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Gilded Serpent presents...
The Peace Belt
comes to Tucson

by Lucy Lipschitz

In October I had the great honor of hosting the International Peace Belt and its creator, Wendy Black-Nasta, for two days. It was one of the greatest times of my life. While Wendy was here, we had an awesome bellydance show honoring the Belt and what it stands for: Peace.

I first saw the Peace Belt on the website of dancer Hala, in the Bay Area. I was stunned and amazed that such a Belt even existed. What an incredible idea! I went over to the website of Artists for World Peace and learned more about the travels of this Belt and the unique ceremonies honoring it. As I watched the trailer on the site, I recognized one of the elders of a Native American tribe located near where we used to live in Oregon. He was wearing the Belt at the Pow Wow that we had attended every year. Tears came to my eyes as the Honoring Song was sung and the elder danced with the warriors; it brought back so many memories and it seemed so right to see him there.

So, what is the peace belt?
The International Peace Belt was the first major project undertaken by Artists for World Peace, Inc. In the summer of 2003, two of Wendy's jewelry apprentices and six of her advanced students assisted in the making of the belt, incorporating coins and gemstones from around the world into its design. The hope is to ultimately have coins and/or gemstones from all 191 countries present on the belt. Therefore, as the belt arrives in a country that is not represented, people are invited to add either a coin or stone from their part of the world. The coins were donated from people around the globe, the gems came from Wendy's own collection, and sterling silver was woven into the body of the belt in order to secure the gems and coins.

In accordance with Wendy's vision, dancers, peace, keepers, and spiritual leaders from every country that the belt visits are asked to meditate on peace while performing in The International Peace Belt. It is intended that, through this act, the belt will become a living link between the cultures, a symbol for peace and unity binding the people of all nations as one.

As the belt travels it is being caretaken by a specific person who is responsible for documenting their leg of the journey. Ultimately, the belt's complete travel from nation to nation will be documented in the form of a film as well as a book which will include photographs of each dancer who performed in the belt.

I felt then that I was meant to bring the Belt to Tucson. I had read that its creator, Wendy Black-Nasta, had been inspired by bellydancers when she made the Belt. One of her students was learning to bellydance, and at the student's first performance, Wendy was so moved by the dancing that she felt that a lovely Belt should be made for bellydancers. Wendy adores bellydancing and she is always moved by our connection to each other and each movement. We are not “empty” when we dance; this is a "full" dance, if that makes sense.

But then the Belt took on a life of its own. Everyone wanted to sponsor the Belt, to have it come to their city or their country, to honor it and the concept of Peace in their own ways.
I won’t go into the complex and inspiring history of the Belt, because I think folks might want to read more at the website,, so let me just talk about the events here in Tucson.

Since very few had heard of the Peace Belt, I had a heckuva time getting any schools to allow us to come and bring it. A large number of schools were against us because when I called around and told them about the Belt, and identified myself as a Bellydancer, they seemed to take offense. They had a very wrong idea about this dance, and when I told them it was bellydance that was the inspiration for the Belt, they cut me off rather quickly. Click…bzzzz…

In the end, we were able to show it three different times at two different schools. At the Honoring Ceremony at Serenity’s Way many of our local Desert Crones came to see and touch the Belt.

The amazing thing about the children was that they “got it” right away.

Wendy showed a very touching short film of the many places the Belt has been, and third graders all the way through teenagers watched that film completely transfixed. As Wendy spoke, their eyes lit up and the teachers’ eyes lit up as well, and in a matter of minutes, they understood what the Peace Belt meant to so many people.

The Belt itself is extremely beautiful, and monetarily valuable . Well, let me clarify: when the belt was first made, it was worth around $50,000. That was the price that Fed Ex would insure it for shipping. Now, Fed Ex won’t ship it at all, because the Belt is considered priceless. All the coins and jewels have been donated, and there are some very valuable components on the Belt. It is one of a kind, and it is always personally carried by the person taking the Belt to each community.

