You Asked!

Dear Shira,

I had my first belly dancing lesson last night, which was great fun.  This is going to sound stupid, but my teacher has been dancing for years and she has a very prominent belly.  She is skinny everywhere else, and she looks fantastic when she dances, but I wonder if my little round tumtum will turn into a great big round tummy all by itself.  Is it because of the movements, or would it be that she is traditional?  Someone told me it is traditional to have a prominent tummy.

--Tiny Tummy Tina

Dear Tina,

Glad you enjoyed your first class!  To answer your question, no, belly dancing isn't going to maximize your middle.  It's hard to know why your teacher has a prominent middle, but here are some possibilities:

*  Maybe it's hereditary. Different bodies choose different areas to pump up when they gain weight.  Some women gain it in their breasts, others in their thighs, and still others in their bellies.  Maybe your teacher's genetic makeup sends weight to her stomach area first.

*  Posture can play a role.  Even a slim dancer may appear to have a prominent belly if her posture is somewhat sway-backed.  Look at the small of her back--if it's arched when she dances, with her rear prominently angled behind her, then posture may explain why her belly appears to be large.

*  Maybe she's pregnant, and just hasn't told anybody yet.

*  Almost every woman has a uterus, and needs a place to put it.  The vast majority of women will have some roundness in the stomach area because that's where the uterus is located.  No amount of exercise or diet change is going to make the uterus go away.  That's why men who are in good
physical condition can manage to have flat stomachs, while women in good condition may have rounded bellies.  Again, heredity plays a role.  Some women actually do have flat stomachs, while for others the placement of the uterus gives them a prominent rounded stomach.

In any event, your teacher's abdomen probably has nothing to do with whether she embraces "traditional" dance styling or modern-day fusion.  She probably just does the best she can with the body type she has.

It's true that traditionally in the Middle East, the standard of beauty was for women to have rounded womanly figures.  The notion that women should be lean and mean first arose in the United States in the 1960's when Twiggy made headlines as an ultra-thin model who emerged on the scene during an era when more womanly figures were the norm.   Did you know Marilyn Monroe was a size 12?  Twiggy was attention-getting because her skinny figure was an aberration compared to the prevailing images of women of her time.  Eventually, the skinny look took over in the U.S. fashion industry, and later in the media.  But the idea that women should have lanky figures is a very recent development in the West.

In any event, you have no need to worry that belly dancing will cause your stomach to become more prominent.  Just eat a healthy diet, maintain a good level of fitness, and enjoy exploring the dance, and you should have nothing to worry about.


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