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