Personal Profile of a Belly Dancer Essay

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Personal Profile of a Belly Dancer

Professor’s comment: The personal profile is a standard assignment, but students often struggle with it since it requires that they not only interview someone who is generally a stranger to them but also become an instant expert on their subject’s particular talent or expertise. In writing the piece, the student resisted the impulse to talk about her own experience and focused squarely on Shakar. In doing so she presents a vivid portrait of her subject and demystifies belly dancing.

In the picture, Belinda Shakar wears a satin bra with sleeves and a split skirt that reveals the entire length of her leg as she lunges on the ground. Her eyes are swept in dark makeup, and on her lips sits a seductive smile. The Belinda holding the picture is decidedly non-exotic, wearing glasses, a sweatshirt, and two layers of workout pants. She scowls when a young man accidentally walks in to the just-ending belly dance class. “I don’t like to have men in here at all,” she says. This, from a woman who spends her evenings shaking her hips at restaurant patrons.

Although she doesn’t like men ogling her classes, Belinda Shakar does not shy away from the sensual aspects of her dance. In fact, that’s what attracted her to belly dancing as a teenager. “I really liked the sensuality of the dance and even the blatant sexuality,” she says. She had been taking traditional dance classes in Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a performer but thought belly dance seemed more interesting than the styles she was learning. She finally switched to belly dance after injuring herself in a ballet class. The accident convinced her that ballet is unnatural: “It distorts the body and torments it. That is still my feeling o...

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...lly dancers have to love the dance, because for all that work, dancers get little money—workshops with master dancers usually cost around seventy-five dollars, costumes average five hundred dollars each, and dancers are usually paid only fifty dollars for two and a half hours of work. But Belinda Shakar cannot imagine her life without dance: “I’ve gone through so many careers, but I’ve always stuck with belly dance. I’ve just been doing it for so long.” From dancing, she has found freedom in being in touch with her body and the healing powers of movement. She is now working as a massage therapist, helping others free up their bodies as well. For her, dance is about enjoying her body and expressing her sensuality, not entertaining others or making money. So she is not at all concerned about making it to the top. Besides, she says, “in belly dancing, there is no top.”

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