Bellydance.One Menu

Dancing Together

Patricia Cumbie

Dancing duets in belly dance is to practice the art of intimacy, which is both a comfort and a dare

On the cover:

Baba Ghanoush
Baba Ghanoush was formed in 2010 when Amy Fae and Alizarin met as members of troupe Aubergine under the direction of Nina Amaya. They are based in Baltimore County, Maryland. (Link) ©2016

Special Relationship of Duets

Alexandra Varga and Leila

Leila and Alexandra Varga (r) performing during the Miss Bellydance Hungary competition in Budapest, Hungary. | Photo: Attila Volgyi | Alexandra Varga, Leila, Duet, Veil, Bellydance,

Special Relationship of Duets

Patricia Cumbie



[Comments] When I first started practicing duets, my first impulse was to hold my breath. It was my way of handling what seemed like an identity crisis—how do you merge your dancing with another’s on a progression of movement? Learning to dance a duet in belly dance, or other art form, is to practice the art of intimacy, which is both a comfort and a dare. Depending on the moves, there may be inches between you. Duets are most arresting when the movements are slow and sensual, and this requires familiarity and trust. Two women dancing together in this way, for example, can express female solidarity, but it took preparation for me to get comfortable with doing it.

I knew it would be important for me to remain open so we could give each other freedom of movement. I had to be willing to accept that I wasn’t perfect, and that my dance partner might make mistakes and articulate quirks too.

One of the challenges of this is being able to comfortably look eye-to-eye with your partner when you dance. That might not sound that difficult until you try it. When you look at someone’s face for any length of time it can feel very strange, as if you’re looking at them with a magnifying glass. Eyes speak. When you are this close you can tell whether or not they are comfortable with you so near.

Allowing yourself to be “seen” can also invite feelings of vulnerability. Not everyone is accustomed to dancing close to people they are not romantically involved with. Belly dance duets are like intimate relationships in that there is the same sense of a back-and-forth exchange of energy, and a process of sharing your body in close physical space with someone.

As I started to master important movements over the years, like layering a shimmy on a traveling step while playing finger cymbals at the same time—and smiling—I started to wonder what to “do” with the intensity of the emotional experience and what I was learning. Dancing for an audience with expectations was an exhilarating and frightening prospect, especially as a soloist. That’s why in the beginning I staked my burgeoning confidence on being part of a tribal belly dance group blessed by a small band of musicians.

Now when I perform, I can feel myself relinquishing boundaries and sharing a consciousness on stage with others, especially during duets. Instead of holding myself in, I am softening, pushing my belly, my arms, and my spirit outward with more composure and grace.

Patricia Cumbie

Patricia Cumbie, Contributor: Patricia Cumbie is a published author and writes about dance, food and travel. She is based in Minneapolis and is a member of Dans Askina, a Turkish belly dance and folkloric group. You can find her at (more...)