room and they are executing perfectly, making you want to tear up and feel like you will never get it. And styles! So many styles of Belly Dance. Which one do you choose to focus on? Do I have to pick just one? Many of the people within your original Belly Dance Circle who grew up with you in dance may have moved on to a new hobby, gone to school, gotten married, or had a baby.

Year five comes. You probably have over a dozen hip scarves, at least 3 pairs of zills, and 50 DVDs. False eyelashes may be mistaken for critters crawling in your bathroom.  At this point, classes for progress and growth are harder for you to find, are further away, and even more expensive. You have to work harder not only physically to get to the next level, but emotionally, financially, etc. Dedication-wise, you are trying to determine if you fell in love with the experience or the dance (or maybe both).You are at the point of deciding whether you are hungry enough to continue on.

This. Is. Normal. This is your five year itch.

You are no longer just a student enjoying and experience. You are becoming your own Artist. Artists, continuously go through phases that run between, “OMG, this is junk!” and, “I’ve got this.” I’m going to say it again, this is totally normal. In order to survive burnout, you have to learn to accept the valleys and the peaks. Your very first itch is going to make you question everything and anything you know, what you want to be when you grow up, and why you even dance at all. You may even swear off glitter.

This is good.

Dance takes serious commitment, in more than one way. Taking a step back is important in any part of your life. It allows you to analyze what is important to you and how you want to spend your time. Dance is art, and you aren’t always going to like what you create and the process. What you have to learn is (please really let this sink in) that it’s ok to go through this. You will have more than one five year itch if you chose to go on. It may make you feel unsteady as to whether to quit or to go on. Please know though, usually after hitting a rut, an artist finds the “aha!” moment when creative juices flow again. Usually the harder the rut, the better the art.

Here’s some tips to get over your five-year itch:

1. Take a break. This may sound contradictory, but in reality, if you take a break, and you miss something in your life, you know it’s worth continuing.

2. Just dance for fun. Grab a few folks and just dance social, with no pressure to be perfect like performing creates. Sometimes we forget there is so much more to this dance than just performing, and it’s not the only measure of success in this dance. Being happy while dancing *for you* is the measure of success and promises a long term “career” as a dancer.

3. Work on soft skills. Read about history, do research, create a favorite dancer list on YouTube, learn to play an instrument. Create a vision board, a dream board, whatever you prefer. Travel and experience different cultures and environments.

4. Take private lessons and/or talk to a mentor. A one on one with a teacher will help you set new goals and priorities, or will give you accountability should you want it to continue. For example, I take 2 hours of private lessons a month, each month with a different teacher. This gives me prospective and forces me out of habits on an ongoing basis. It also gives me consistency and more flexibility. One thing I also love to do is to sit with retired dancers and listen to their stories. Usually they are pretty crazy stories, actually. Many dancers have stories to tell that show just how much dedication and love for the dance they have, and this will wear off on you!

5. Do something totally different. Sometimes we have to reset our creative juices. Usually when I hit a rut, I turn on other styles of music and just free dance until my frustration is gone. Or I color, or go to shows that are not Belly Dance. Sometimes we are too close to the problem, and feeding off other’s creative juices is just what we need to reset ours. I remember going to a comedy show once and enjoying myself so much. I realized I was taking dance way too seriously and needed to make myself and the audience laugh to get through my own personal rut. I ended up performing a piece out of character for me at that time as Dance Diva whose music kept getting cut mid performance. The DJ kept trying everything on their playlist to make her happy. I performed this in front of small and large audiences. Hearing people laugh warmed my dance soul and re-inspired me.  This isn’t a very good clip, but you can hear audience’s response: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsm7duLnCZM

6. Watch audiences. Go to as many shows as you can and watch the audience’s response to dancers. Most audiences don’t respond to perfection; they respond to dancers who invite them into the conversation while they dance. Audiences come to feel things, they really don’t care about a regular shimmy vs the dreaded (harder) ¾ shimmy, but they do care that the dancer is enjoying whatever movement they are doing and sharing it with them. Remember dancing doesn’t have to be complicated to be enjoyable. As baby bellies, we tend to throw in the entire kitchen sink because we’re excited to share what we’ve learned. More advanced dancers breathe more and use less movements to make their statement.  