I loved to see how many bellydancers are in the film! There are many of us dancing with the Belt, and I’m very proud of this. Lovely Hala was my greatest inspiration, and watching her in the film was glorious! She floated with her veil and the Belt.

My dance partner, Isis, and I started out the Honoring Ceremony with a short Guedra ritual, for which I wore the Belt around my neck. I felt so many emotions, and I’m sure Isis did too. I thought of what I wanted for everyone I know and love, and also what I want for everyone I don’t know. I thought of as many people as I could during the Guedra; I sent out happy thoughts, and I felt different. I am almost always altered in some way during a Guedra, and I would say that this time was very intense. Being with my sister-dancer, Isis, with my baby granddaughter on the floor with us, all giving out and bringing in energies and blessings, was one of the best experiences of my life. I also wore the Belt when I bellydanced last of all; it was such a beautiful Belt and it was a great honor for me. All the soloists, as well as the leaders of the troupes, got to wear the Belt. After the show, anyone could come up and just touch it, or try it on and get her photo taken in it.

So, many dancers ask: what does all this Belt stuff have to do with bellydance? They say that we are supposed to wear bedlah or shells or something... We are supposed to make money at this, and get tips in the basket, and smile all the time. They think that bellydance is not spiritual - it is just a very lovely dance.

Many will say, “spiritual, schmiritual,” and that’s fine. It really is. But I like to use this dance as a way to get across other points of view sometimes. Because sometimes this dance is more than bedlah; it is more than cowrie shells and piercings. I love it all.. but mostly I think that bellydance is a very positive, non-threatening way to approach people.

Those who turned us down and didn’t want the Belt at their schools may very well want to have it when we bring it back again. There was a lot of publicity on the show, and we had many good write-ups about bellydance and the Belt. All proceeds went to buying clothes and food for the Red Bud Sioux Reservation. Wendy has spent much of her life there, and I tell you.. until you have seen a Native American rez, you haven’t really seen poverty. In the winter, people on the reservation are starving and freezing to death in this Great Land of Ours, the Home of the Free. Wendy and her organization have been sending food trucks, filled by the proceeds from the Belt's travels, out there for a while now.

I want more people to understand how transforming this dance is; how it can open doors in so many ways. The hard part is getting people past their prejudices against the bellydance and breaking down their stereotypes. I must admit that the negative reaction I got from some of the local schools, theoretically dedicated to teaching “peace” ,was a bit of a shock. But I’ve had that reaction before, so I am not terribly crushed. I’m always just a little surprised and truly wonder if I will see the prejudice against bellydance gone by the time I die. I hope that prejudice is gone soon, because I am not as young as I used to be, and am running out of time!

Lonnie and Lucy Wendy loved Tucson, and hopes to bring the Belt back in two years, as it will be traveling all that time. We will have more schools to go to, and more local organizations to view it. Our Honoring Ceremony will have more dancers, I hope.

We can sit at our computers and argue about what is true belly dance, and what is ethnic, and who should do it, etc. and it’s a lovely diversion. We argue like this all really matters, and in some ways it does. But it matters more, I think, that this dance can be used to stimulate thinking and discussion, and even to help feed and clothe other human beings. I know that many dancers do fund raisers, and to me, this is right and just.

And so, “little bleeding heart, liberal Lucy”, would like to ask each person to think what Peace means to him or her. Is it the lack of war? Or is it something else? Can it be found in dance and performance? What makes Bellydance different from other dances, if it is different? And why is it considered “liberal” (ie. un-American, these days) to want Peace in the world?

I just wonder what other people think. I believe that more of us will be sponsoring the Belt. In the end, somewhere in the future, it will be donated to the UN or the Smithsonian Institute, and it will be a lovely symbol of all the millions of people who united to see the Belt and hoped for one thing: Peace

To see more photos, go to

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