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Some people are afraid to try Middle Eastern dance because they don't want to show their belly, but belly dance is a great way to find body acceptance.
There are pros and cons to covering or revealing the midriff, but the key thing in class and during a performance, short of wearing a burlap sack, is to be comfortable. A dancer should not be forced into a revealing outfit, but there are advantages to seeing the stomach.
A dancer can wear a tank top and still see her hip work, but the moves are clearer when she wears something around her hips. The moves look even sharper when her midriff is exposed. The bare stomach helps her see what her hips and abs are doing, and helps her learn better. An exposed belly also helps direct people to what they should be looking at, which is helpful for an audience who can be unfamiliar with this dance style.
Body anxiety is common among both thin and curvy women, but Middle Eastern dance celebrates all body types. The idea is to show movement, which works best with some extra weight. Thinner dancers have to work harder and wear more layers around their hips in order to see what they're doing. How can a dancer appreciate her body if she doesn't see it?
Even if it's in the privacy of her bedroom, a dancer should practice with a bare midriff. That will help her see her ribs and stomach muscles, see how her body moves, and appreciate herself. Confidence is the key. If a dancer is confident with who she is and how she dances, even if she doesn't fit the stereotyped idea of a beautiful woman, she will captivate audiences and inspire people to accept their own bodies.
There are so many positive benefits to Middle Eastern dance (the exercise, camaraderie, fun, and excuse to dress in bright, sparkly costumes), that a person shouldn't refuse to try this dance style under the assumption that a bare belly is necessary. While certain moves like belly rolls, flutters and tucks (which are common to cabaret style belly dance) can't be seen very well if the dancer is covered up, there are ways to have movements be seen and still dance under wraps:
Putting on a crop top and walking into a studio of strangers to learn belly dance sounds pretty intimidating. However, everyone has body issues, and this dance style helps women feel more comfortable with themselves. Even a dancer who decides she's not comfortable showing her stomach can enjoy learning Middle Eastern dance.