I attended a belly dancing workshop on February 28th in 2015 led by Kalia Kellogg. Kalia shared her personal background and told the class about how she got into the art of belly dancing. Kalia used to be a ballet dancer, but she felt that the pressure to maintain a certain image and to behave a certain way was too overbearing. Kalia is very in-touch with her self-esteem, body, and spirituality. Belly dancing is a part of Kalia’s identity and personality and her passion for it is apparent. Anyone can tell she enjoys doing and teaching what she does.
When I went to the class it wasn’t mandatory to show our stomachs and nobody was forced to do it if they were uncomfortable, but it was celebrated if you wanted to go for it. I learned a lot from the lesson, including, but not limited to: bend your knees slightly and align your feet with your nipples in the home-base position, having open elbows are one of the sexiest parts of a dancer’s body language, when you want to move faster you have to make your movements smaller, and meditation is a soothing and relaxing way to recover after dancing. I’ve always wanted to express myself through movement and am considering joining a calisthenics class to increase my core and arm strength, so this class was a very similar experience to what I want to achieve. I’m glad I went to the class because it was a valuable learning experience, Kalia was very insightful, and the class increased my confidence in my abilities.
The way that the belly dancing event relates to the beauty myth is by demonstrating body liberation. According to Wolf, the beauty myth is “… actually composed of emotional distance, politics, finance, and sexual repression” (Wolf, p. 13). People who belly dance can and are encouraged to explore their own sexuality and sensuality through movement. Although, belly dancing is not solely about the sexualization of the dancer, the dance itself can be seen as an empowering form of sexual liberation. Belly dancers tend to be strong, independent, and have a healthy mindset about their bodies. This is detrimental to the beauty myth because the system is dependent on women feeling like they are worth less than they actually are (Wolf, 1991, p. 18). Belly dancers are typically at peace with their bodies and see the dance as an extension of who they are.
Belly dancers aren’t confined to any one size or shape, as Kalia had mentioned, and in this way it challenges conventional beauty standards by showing that anyone can be a belly dancer and feel like they are beautiful/good enough. Kalia is not extremely thin, she is curvaceous and it is obvious that she is confident and appreciates her body and what it can do. Regarding the cult of beauty where a woman is typically considered beautiful if she is thin, undergoes pain, and potentially has surgeries to “fix” herself, Valenti suggests that women stop hating themselves despite impossible beauty standards (Valenti, 2007, p. 212). Kalia has probably taken this type of advice to heart, she doesn’t do yoga and belly dancing solely for the purpose of looking good; she feels good about herself because she is doing what she loves.
Valenti, J., (2007). Full Frontal Feminism A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
Wolf, N., (1991). The Beauty Myth How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc.