This morning I went to a spectacular belly dance event / brunch. Amateurs and professionals all performing to live music, glittering in their costumes, showing off all their favorite moves. As usual the dancers were a delight to watch; one was particularly hypnotic with her zills. For me, though, the best part of the event was the audience.
Belly dance has its origins in specific cultures of North Africa and the Middle East, but I believe it has truly become an international women’s dance. Women of all backgrounds, cultures, and body types have embraced it. Each dancer brings her personal take to the dance, elevating it from a cultural relic to a celebration of the feminine in all its diversity. You don’t have to look a certain way, think a certain way, or be from a certain place in order to belly dance; you just have to feel it in you.
There’s nothing better, for me, than to see women from diverse backgrounds coming together in dance. One of my dancer friends is Nigerian-American, bringing her West African flair to the stage. Another performer was Japanese-American; one came from Algeria, another from Ukraine, one of Mexican heritage, and of course some were good old-fashioned “American blend,” like me, the product of so many European ancestors we’ve lost track of where they came from originally. I sat by a charming older Chinese-American lady, and we chatted and bonded watching all those beautiful women dance. At the table next to me was a group of ladies (Somali, maybe) wearing headscarves. Later we all danced together on the open floor, along with the other giddy audience members.
Diversity, I think, means creating a space where we can all feel comfortable, where we all belong. As evidenced by the above paragraph, I come from a culture of jarringly specific labels, mostly in an attempt to be politically correct yet also open about people’s varied backgrounds. But better than pointing it out, rather celebrate it. Just love and appreciate this dance where we can come together, all of us, and share the stage.