Belly Dancers... Their Stories, Their Experiences and Their Confessions

Police Officer to Graceful Dancer- Aliyah

For belly dancer Aliyah, the movements, fluidity, grace and music of this performance art is a lifelong gift she’s grateful for. “I don’t know where I’d be, physically or mentally, without dance. It affects the way I see myself, and the way I interact with people and situations. Even when I’m not in my dancer persona, it pops up to elevate my mood,” Aliyah says.

 

And, rebalancing her mood is crucial for this South East Texas patrol officer who works four nights weekly, 9 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. That’s when she “constantly sees people at their absolute worst. It’s what makes police officers cynical and causes some to lose any semblance of a positive outlook,” Aliyah sighs. “If you don’t find some sort of positive outlet, this job WILL get to you,” says this true blue.

aliyah, belly dance performer

When she starts dancing, “It’s like jumping into a stream of cool water that ebbs and flows and carries me to different places. I love to go with it and see where it takes me,” Aliyah muses. Besides, she’s been into belly dancing since elementary school.

 

Back then, Aliyah was nerdy, made good grades, came from a poor family and was painfully shy.  “A real wallflower,” she recalls. Ironically, dance also presented this wallflower the gift of total freedom. Deep down a playful, free spirit, belly dance gave her the opportunity to celebrate her true spirit that brings so much joy to her life.

 

Later, Aliyah would see belly dancing re-gifting her life in other ways.

 

About a month after graduating from police academy, Aliyah was directing traffic at a freeway accident caused by a drunk driver. It was 2 a.m. Glaring headlights didn’t help her see any better. Along came another drunk driver who couldn’t avoid hitting a car—then ran over Aliyah, as she went under and her training officer went over the hood of this second drunk driver’s car.

 

Aliyah suffered broken bones in several places, torn joints and head injuries; she spent a month in hospital and a year on light duty while recuperating.

 

“Dance is good therapy for my back, neck and joints because it helps with flexibility and a range of motions. My back and neck were damaged by the impact—and are steadily deteriorating as I get older. Working out with weights helps. But, I haven’t regained all the flexibility I once had. Both my knees were torn up, too,” Aliyah says.

 

That’s why this belly dance teacher wants every woman who’s drawn to this art form to start dancing. “Even if you do it for fun, I’ve seen people come out of themselves to discover that they are beautiful, creative and expressive,” she advises.

“If I can get a student past, ‘I’m too fat, clumsy, shy or unattractive to take belly dance’ to try it, results emerge. They tap into their femininity that’s been hidden all along, which never had an outlet before. It’s fabulous!” she exclaims.

 

A goldmine of belly dance history, Aliyah points out, “Belly dance has gotten a bad reputation in this country. It isn’t recognized as a real dance form by classically trained dancers, although, especially in the case of jazz, modern dance and other forms that have evolved like hip-hop and lyrical, their steps and moves originated with belly dance.”

[Aliyah on right pictured with Dilara Sultan.]

 

Aliyah is determined to demystify false perceptions swirling around belly dance. After a few dates, she told the police officer she was going out with, of her passion. His reaction was, “You’re a WHAT?” chuckling, “he had the usual image of strippers in a costume or ‘hootchie-kootchie’ dancers.”

 

Now married, Aliyah's husband is hooked on this art form, too. So much so, his natural drumming talent provides live music for his wife’s dance troupe, Habibi.

 

As important to Aliyah is how women make personal progress with dance. “I know it may sound cliché, but belly dance empowers women. I know lots of dancers, and have taught lots of students. Time after time, I’ve seen women with lower self-esteem, a low opinion of their physical appearance or other related issues transform themselves when they start taking classes.”

 

“Work and other things can put me in a bad place sometimes, but God has given me this outlet so I can pull myself out of the dark places,” Aliyah says, adding, “I’ve discovered a whole other side of myself with belly dance.”  So can anyone.

**To learn more, see photos and connect with Aliyah go to her Hip Mix profile here.