It’s a simple-a giggle or a smile that tends to create a larger audience reaction than the most complicated of movements. Here’s some examples I've experience:

Playing with Sagat player Sayed in Egypt at 3:20: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq0SpPQHUFw

Or creating breaks and pauses in longer performances starting at 3:05 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ3zdXxEnkk

7. Create a personal mission or vision statement. What is your mission as a dancer? Is it to be technically perfect? Do you want the audience to feel something? Do you want to feel fulfillment, and what does that mean to you? Here’s a youtube clip of a Tedex talk that I absolutely adore-How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVsXO9brK7M

Remember: Mission and vision statements change and are constantly updated when you are ready to change them. You don’t have to tackle everything at once!

8. Breathe. It’s ok to not go 100 miles per hour. It’s ok to not be a professional. It’s ok to never want to perform. It's also ok to want these things. Remember why you started to dance, most likely because you wanted something that made you feel good. Dance can still do that. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself and don’t put a timeline or measure your journey compared to others. Part of Sufisim is that when you want to spin, you spin. Apply this concept to your own dance. When you feel the urge to dance, dance.









Continue reading
4598 Hits

5 Reasons Why Your Daughters Should Be Allowed to Belly Dance


5 Reasons Why Your Daughters Should Be Allowed to Belly Dance

Most parents of young girls and teens who come to the studio have heard at least one of the following statements from family or peers:

“You allow your daughter do THAT?”

“Why would you allow her do something so sexy, so young?”

“I would never allow MY daughter do something like that!”


To these responses, I always shrug and reply, “Yes. Unfortunately, you’re going to get that.”

Most folks have no idea what Belly Dancing is. They imagine MTV music videos of scantily clad women in two-piece costumes twerking in hookah bars, because this is the only image of “belly dancers” to which they have been exposed.

The reality is, people don’t get exposed to church haflas (parties), studio dance performances, internationally travelling shows, or the culture of so many women who enjoy this dance at home with friends and family - places where this dance does flourish in all its intent and beauty.  Nor are most people aware that Belly Dance is one of the oldest social dances among women, performed by thousands of young girls, all over the world, often right by the sides of their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. In some countries, there are Belly Dance schools, similar to those dedicated to ballet and other dance forms. Belly Dance is a healthy activity promoting positive self-esteem and comradery among girls.

I started belly dance young. I took my first Belly Dance class when I was 14, tired of being bullied in field hockey for not being the fastest runner. I wanted to be part of a team, but I wasn’t competitive enough. I even had to sew two hockey skirts together in order for the uniform to fit my body, and I was so embarrassed over how it looked.

In search of an activity where I would be a better fit and feel more welcomed, I came across a flyer for a Belly Dance class.  Since I enjoyed dancing to hip-hop music, I thought maybe it was something, “similar” (ha). Though it turned out not to be quite the case, eighteen years later, I’m still studying the art of belly dance and sharing the love of a dance and community I credit with saving my life and keeping me too busy to get into trouble.

1. It’s fun and non-competitive

Unlike other dance styles and activities, Belly Dancing is non-competitive. There’s no end goal; there’s no graduation, only personal growth.  You do it to learn how to move your body in a way that makes you feel good, and do so while spending time and laughing with others. Today, almost all activities for school age girls are competitive - sports, theatre, even math teams. There is very little out there for girls to do that is just for them, just for fun, self-directed, with maybe a soft goal of performing if they wish. And even then, performing is an optional goal!

2. Belly Dance Builds Positive Self-Esteem.

Girls are constantly fed media and marketing telling them how they should look. I remember being a pre-teen and looking at beauty magazines. I skipped lunches, did 1,000 sit-ups, and I still never felt good enough.  There are hundreds of studies on the impact of Photoshopped media and self-esteem. I have had girls in class as young as six say negative things about the way they look. It’s so disheartening. Building a positive self-worth starts early and impacts a girl’s success for the rest of her life!

