Oriental belly-dancing

Belly-dancing is a dance of isolation in which the various parts and centres of the body move independently from each other, yet end up forming a unit.

Just as individual drops unite in the harmonious flow of a river which draws its strength from its source time and again, so belly-dancing, as suggested by its popular name, finds its source in the belly. The whole body swings around this centre, the navel of the world.

Fawzia Al-Rawi's grandmother initiated her into the traditions of her culture from early childhood, where belly-dancing was a major expression of the world of women. For the past 25 years, she has introduced women from other cultures to the joys and wisdom of this dance. Dancers also learn how each movement affects the body, thus sharing Fawzia Al-Rawi's extensive practical and theoretical knowledge.

Many movements of belly-dancing originate in the joints. The torso is softly kneaded and massaged by the wave-like and circling movements. By moving their torso, belly, hips and pelvis, women come in touch with the vitality and the life centres in their body. Through the various rhythms, they embark on an inner journey that enables them to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and experience a healing process.

Health and the various rhythms are interconnected. And health is more than being free of disease. Health is harmony of body, soul and spirit (mind). In this sense, illness always affects the whole person. It calls out to us, 'What have I overlooked in my being?' 'What have I forgotten to integrate in my life?'.

The loss of symbolic consciousness

Symbolic consciousness was gradually lost with the emergence of rationalism, as was our connection to that inner legacy. Whereas time had initially been seen as part of the great cycle in which seasons follow the stars, it became reduced to a mere sequence of hours and days.

Yet only this symbolic level can help us understand the different phases of life, also known as the seven ages of mankind. In the absence of this symbolic understanding, we find ourselves confronted with the physical effects of aging, cut off from the deeper awareness of our own nature born through the different phases of initiation.

Stuck in a material world which fails to reflect our deeper nature, we then restrict our quest for symbolic meaning to the outside world and end up glorifying clothes or cars. We work harder and harder, but keep feeling something essential is lacking, something we cannot name. 

Mankind's alienation from the world of symbols has caused many problems, especially for women. More so than the masculine, the feminine is attuned to nature and to the symbolic world and the laws of rhythm, all of which nurture the feminine.

Symbols and rituals are part of life and they are born from the connection with the inner world, a gift from the Divine. Symbolic consciousness is ascribed to the right side of the brain and it works in a holistic way. Analysis, logic and conceptual thinking belong to the left side of the brain which develops with language learning and focuses mainly on the outer world. The right side is mostly receptive; it focuses more on the inner world and tends to think in pictures, observing changes in the bigger picture.

In our predominantly material world, symbolic consciousness has become smothered by an increasingly dominant analytical way of thinking. Symbolic thinking has lost its significance and, for most people, it survives in the unconscious, manifesting through dreams, fantasy and nebulous feelings.

Oriental belly-dancing as a key to the world of symbols

If we want to live in harmony with our deepest nature, we must reclaim the holistic approach of the symbolic world. The waves and circles of this dance help us rediscover its forgotten language and awareness. The true stage of this women's dance is the threshold between the inner and outer worlds which it brings together, initiating a symbolic relationship to life and to our deeper nature, enabling us to access the inner figures of wisdom and strength which can teach us about the wisdom of our soul.

The feminine quality of receptiveness has fallen from view in our masculine world. The movements of this dance can help us develop once more the feminine art of listening, the creative quality of receptiveness, opening a window into the symbolic reality of the soul. Our masculine thinking must serve the feminine, inner world. We should not allow our rational mind to follow patriarchal patterns and attack or deny the wisdom of the feminine. The balance between masculine and feminine consciousness must be restored and both allowed to work together. From the union of analytical with symbolic consciousness, a deeper, richer understanding of our true nature can emerge, as we learn to value being part of a whole which nurtures and guides our inner being.

This approach is quite different from the stance the outside world demands of us, namely that we act based on knowledge and understanding. The force and hidden philosophy of this dance can help us awaken that part in us which is capable of responding without preconceptions.

Fawzia Al-Rawi