Belly dancers of color: Adina Gamal
Editor’s note: It’s Black History Month and I thought that a great way to celebrate would be to feature belly dancers of color in our community. Our goal is to celebrate our differences and similarities in belly dance and I was curious as to how the belly dance experience is different (or the same) for dancers of color. If you’re interested in joining us for this month-long project, just contact me using the form at the bottom of the page.
The first dancer that we are featuring is Adina Gamal, a Detroit-based belly dancer. She is the creator of the first Plus Sized Bellydancer Convention, “Dangerous Curves,” coming up in July. ~ Andalee
I decided to learn belly dance as a way to enjoy myself and to learn to love myself more. Exploring my feminine, sexy side, as well as for exercise. While learning the art, I begin to experience good and bad things…. first, my family felt that it was too much of an exotic art form for someone my size to participate in. They as well as I didn’t know that there was a world of belly dancers at my size. I was determined to continue although many people were against it.
Belly dance was harder than I thought it would be. The art, the skill, the control, the work…I wanted to give up but something inside of me said, “This is who you are; a dancer.” So I kept taking classes and began going to conventions. I was in the minority at many of them. I felt intimidated by the smaller non-minority dancers and would sometimes not go due to the fact that I was ashamed of who I was. Yes, I dare say it. Was I embarking on the wrong endeavor? Was this something that would lead to more heartache and disappointment? I enjoyed being a dancer. I enjoyed the music the beautiful costumes, the history and knowledge.
As I began to perform I was told that I’d never get a paid gig. I wouldn’t do anything more than festivals and family events. This too, was discouraging, but I decided not to allow those comments to stop me. For one day I knew that I would dance and not just for my family.
Classes and more classes later, I began to meet other dancers like me with the same hopes and dreams. I began to build confidence and a true love for it. Spending time with my troupe mates and my instructor gave me the courage to begin to apply to dance at events. When I landed gigs and people began to notice, I soon became aware that I was a dancer. I was where I wanted to be.
After having surgery for a slipped disc this year, I was depressed because I couldn’t dance for months, so I decided to create a convention. It would be one that focused on plus-sized dancers, much like myself. I wanted to make sure that participants didn’t experience the feelings that I had when going to various events. There were some events that I attended in the past where the vendors didn’t carry my size. So I would shop, and I couldn’t find anything, I begin to feel bad again. There were other events where the instructors seemed to frown upon the fact that I wasn’t as mobile as other students and kind of gave me the “It’s okay…Just do this” speech. I wanted an event where we could come together in the spirit of dance and enjoy each others’ curves, accomplishments and triumphs. I didn’t want to exclude anyone, as many woman have began to voice concern about the name and aim. I just wanted a place for us…a convention of our own where we can have the things that we desire and deserve.
As far as experiences, I’ve had:
- Someone who promoted my class tell me that I wasn’t sexy enough to be on my flyers and that I need to have someone else’s face on it…because sex sells.
- I’ve had people tell me that they’d like a dancer who wasn’t black or plus size, but thank you and you are a great dancer.
- I’ve had people make fun of my costumes.
But I’ve also had positive experiences or I wouldn’t still be here…
- I’ve come in first and second place in belly dance competitions.
- I’ve performed at weddings, haflas, birthday parties and shows.
- I’ve learned various techniques and prop uses
- I’ve developed a love for myself and my dance that no one can take away…
Those are my experiences. Thanks for allowing me to share them with you.