By 7thgrade, I was 5 ft. 6 in, with a large chest, and long, awkward legs.  When I stepped into my first Belly Dance class, I was immediately welcomed by women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. When they walked around that room, they owned their own beauty through posture, poise, and passion. There was even an older woman who was going through chemo, strutting proudly her bald head.  I studied her and thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen.  Then I realized, what this style of dance gave, was the ability to walk with purpose, to move the body when one feels like it, and to own those movements as their own. When a girl or woman is empowered to love their own body as is, that’s what makes them shine; that’s what makes them beautiful.  Photoshop could never touch that!

We have this phenomenon happen at the studio. If we wear two piece costumes, the audience spends more time thinking about how we fit into their narrow expectations of what a Belly Dancer should look like (thanks MTV!). They watch the show, but they are distracted. When we wear dresses or something fully covered, we get more applause for the exact same piece. It doesn’t matter what age, size, or shape the dancers are, we received the same response! Sometimes, even our audiences get distracted by what we should be. But our dancers never do, because they are too busy having fun, and it shows. Usually after a performance other women come up to our dancers to compliment them and say they are an inspiration. Whatever happens in life, whatever shape our body takes, and regardless of who is watching, we must learn to never lose our own sparkle and keep dancing!


3. They learn to own and control their own bodies

There comes a special power when a person can control their body - in what they wear, who they allow near it, and how they feel. When you can control the smallest movement, a turn of the wrist, a movement of the hip, there’s this sense of accomplishment and empowerment that comes with it. Even with full grown women, the fact that they learn to control muscles and movements to own as their own is a spark of freedom!  There are also benefits to releasing and moving through whole muscle groups for relaxation and detoxification similar to Yoga and Pilates.


4.It makes them less susceptible to negative self-talk and external pressues

I have also experienced that  girls who start Belly Dancing, have a higher self-worth, have more of a self-purpose or are more motivated towards their own personal goals. They know their body is a powerful tool, and they learn that although they may not be able to do a particular movement yet, they know they will be able to.  They seem to respond better when bullied or harassed in school. An example was when one young lady came in saying that someone had said her hips were too big, of which she replied, “why thank-you!” and walked away dancing. I think it also helps being part of a community of women in various stages of the natural aging process instead of just hanging out with their age clichés and the issues they have at that specific age.


5. Learning to spend time on themselves is a healthy habit to start early

Ok, this one may be more for the parents. I started teaching in 2003. Since then, something has happened in our culture. I’ve talked to my mentors about this, and they say they have seen the same trend:  women feel guilty taking time away from their families. Leaving one night a week is hard. Leaving for a one hour class to recharge makes them feel guilty. This is not healthy for moms, it doesn’t build independence for the rest of the family, and no one has recharge time alone! Mom not taking time for herself sets the tone for the next generation of women.

Sometimes women come to the studio and the first thing they do is take a deep breath. When they come, they’re drained. When they leave, they’re smiling. Regardless if it is Belly Dancing, Yoga, or sitting and reading a book, find something for you for an hour a week!  You can always come with your daughter/granddaughter/niece/foster child too, but quite possibly, you could find that hour for yourself while your daughter is learning to own her own movements and sparkle!

-Amity Alize


Raq-On dance Studio offers girls classes, birthday parties, and celebrations. For more information on girl's classes for ages 5+, email raqondance@gmail.com

Continue reading
5532 Hits

Body Positivity and Belly Dance



Body Positivity and Belly Dance

By Raq-ette Iris

Note: Iris presented this topic as a presentation at one of our WRJ First Friday events and blew everyone away. Here it is in blog format!

This is a topic near and dear to me:  I’m so passionate about Belly Dance and so intense in my desire to express what the dance means to me and why it’s been both terrifying and growth-inspiring on a personal level that I’m finding it hard not to jump in head first, gushing like a mad woman and overwhelming you as a reader who may be new to Belly Dance or unsure of her place within the body positive movement..

Instead I’m going to try to start slow and ask some simple questions to give us a kind of framework or I might run off on a hundred different tangents trying to say everything all at once and end up saying nothing!


What are we talking about?  Body Positivity, especially as it pertains to Belly Dance.

