There are these sweet moments during our weekly classes that I live for. A woman is dancing. She is taking her space, working on a move, breathing and sensing how that hip feels when she places it right there. There is nothing like the look on her face, the look that is focused, inquisitive and present. It’s not about right or wrong technique, or bellydance at all. Blasphemy, I know! But it’s bigger than all of that. It’s about her hip. It’s about the discovery that she can place it in front of her, to the side, push it back or make it jiggle up and down. Her hip is now the eighth wonder of the world! The energy in the room crackles like lightning. Zigzagging, bouncing from hip to hip, each woman catches a spark. And the next thing we know our students are asking us to play the song one more time, just once more so that they can move that hip.
The Iraqi-American author and independent filmmaker Armand Nassery once said, “Do you know what happens when an Arabian woman dances? She does not dance, she protests, she loves, she cries, she makes love, she dreams, she goes away from her reality, to her own world, where love is really meant and she does not want to come back, because that is her reality.” While most of our students are not of Arabic decent, they fully embody this sentiment. The discovery of the wonders of their hips unlocks a door to a new reality about themselves and the world around them. And whether they realize it or not, the joy of that discovery creates space for the woman dancing next to them to do the same.
Etang and I decided to channel those sparks by hosting a student hafla (party!) It’s a gathering just for our students, where they can, outside of a structured class, celebrate that eureka moment with others who have similarly embraced the wonders of their hips through bellydance. There is no formal show or featured star. We will dance, giggle, share our various talents, cheer each other on, sample some tasty morsels and dance some more. This will be another iteration of the Your Body Raks community, a no body shaming, food policing, or competition zone. It’s a place where a woman can “go away from her reality, to her own world where love is really meant,” as Nassery puts it. The student hafla is our way of being the change that we want to see in the world.
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