By Kandice Grossman
When I was 18 years old I became a mother. In the same year, I became a belly dancer. My entire adult life has centered around mothering my daughters, now ages 21 and 15, and all the while, a consistent practice of belly dance. These two aspects of my life, mothering, and dance, are intimately intertwined and constantly inform each other. In many ways, they are very similar, both require hard work, dedication, practice, good teachers, and a strong support network. Both roles occupy the dearest regions of my heart and provide the most joyful moments of my life.
Sometimes I am asked how I manage to mother and also belly dance. Women ask, “How do you find the time to train?” or “How do you balance between meeting the kids’ needs and also being a performer?” I always respond that striking this balance is not an option. It is a necessity. Belly dance is not an escape from motherhood. It is a survival tool for motherhood. Mothering is a deeply profound act of giving. I give an immense amount of my energy and resources to my daughters, every day, willingly and graciously. I am their stronghold, their bastion. And, I will be forever.
Yet, if I do not also give to myself, regularly and consistently, I become depleted. If I am depleted, I am ripe for resentment, bitterness, depression, and anxiety – to name just a few of the side effects of the exhausted, sacrificial mother. In order to be the best mother, for my daughters, I must essentially also mother myself. I have to refill my well. Regularly. The practice and performance of belly dance make my cup runneth over with energy, sensuality, and self-nurturance. Belly dance and motherhood are a beautiful and compatible pairing. I ask mothers, “How do you mother without belly dancing?”
I am mothering daughters. It is a challenge to raise strong, confident daughters in a culture that sexually objectifies women and girls’ bodies, diminishes their value down to merely what they offer men, and teaches women to curb their desires, doubt their intellect, and dull their instincts. Again, this is where belly dance and motherhood create an interlocking support system. Belly dance, in so many ways, confronts and reverses negative social messages taught to our girls.
When I belly dance, I remain a subject, not an object, and I feel beautiful in my own skin. By dancing with other women and creating a strong, connected, dance community, I show my daughters how to create healthy relationships with women, how to find one’s own value, and value in others. When I belly dance, I express sensuality and power. I am both vulnerable and strong. Dancing requires intellect, sharp instinct, and courage. These are all the things I want to be examples of for my daughters.
In Mother Night, Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes the wise mother as the woman who can walk in two worlds, “who can reveal solid ways of living and unleash creative life.”
This is the belly-dancing mother.
The original blog was published in the Salimpour School blog on 3 May 2017.