Who are we talking about?  You. No one else can live for you.  You make your decisions and you live your life. You can’t change anyone else.  This is about you.

Where can this be accomplished?  Here.  You made it here and here is where you can start to seriously think about your body.

When can this happen?  Now…and from now on. Not when you lose weight, not when school starts, not when you finish your latest project. NOW.

Why?  Because you are important.  And I’m going to say that again.  Because you are important. You count.  You matter.  You, and the body you inhabit have a right to be here. You and the body you inhabit have an impact on the world.

How?  A million ways, but right now our how is going to be through Belly Dance.

What do you have to gain?

  • Acceptance of Self

  • Peer group

  • Mastery over muscle

  • Appreciation of your body through exploration of its capabilities:  both body and mind

  • Learning about a whole new culture:  expanding your view of the world.  We begin to understand accept each other based on commonalities:  dance is something everyone does!

  • Variety of styles, skill levels

  • Fun!


So let’s start with a story:


When I was 20, my parents gave me a car.  Cool right?  Arguably, this is one of the most exciting things that could happen to a young person.

It just happens that this car used to belong to my Grandmother.  It was a 1978 Cutlass Salon:  Beige…. (Let me let that sink in).  Not so cool.  This thing was the epitome of what you just DON’T want to be seen driving.  It was 10 years old and had no amenities.  We’re talking an AM radio…period.  The first thing I did was snatch the granny square afghan off the seat, which I lived to regret:  did I mention the seats were vinyl?  Those babies could cook the backs of your thighs in 2.6 seconds flat.


So here’s the thing.  This is what I got.  Cool or not, I had wheels.  Wheels meant freedom and autonomy.  This horribly-anything-but-what-I-would-have-chosen-for-myself car opened up a whole world of opportunities that were unattainable for me before.

So now let’s talk about bodies….something else I largely inherited from my grandmother.  Mine is short and solid.  My hair and eyes are brown.  My most striking or remarkable aspect is my pre-disposition to want to gain and hold onto a whole bunch of weight.  This is not what I would have chosen from the catalog if I had been shopping for a body.  It is, however, what was given to me.  So cool or not, this anything-but-what-I-would-have chosen-for-myself body is mine.  It has strengths and weaknesses, but it is the tool I have to work with to create and experience every single aspect of my life.

Let me say that again.  My body is the tool I have to:


And Experience




Of my life.

This thing is amazing.  It takes in information.  It stores information.  It sorts information and interprets what it takes in.  It learns. From this comes the creation of emotions, likes, dislikes, compassion. It fixes itself.  It is able to interact with the world.  It replicates….Whoa.

My body DESERVES my respect

My body DESERVES my love

My body DESERVES my positivity


Dance is one place where you really can see when a person is able to love their body.

It’s not just a hip circle….it’s a hip (ahhhhh) circle….look at my hip…and it’s coming around.  It looks good, it feels good, and it’s mine.  This is me.  Yeah.

It’s not just putting your arm up,  it’s being THERE with your arm as it goes up, feeling which muscles are being used, how MUCH they’re being used; the flow of one muscle into another.

It’s not just a series of movements strung together, it’s communication:  you get to show someone the real you without saying a word and, yeah, sometimes that’s HARD, but sometimes words just don’t cut it and this can be a way to put it all out there.


Here’s an exercise:

Pull up Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrO4YZeyl0I

You’re going to dance.  The goal here is not to come up with a pretty or interesting dance.  The goal is not necessarily to fuse Belly Dance moves with American pop music…you may or may not know the moves and you may or may not know this song.  The goal is to take moves you are already comfortable with and REALLY connect with your body.  No hiding! No excuses! The goal is to find and showcase…YOU!  Do you like to really rock out with your hips? Use them!  Use them to the nth degree.  Show the world what hips are!  Do you have a killer smile?  Flash it!  Are you all about slow ooey gooey moves?  This is where you let them out.  Pops and locks?  Yup!  Now’s the time!  Whatever makes you feel good, whatever makes you feel confident: You’re the star of this one.

This is often our relationship with our bodies:  a bad romance.

