Over a decade ago, I started my teaching career by teaching little girls from my church how to belly dance in my home. Over time, that expanded to include adults, teens, and girls as young as four. Throughout all my years belly dancing, and especially since I started teaching children, I have often come across, or been confronted with the question: should little girls be taught to belly dance?
Now that I have my own four year old who loves to dance more than anything except Daddy, the question rings louder than ever. My answer has not changed, and quite simply, the answer is yes.
See, what the subtext is is not whether little girls should dance, but whether little girls should dance like that. And no, I'm not suggesting we should heap the burden of educating the General Public on our little angels' heads. Rather, I'm suggesting we not worry about the GP and what they think about our children when We Know Better. We know for a fact that when girls participate in sports or dance, it contributes to a stronger self-esteem, giving them tools for a sense of achievement as well as developing habits for a healthy lifestyle. It teaches discipline. It provides peers to bond with.
We have no problem starting them in ballet at 2, or tap at 4. Why should we wait to teach them belly dance? Is it because some dancers overtly sexualize it? Well, guess what. Some dancers overtly sexualize every dance form. I will never understand why I can go to a community festival where local dance studios display their teens on stage writhing about, calling it jazz, or thrusting their hips in the name of hip hop, and nobody bats an eye, but as soon as my class shimmies on stage, bodies completely covered except their bellies, people start questioning the propriety of it.
Here's the thing. If people want to remain in ignorance, they're going to. I'm not going to keep the immense number of benefits gained through belly dance from the little girls in my life. I'm going to teach them technique, cultural respect, performance, and help them see how beautiful they are just because they are beautiful. My first students are all young women now, and those who stayed in belly dance got through puberty much more easily than most of their non-belly dancing friends. Why on earth would I deny other girls, and my own daughter in particular, that wonderful experience just because some lady with big hairsprayed hair makes snide comments?
What do you think?