by Ayperi Al Jawahir
While belly dancing is an excellent way to get in touch with one’s feminine side, it can also be the perfect mother-daughter bonding experience. Historically, belly dancing, or Middle Eastern dance, has been passed down from mothers to daughters as a social dance. The undulating movements were used as a training tool to prepare the daughters for one day giving birth by building strength in the stomach muscles. In many cultures when a woman would go into labor, the women in the family would gather around her and dance to encourage a quick and easy labor. These were very practical reasons to dance, but even more importantly, dancing brought the women joy.
Today, belly dance has grown into a flashier art form. Women use the dance as a great way to exercise while allowing a release for their creative side. Belly dance classes can be found in most major U.S. cities. Like the women of ancient times, mothers and daughters can enjoy dancing together in these classes.
Karen Pierce and her daughter, Amey, began belly dancing together when Amey was 13. “I loved the class because it was something we could do together; just our own special time. It gave us some common ground that we needed then,” says Amey.
In many mother-daughter relationships, the teenage years can be the most difficult. Jennifer Lowery and her mother, Irma, were also in the class. “We started classes when I was around the age that most teenagers would beg their parents to go to the mall, only to ditch them when they got there,” says Jennifer. “While growing up, my mother worked at Tinker Air Force Base, and most of the time I saw her she was always wearing her battle dress uniform. When we started belly dance classes together, it was something new and different for both of us. It was a really good outlet to have something in common and be creative with the things we learned. Plus, I always loved seeing her all glitzed up, and I enjoyed telling everyone that she’s my mother.”
Candace Chilton and her preteen daughter, Samantha, are not in the same class at their belly dance studio, but they practice together at home and have choreographed and performed a routine. “It gives us something that is just ours,” Samantha enthuses.
Thea Albertson and her teenage daughter, Madi, started belly dancing together a few years ago. The classes have helped Thea cope with Madi growing up. “It’s taught me a lot about Madi as a person,” says Thea. “We practice together, and, honestly, we used to get into a lot of arguments because I wanted her to explain certain dance routines or act a certain way. I finally realized that [the lessons give] me an opportunity to see my daughter as her own person. It was hard on me at first because she’s my only child, but I think it’s been a really good thing for our relationship.”
Dancing together also helped Karen see Amey grow into her own person. “I think it helped me to accept her ways of being different and made it easier for me to step back and watch her blossom into her own creative entity,” Karen says.
The growth and admiration goes both ways. Jennifer says, “I think that we have a lot of fun bouncing ideas off each other. Whether it’s a dance move or a costume design, it allows us to work together and learn from one another.” Jennifer and Amey’s mothers made their first dance costumes with design ideas from the girls. “We would work together designing costumes and mom would usually sew them, because she is amazing at sewing,” says Amey. “I’ve always felt fortunate that I have a fun mom, and I love seeing her create comedy dances.”
Belly dancing can help bring mothers and daughters closer together and helps them understand each other better. “Belly dancing with my mother is something that I am grateful to have experienced. From taking classes together to performing and all the stuff in between, I am glad she was always by my side,” Jennifer says happily.
Ayperi Al Jawahir is the founder of Aalim Bellydance Academy, located at 2520 N. Meridian Ave., in Oklahoma City. For more information, call 405-844-0304 or visit: