Due to a chat I had with one of the students from my Thursday night beginners’ class, who also happens to be a community education worker, last night I ended up teaching a bellydance workshop at a Girl’s Club event at the Citadel Youth Centre down in Leith. If you haven’t seen the Centre before is a gorgeous building (that I’ve somehow managed to miss up until now):

((c) Copyright Peter Stubbs – peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk )

That’s one thing about being a performer and travelling teacher – I’m certainly seeing a lot more of Edinburgh and Scotland than I would otherwise!

They were having a night where the girls clubs of various community centres came together and the centre put on various activities, including mine. The event was running from 7-9pm and we’d agreed for me to be there from 7.30-8.30pm. While I was setting up the staff rustled up some of the girls, many of whom reluctantly agreed to watch and see if they fancied it. I gave a short performance to ‘Beautiful Liar’ by Beyonce featuring Shakira as I thought that might be a bit easier for the girls to relate to than something Arabic. For those interested here’s the Beautiful Liar video on YouTube:

Four of the girls actually left during the performance and another two left once I’d finished. I didn’t feel insulted or annoyed, I just a bit sad that they weren’t comfortable enough to stay.

Two of the staff stayed the whole time and for the rest of the session girls came and went, typically staying no more than 10 minutes before leaving again. At times it was quite funny – groups of the girls would peer through the window into the room where we were dancing and occasionally build up the courage to come in. Some would stay and join in, but several came in, looked uncomfortable and left again.

I became really aware of how uncomfortable with their bodies almost all of them were – which in hindsight is unsurprising, given their ages (12-16) they are going through that horribly difficult period of growth and change. There were also several groups of girls brought together for the evening that hadn’t met before so I imagine there was some weirdness about strange girls being around and not wanting to look stupid in front of people they didn’t know.

After the workshop I was shown around the Centre and very kindly given some apple juice (as well as being offered food that they were serving up to everyone at the party). They had a couple of framed pieces of work the girls’ group had done a few years ago on the “‘Pants to Violence Against Women and Girls” project which had the girls decorate panties with this theme in mind. Some of the pants had pictures, or splashes of colour, a few had messages such as “stop hittin us” and “dinny rape drunk women” (“dinny” is Scots for “don’t”).

I felt privileged to have the opportunity to participate with the good work they’re doing at Citadel and the other Youth Centres and pleased that some of the girls felt able to participate, even if it was only for a short time. Perhaps in future they’ll come back to bellydance and hopefully, whether they do or not, they will find a route as they grow up to feeling good about their bodies and themselves. For me, that has to be one of the biggest benefits of bellydance.