Our relationship with our bodies is a relationship.  And body positivity and acceptance can be like couples counseling

Sometimes things are great and it’s a match made in heaven…everyone is happy and content.

Sometimes there are HUGE evident issues that cause HUGE everyday problems.

Sometimes the problems are hidden but eroding a good relationship quietly from the inside.

There are times when your body can simply let you down: people get sick or hurt.  Sometimes your body doesn’t react to things the way you expect or want it to.

Sometimes YOU let your body down.  We don’t always eat the right things or sleep enough or move enough.

Just like a relationship, you sometimes have to make a conscious decision to love your body, even though it’s not perfect…maybe especially where it’s not perfect.  Relationships don’t get fixed by ignoring your partner, or by alienating them or blaming them.  It’s so much easier to get WORK done when you do it in a positive way.

*Something to think about:  You may not always be 100% in awe of your partner, but do you let other people tear them down?  Most of us will come to our loved ones’ defense.  Shouldn’t we love ourselves in the same way?

*Something else to think about:  the Japanese have a practice called kintsukuroi.   They repair a broken object with gold or silver and understand that the piece is more beautiful and stronger for having been broken.

Why Bad (romance)? Because we have been messed with.  We have been lied to.  We’ve been bamboozled into thinking that the only body that is worth having is a young, healthy, athletic body.  More than that.  We’ve been told tall is better than short and thin is better than fat. (but not tootall and not toothin). We’ve even been told that the color of our skin or hair or eyes is not as desirable as someone elses’.  We’ve been told growing old means we are less desirable. We’ve been told we should conform…change our body, no matter the cost…or hide our bodies and thus hide ourselves. We are told that our imperfection is a burden on society.

“Seriously, who wants to see that?”  Whatever “that” is we internalize it.  Our specific imperfection is terrible!  Unforgiveable! We hide ourselves or try to fix ourselves.  We pick on ourselves beforesomeone else can. We laugh at jokes that were made at our expense and we point out other peoples’ flaws.  And every day we are bombarded with a thousand reminders:  on TV, in magazines, store windows, billboards, and on-line by images of bodies…desirable bodies…bodies without our imperfection. They have a certain look to them to begin with, but then they get touched up…and somehow we are supposed to live up to a standard that isn’t even reality.


Here are some pictures of women who have been photo-shopped to appear “more appealing”


Was there really anything wrong with the original woman? Seriously…would Disney’s box office sales have plummeted if they had drawn the Little Mermaid on the right?

Yet they chose the tiny version on the left.  Watch it in action here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLmSUhyySLI  youtube Power of Photoshop)







Tabloids and Click Baits really prey on this.  They regularly feature “Who Aged Horribly”

And “Who Wore It Best” Often these are just regular pics vs glamor shots or who is more popular or thinner

So we run around trying to not let people see our “flaws”. We put makeup over our pimples and we tweeze hairs and we lift this up and squeeze that in and we hide our cellulite and our scars and our crooked toenails and our varicose veins.  We bleach our teeth and dye our hair.  We starve ourselves and torture ourselves and carve ourselves up chasing that ideal. We’ve been told we’re not good enough.

Don’t Buy It.

Stop and think.

No one is perfect.

Beyond that:  you already know that there is beauty in imperfection:

You pick out the oddest looking puppy to bring home.

You choose an asymmetrical hemline.

You find a wooden table with intricate patterns in the grain.


Questions to ponder:

Would Madonna have been better off in life if her parents had put her in braces?

What could you do with the time you’ve spent hiding?

What if, when I got my first car, I was so embarrassed that I would only drive it at night when no one else was on the road?  What if I never changed the oil because it didn’t matter anyway? What If I convinced myself I was better off walking until I owned a black Firebird with a gold eagle on the hood?

No more.



Fortunately there has been some pushback lately.  People are really spotlighting and questioning some of these values.    Modeling agencies are hiring models that represent more of us.  Tess Holiday, Madeline Stewart , Winnie Harlow, & Stephanie Reid.. 
















There is a real movement that includes more and more of us in the spotlight where we belong


Take a step on this journey where you discover how to celebrate your body and yourself.

