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Am I Too Fat? Belly Dancing for Plus Size Women

Updated on April 11, 2020
Marisa Writes profile image

After a career as a flamenco dancer, Marisa turned to belly dance in her retirement and loves sharing her knowledge of the art form.

Thin people often misunderstand the challenges of plus size exercise. It's not the fitness or the stamina that's the biggest problem - overweight people can be fit, too. It's the fact that when you're carrying extra weight, it tends to get in the way. It's hard to sit on the floor and reach forward over your leg, if your belly gets in the way. And let's not even think about "finding your sitting bones"...

But there's one even bigger obstacle...

Feeling Conspicuous

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You finally pluck up courage to go to a dance lesson or gym class. You get dressed in a t-shirt and track pants - black of course - in the (forlorn) hope it'll make you look slimmer.

You arrive at class and find yourself in a pack of size 6 sylphs, all dressed in skintight little leggings and body-hugging singlet tops, with nary a bingo wing or back roll in sight. They then bounce through the aerobics, or turn themselves into pretzels, without breaking a sweat - while you flounder damply at the back. Worse, they start bitching to each other about the size of their thighs. Wow, you think - if that's what they call fat, what must they think I am? A beached whale?

Not many women are brave enough to put themselves through that experience more than once.

Thank goodness belly dance isn't like that!

Belly dancing is for all women
Belly dancing is for all women | Source

Belly Dancing is for All Women

Belly dancing isn't like that for lots of reasons. Belly dancers generally are less judgmental and more sympathetic - and more likely to be all shapes and sizes themselves, because:

  • belly dance isn't popular with children and teens - so most of the people in a belly dance class started as adult beginners themselves.
  • belly dance doesn't require a lot of flexibility or stamina to get started, so it attracts a lot of women who always wanted to dance but couldn't. Often, they've never exercised before, and it was children who got in the way - so they're a mixture of ages from a young mom whose children have just started school, to a retiree whose kids have finally left home. And they're not likely to be super-fit gym junkies!
  • Virtually all the moves in a beginners' belly dance class are done standing up or walking around, and are achievable no matter what your shape. So larger women are more likely to stay in a belly dance class, because they never have to feel left out of anything.

Costume Challenges for Plus Size Belly Dancers

it would be great if we plus-size dancers didn't have to think about our bulges when choosing a costume - why can't we wear the same as everyone else? For some people, that might work - but personally, every time I think that way, I regret it later when I'm looking at the photographs. . .

If you're dancing solo, you can choose to wear a more covering beledi dress - but it's rare for a belly dancer to go straight from being a student to being a solo performer. It's far more likely you'll do an apprenticeship performing in a troupe, and that's where things can get awkward for the plus size belly dancer. Not surprisingly, the school will require everyone in the troupe to be dressed the same - and that usually means a bedlah (bra and belt) with a bare midriff.

If you watched the videos above, you'll have seen how good the traditional costume can look on larger women, if you wear it with confidence - and that's the problem. It takes time to develop that confidence in your own body and your own dancing. It's especially hard if you're in a class of younger, slimmer dancers and you're reminded of the difference in size every time you see a class photo.

Perhaps that's why I see so many plus size women making the switch to ...

Fusion Belly Dance

Fusion (formerly Tribal) belly dance costumes are more covering than cabaret outfits, especially the upper arms and back, and Tribal skirts are full rather than skintight and clinging. So if you're attracted to belly dance because of the chance to perform, tribal belly dance gives you a chance to get up on stage without having to bare it all!

In the video below, the dancers have chosen to wear bras rather than covering choli tops, but notice the full, opaque skirts.

Of course, everything has its pros and cons - and the snag with Tribal is that many tribal belly dance teachers use yoga as part of their training. Yoga is one of those exercises which plus size women can struggle with, because extra flesh has an annoying habit of getting in the way.

Chances are you won't be the only student in the class with that problem - but if it worries you, there is something you can do about it. Megan Garcia's Mega Yoga is an excellent book which will teach you how work around your physical limitations so you can join in the yoga exercises with the rest of the class. Too many instructors seem to confuse being overweight with being old. Just because you're carrying a few extra pounds doesn't mean you're an old age pensioner!

© 2020 Marisa Wright

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    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      6 weeks ago from Norfolk

      Very useful information should one be looking for the courage to take up belly dancing. This form of dance really does seem to give women added confidence to accept and love their bodies just as they are. That has to be a good thing.

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