What is the future of bellydance?

Last week, one of the most influential women in London’s bellydance community sent out a heartfelt plea on Facebook…

"Where have all the bellydancers gone?"

Tara Lee Oakley runs a brilliant monthly event in central London called Rouh Arabi. She always has an amazing lineup of dancers – not only some of the very best professional belly dancers in the UK, but also newbies taking their first nervous performance steps.

It’s always packed, the atmosphere is incredible and it’s a don’t miss for everyone on the London bellydance scene.

Tara restarted Rouh Arabi in August when England came out of lockdown, but she’s had a real struggle finding dancers to perform. She thought everyone would be desperate to get back to live performance but it’s not been the case.

Her Facebook post asked what had happened, where have all the dancers gone? Where are the students? Is anyone teaching any more? Do people still want live events?

What did dancers say?

The answers were very interesting. People said they had lost their confidence in their dancing, they had put on weight, they weren’t performance-ready or that they didn’t feel safe in crowded venues.

It really made me think, because I’ve been surprised at how few live events are happening now – a time of the year that’s usually packed with haflas, festivals, shows and workshops.

You may know that I’m just about to hold my second INSPIRE online bellydance festival and when I was planning it a few months ago I was really worried I was doing the wrong thing because I thought November would be full of live festivals and events and nobody would want an online festival. But that’s not been the case at all.

What do you think?

Personally I think the future for our dance has exciting potential – but then I am a natural optimist. I think the pandemic brought out amazing creativity in people, it brought the world together online and we have been able to take classes with international teachers who we might never have been able to learn from in the past.

But we still need live events – we need to dance in front of live audiences, we need hugs, we need the joy of togetherness. We need to breathe each other’s air and feel the incredible chemistry that comes from humans being happy together.

What do I think the future holds and what am I doing about it?

I think the future is hybrid – a mix of live and online. Right now I’m concentrating on online because I don’t have the confidence to put on live events right now (the cost of putting on a live festival runs into tens of thousands of pounds and a workshop weekend with a single international star costs thousands)

So I have my Inspire international online festival in a few weeks time. We’ve got Jillina Carlano, Esmeralda Colabone and Alla Kushnir plus a fantastic supporting line up of amazing workshops so check out the website if you want to know more.

Next spring (pandemic restrictions permitting) I’ll bring Aziza of Montreal over to London for a weekend of workshops and the graduation show for the mentoring programme Aziza and I run together.

But I’m planning on trying to make it a hybrid event, I’m hoping to stream both the show and the workshops on Zoom. So people can join us from anywhere in the world. Many of our upcoming graduates have family and friends living abroad and I think it will be wonderful for them to be able see the show live.

And to answer the issue of dancers being out of condition and losing their body confidence, I’ve started a weekly bellydance conditioning class in Undeniables Online, my online membership programme.

I’ve decided I’m going to open the conditioning class up to anyone who wants to join – not just Undeniables members, because I really think we desperately need a fun way to get ourselves back to dance fitness. And my conditioning class IS fun!

I’ll let you know more about that in the next few weeks.

So, know this has been a long post, but it’s all been on my mind so much and I’d absolutely love to know what you think. Please feel free to comment and let me know.

But most of all keep dancing!!

Charlotte xx

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