I am NOT saying you can’t work on yourself: you have the right to do what you want with your body. What I am saying is that your goals should be YOUR goals for YOUR reasons, not because you’ve been tricked or bullied into them.  Isn’t it easier to shine a positive light on what you have to work with?  

How many of us look in the mirror and say, “I HATE what I see and I’ll never be happy until it’s different”?  What if your attitude was:

“I love what I have and I’m going to be happy as I work to make it better” or

“I love what I have and I’m happy to keep it this way.”  or

“ I love what I have and am ready to accept the changes in my body as they happen naturally.”

These are all incredibly valid.  These are incredibly powerful.  As you accept yourself, you allow love of self. 

So what if something could help you find that love that was also good for you?

Along comes Belly Dance.

Physically Belly Dance helps you move, strengthens, stretches, and keeps your blood moving.

This dance is accessible.  You can Belly Dance is you’re thin or fat…if you are a gifted athlete or if you trip over your own feet.  You can Belly Dance if you’re young or old, if your body is intact, or if pieces of your body don’t work or aren’t there (D1, D2,D3, D4, D5, D6, D7)





Miasia http://miasia.org/






Adira Elham































Famous Dance Star Mona Said, dancing in regular clothes and still "Raqing" it!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh8O4ZSvqTs   

Dancer Samia of China https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiECgisc8HQ  

Mentally, there is a huge boost in watching yourself transform:  experiencing your body do things it couldn’t do the week before.  There is a conversation that is opened between you and your body:  a conversation that can lead to a much better understanding of who you are, what you need, where you stand, and where you are heading.   Remember our couples counseling?  You can’t fix things without communicating.  Bodies closed to conversation do not get their needs met, and eventually they will rebel.

There is a lot to gain in having something to look forward to:  be it learning new things, just getting out of the house, enjoying some conversation with classmates, learning new music, hearing about a different culture.

Here are some of the beautiful people I dance with or have learned from:







 Alia Thabit www.aliathabit.com











   Rosette Divine












  Dance Friends Barb & Sandy, and Teacher Lily with Iris






  Amity Alize www.raq-on.net




Could we pick them apart for their imperfections?  Sure.  But why?  Isn’t it better to let their strength, beauty, and joy wash over us and fill us?

This can be a time and a place to heal…your kintsukuroi:  Belly Dance can be your gold.  We can use this as a medium to mend our cracks, strengthen ourselves, and emerge beautiful.











Continue reading
3866 Hits

Life as a Raq-ette: Lisa

It smells like decades old rummage sale leftovers.  Uneven floors carry the last one hundred and fifty years of footsteps. Vintage blue ceramic tiles reminiscent of times past surround iron-stained sinks and toilets that are no match for even the strongest industrial cleaners. The floor has lost a tile or two along the way, resembling the complexities of a New York Times crossword puzzle. Bulbs line edges of the mirrors, some frosted, some clear, some missing all together.  These fading panes of glass have likely reflected back the faces of some Vaudeville and Off-Broadway stars. But there are no divas here now– not really. We’ve squeezed four-maybe even five of us in a room intended for two. My head knocks against the empty metal hangers, and my elbow dumps the bucket of safety pins at one point organized by size. This is our new performance home – and we love it.  After all, it is moving up in the world for us.

This year marked my 5 yr. Raq-On-versary.  The studio spaces and the venues may have changed over the years, but the spirit I love at Raq-On never waivers because the essence of Raq-On lives in the amazing character of its dancers. Even when nervous jitters and melting makeup cause frustrations to rise above the temperature, Raq-On dancers don’t just put their best performance forward, they put their best person forward.  These moments are the pinnacles of hard work and success; the true highlight of our shows, hidden behind the velvet curtains and glittering costumes.  They are accomplishments that come not from learning techniques or choreographies, but shared and passed along by example – from instructors and from each other.

