It’s a BELLY Dance!

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During a recent trip to Arizona I learned
that a Navajo woman’s traditional garb
includes a special woven sash worn about
the hips. This sash serves many functions:
(1) tightening the sash creates a counterpressure
that relieves discomfort from
menstruation, the weight of a baby in the
womb, and labor pains; (2) others can shape the sash into
a hammock, to hold a birthing woman upright, or a pull
rope, to create a downward pressure; (3) laboring women
can hang onto the sash when it is tied to something above
them and easily squat in the expulsion stage of labor; (4)
the sash can strap a baby to one’s body; and (5) the sash’s
bright red appearance marks the unique movements of a
woman’s body as she walks, attracting this life cycle to
begin. For these reasons, the sash is a symbol of woman
and is used in Navajo coming of age ceremonies.
As I watched my Navajo teacher shape this sash into a
symbolic baby for a ceremonial dance I couldn’t help but
wonder if the hip scarf I wore during Middle Eastern Dance
(MED) class might not be a similar symbol. MED movements
prepare a woman’s body for birth and reflect the postures
a woman’s body assumes when birthing in a natural
setting. Rosina-Fawzia B. Al-Rawi, author of Grandmother’s
Secrets, writes her grandmother’s stories of women dancing
for a laboring woman. This circle of women would take
their cues from the laboring woman, converting her rhythm
and movements into a dance. In turn, this dance would
focus the mother on the pattern naturally emerging from
her body, becoming a mantra of sorts.
It is no wonder why MED is such a powerful dance: it is
a celebration of fertility and femininity, traits once worshipped
at the goddess level but now lost in our androcentric
I invite all pregnant women and those recovering from
childbirth to comfort their bodies through the support of
Middle Eastern dance adapted for pregnancy. In my class,
Belle Mamas, gentle, slow movements that enhance labor
(comparable to prenatal yoga and stretching exercises) will
be introduced in the context of supportive talk regarding a
mother’s journey. Through this creative birth preparation
you will unveil your feminine strengths and develop body
awareness. Midwives and obstetricians around the world
have approved this dance as a supplement to birth preparation
in normal pregnancies. The class is not appropriate
for pregnancies at-risk for premature birth. Even though
obstetricians generally do not restrict physical activity in
normal pregnancies, participants should consult their doctor
for approval.
For more information call 217-369-1334.

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