Everyone around me seems to be getting pregnant – co-workers, teachers, friends. It must just be that time of life and time of year. It’s reminded me of my very first teacher, a lovely woman in Glasgow who was heavily pregnant when classes begun. The very first live bellydance performance I ever saw was with this *very* pregnant lady, dancing beautifully and even spinning to ‘Mysterious Ways’ by U2. I think it really shaped my ideas about bellydance and about pregnancy and how well they fit together.

As a teenager I viewed the pregnant ‘bump’ with extreme suspicion. It looked alien and very odd to me. I never really wrapped my head around the pregnant ‘glow’ until I saw that teacher dance. Looking back I marvel at how well she had adjusted to the ways in which her body was changing – particularly with the practical things like adapting to an ever-changing centre of mass. When I saw the below video I was reminded of that performance – and very struck by the spinning!


And here is the same woman doing a full-on performance, 8 months’ pregnant.


I was and still am captivated by these performances and catch myself just watching her belly as she dances. It’s hypnotic.  I’ve tried to find videos of other dance forms performed by pregnant women and had a very hard time.  I found a short contemporary performance and a few videos of ballet practice or informal performance with pregnant dancers and that was pretty much it.  I’m thinking that not many other dance forms really lend themselves to pregnant performances – they’re not really body friendly in that way.

I know there’s some who believe and claim that bellydance started out as a way to help with birth and post-natal physical recovery.  From what I’ve looked into, the historical record doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to say about this (Shira has a good article about ‘wishtory‘ that could be relevant here).  On the other hand, ‘women’s’ issues are not covered particularly well in older records so who knows.

A former colleague told me about exercises she’d been taught in an antenatal class that looked exactly the same as hip circles and figures of eight from bellydance – which makes perfect sense to me as those movements can be particularly good for easing lower back pain – which is a common difficulty with pregnancy I’m told. So regardless of whether bellydance has historical roots in pregnancy, birthing and post-natal recovery, it is a pregnancy and birth-friendly dance form (if care is taken to avoid sharp movement, backbends, etc.).   I have a feeling that it can be helpful in a psychological sense too as dance connects you to and roots you in your body – which is constantly changing during pregnancy.  I imagine that staying connected to your changing form can only be helpful in fighting back against that inner voice that calls you unattractive, which I’m told becomes even more forceful for many women when pregnant.