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the Aging Dancer

Crystal Silmi

You don't stop dancing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop dancing.

On the cover:

La Danse Du Ventre
La Danse Du Ventre, hand-tinted bellydancer, circa 1905

To perform or not to perform, that is the question.

Salimpour Legacy

Suhaila Salimpour (left), mother Jamilla, and daughter from the Salimpour legacy of dancers. Jamila Salimpour is the originator of tribal belly dance in America, and has been influential in belly dance for over 50 years. She is also the first one to solidify a format of terminology in belly dance still used today. Her format is taught and applied to dancers’ movements worldwide. Suhaila is a highly acclaimed performer, teacher, and choreographer of belly dance. Schooled from an early age in jazz, tap and ballet, Suhaila began integrating her extensive classical training with the Middle Eastern dance passed on by her mother, Jamila Salimpour. The result was a true artistic breakthrough: a revolutionary foundational technique that has brought the art of Belly Dance to a new level. | Photo: Suhaila Salimpour | Link | Suhaila Salimpour, Jamila Salimpour, Bellydancer, Icon, Legacy, Family, Age,

To perform or not to perform, that is the question.

Crystal Silmi



[Comments] We all know that modern day culture is obsessed with youth. The messages and images we are bombarded with from every media outlet leave deep imprints on our psyche, so much so that we are looking to extreme measures to maintain and preserve that “forever 21” look.

Dancers, powerful and mighty beings as we are, are unfortunately not exempt from this obsession. We will all come to a crossroads of sorts within our lifetimes where we begin to take stock of our body, not only how it appears physically, but also it’s elasticity and how we have weathered injuries over time. It’s common knowledge that the onstage careers for classical dancers are short and swift. The natural progression in the dance world to be simplistic is to train intensively, perform in the “prime” of life, teach and choreograph after that prime. There is nothing wrong with this progression, it’s very logical and makes sense for many dancers for a variety of reasons.

I read an article some time ago by master teacher/dancer Suhaila Salimpour where she was cross referencing belly dance with flamenco dance, siting that in flamenco the more age and experience a dancer has with her craft, the more valued and cherished a performer she is. Can we say this is true for belly dance? Honestly?

I think the error comes with how we view belly dance in the first place. When you tell someone “I am a belly dancer” what is the reaction? “Ooooooh a BELLY DANCER!” accompanied by some odd deformity of an abdominal and hip gyration – am I right? To the masses belly dance is still more or less seen as an erotic dance of enticement and globally now the idea of sensuality is something reserved for younger women. We can’t change how the world interprets the art of belly dance, or the obsession with youth but we can our own perception.

I’ll start with myself. I am a dancer approaching 40 years old. Do I have grey hairs? Yes. Is my body the same as it was when I was 20? No. Do I still love to dance and perform? Yes. Am I going to keep performing while I deem myself fit to do so? Yes!

I feel that as dancers and as women we need to stick together on this and show the world that talent and skill have no expiration date. If you want to see an amazing dancer who deeply moves you on the stage, it is likely to happen with a dancer who has lived a full life and can express the range of emotions through her years of experience with dance and life. Let us not be fixated on the outer layer of a dancer, but see her for what she expresses and how that inspires us.

You don’t stop dancing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop dancing.

Crystal Silmi

Crystal Silmi, Contributor: Crystal Silmi is a belly dance and belly dance fusion artist, instructor and choreographer from San Francisco, California USA. She has become known for her unique style of hip hop infused movements and has performed for audiences around the world. Skilled in both the art of classical Middle Eastern dance and modern fusion, Crystal puts her Arab American roots to the stage with a deep sense of rhythm and powerful athleticism. A long time student of master instructor Suhaila Salimpour, Crystal... (more...)