Five years ago, I entered quiver-kneed into a different venue for my first performance with the Raq-On family. Here, we huddled into the backstage room of a night club.  It was the first hot day of summer, and the humidity had already bullied its way into the early summer air. Fans blew in vain, unable to abate the added heat of flat irons and fabric steamers. We were elbow to curling iron as we crouched to get cat-eyed and curled. Some were lucky enough to mark territory in the open lounge area, while others managed to tuck themselves behind boxes of barware and soap dispenser refills.  There was no room to be discreet no matter how hard you tried to use those clever contortionist middle school changing techniques.

Heat, nerves, hairspray smog, and glitter bombs - it had all the makings of performance Armageddon.  But no, not with this group of gals. I knew only a few dancers who were in my small class, but that didn’t seem to matter. Never before had I been welcomed by such a supportive group of women. Need your costume pinned? Help with your hair? Not just one – but several dancers appear like fairy godmothers with their rescue box of safety pins, hair clips, fashion tape, or just a free hand. And never, will any dancer at a Raq-On show perform sans glitter, because each one comes locked and loaded to ensure every one of us sparkles on that stage. 

When a choreography stumbles, a veil catches, or a sword falters, each dancer is supportive and uplifting: “I messed up too! Don’t worry, you still looked beautiful;” “You did great! We’ve all been there when it doesn’t go so well;” “So you missed a step! Your barrel turn was amazing!” These are the voices of Raq-On dancers. At each performance, especially our end of the year showcase, there are always hard won moments. A dancer strikes her final pose, and she breathlessly returns backstage you hear “YES! I did it!” And there waiting are all her supporters primed for high-fives (because hugging, rhinestones, paillettes, and fringe could be a recipe for disaster).

The most memorable recital I have been a part of holds a special place in my heart.  It was my third recital when we crowded in a tiny corner just off stage to watch our dance mom, Amity, perform one of the most emotional dances of her life - a tribute performance for her longtime love, Roger, who died in the fall of 2014.  There were no dry eyes– not on stage, not in the audience, and certainly not among those of us who stood captivated in the wings.  

But as always, it’s not so much what happens on stage, so much as what happens behind it that touches me the most.  Here we all were, a family of sisters, waiting anxiously to embrace our courageous friend with all the love and positivity we had to give.  

This unconditional support continues at each and every performance I’ve experienced as part of the Raq-On family.  At every performance I witness the genuine, kind-hearted qualities of the women I dance with. Some have come and some have gone.  Priorities shift, we marry, go to school, change jobs, move away, or move on. But that’s the natural progression of all families. 

The feeling of my first show with Raq-On has never left me – and not because the heat was so unforgettable that year. Next year, we could be in a another new venue, and while I’ll miss the creaking, glitter stained floors of the Briggs, or that fact that I know my way around it in complete darkness, I can count on the comfort that my nerves will lighten with encouraging words, helping hands, and laughter – lots of laughter.  And when the curtain falls at the end of the night, we’ll gather around a table of fancy margaritas and a spread of Mexican food, poking fun at our mishaps that more than likely will involve a costume malfunction by yours truly.  And Amity, laughing along, will already be churning over ideas for next year.

This year our resident videographer, Lisa, came around asking us why we dance.  In the moment I couldn’t think quickly enough and gave a canned answer: “because it makes me happy.” Which is true, for certain.  But what I should have answered, more specifically, was: I dance because my place at this table, with this family of empowering, encouraging, thoughtful, helpful, genuine women, means the world to me.

(And of course, there’s the sparkles!)


About Lisa

Lisa joined the studio as a student in 2012.  Being a "dancer" was a youthful flame in danger of being extinguished until her daughter took her to experience a Raq-On class for beginners, “I would have would have gone along thinking dance was reserved for trained professionals or nightclubs. But I was certainly proved wrong when I found the community at Raq-On. Plus, being new to a community isn’t easy, but here I was instantly welcomed into this amazing, supportive dance family.” Studying dance coincides with her love of studying folklore. Outside of dance, Lisa is a mother, wife, writer, and teacher, with a Master’s Degree in English. She feels strongly that studying the culture and meanings behind the dance is just as important as learning moves and choreography. Lisa, aka “Stella R. Night,” is also a member of the Vaudeville Vixens cabaret troupe who practice and perform at Raq-On.


Continue reading
3659 Hits