The Path of Inspired Women

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Tammy's HeadshotLast Friday morning, I sat in my living room feeling grounded, at peace and most importantly, happy. My life is not worry-free. I’m plagued by the unknowns of tomorrow, have bills to pay, and am constantly bombarded by the “shoulds” from the television and tea buddies. But still, there I sat, savoring the moment. So I cannot help but believe that this is what happens when a person, a woman, follows her bliss.As with most revolutions, the spark for Your Body Raks was created by young women. Your Body Raks was inspired by the success and the expanding demands of the Girls Raks Bellydance and Body Image Program. The repeated refrain of “I need this” from their mothers and other women compelled Etang and me to take our work to next level. This simple declaration reminded us that, as women, we never totally shed the body shaming and the repetitive demands of an image-obsessed society that we experience in our youth. And as we looked around, we found that these women continue to suffer from being immersed in a culture that tells them that they are not good enough, from the lyrics of the songs that they dance to in the night clubs, to the food policing and weight-focused mantras of well-meaning family, friends and colleagues.

Sridevi, Nanna Candelaria & David of Scandinavia Badyal, Girls Raks Panelists

In the Girls Raks program, we tackle these issues head on. Using bellydance as the foundation, we investigate the impact of societal rules and expectations around gender, race and class. For instance, in a curriculum module titled So You Think That You Know Bellydance: Truth, Lies and the Dance, we developed a video presentation that lays out the stereotypes and the history of bellydance. Then a panel of bellydancers talks about how they address these stereotypes, the tools that they use to counter them, and how they maintain their dignity. A closing discussion, journaling session and a guided meditation allow the young women to process what they have heard and consider how they can incorporate the new tools into their own lives. This portion of the Girls Raks day is called Head and Heart Time, a safe space created for media and language analysis, and personal introspection. And then we dance! Learning choreography for the program’s recital, participants are taught basic bellydance moves and much more. The execution of an Egyptian Walk, with a lifted chest and head held high, takes on special meaning in this context.

Etang and I intentionally set the focus of Your Body Raks classes, workshops and speaking presentations around bellydance, body justice and joy as a result of our work with young women and the demands of their elders. Through these services, women will have the opportunity to engage in similar curriculum pieces, as well as totally new offerings. For us, it all starts and ends with bellydancing. A woman can only dance with joy when she has peace within.

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