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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Dear Shira


Dear Shira:

Too Old to Belly Dance?



The Question

Dear Shira:

I've been bit by the belly dancing bug, but at 70 I'm afraid I may be too old. Can a woman "of a certain age" like me still belly dance?

— Silver Swan



Shira Responds

Dear Swan:

There is a quote: "Socrates learned to dance when he was seventy because he felt that an essential part of himself had been neglected." (Author unknown.)

Belly dancing isn't just a beautiful art form, it's a great form of exercise for people of all ages! Unlike ballet and jazz dance which require dancers to start young, most belly dance moves flow with the body's natural ways of moving, and can be learned even as a senior citizen. The soft, gentle undulations won't jar your joints, and will help you feel graceful. Depending on your age and your health history, it could be a good idea to ask your doctor whether you're a good candidate for low-impact, aerobic exercise such as Oriental dance.

Most older students find that belly dancing is beneficial to their health. As a form of exercise, it provides the same health benefits as other forms of exercise, such as lowered blood pressure, stronger bones, reduced pain from arthritis, lowered cancer risk, and generally healthier cardiovascular system. In 2003, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study by Dr. Joe Verghese showing that dancing could help prevent dementia. Although Dr. Verghese's study focused on ballroom dance instead of belly dance, many of the qualities of ballroom that he deemed likely to contribute to this benefit would also apply to the improvisational aspects of belly dancing.

There may be some moves taught in class that you feel are unsafe for your body, particularly certain kinds of floor work or rapid hair-flinging. Use your common sense and knowledge of your own body's history to decide when it's better not to try a particular move, and consult your doctor if you're not sure.

There are many dance troupes who would joyfully accept dancers of all ages, including seniors, and plenty of performance opportunities in student recitals, dancer showcase events, community festivals, and "community service" shows that can provide a welcoming showcase for your budding dance skills. Just think how much the residents of a retirement community or nursing home would enjoy seeing one of their peers do a belly dance performance for them!

Some older students may enjoy wearing the same sorts of glamorous costumes as their younger classmates, while others may be more comfortable in the more covered look offered by folkloric costumes or evening gown style of costumes. You are free to choose whatever suits your own personality.

Two quotes on this subject I particularly enjoy came from baseball pitcher Satchel Paige:

Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

A web site you might enjoy is Belly Dancing For Older Women. It has several articles about belly dancing that are particularly slanted to be of interest to older women.

— Shira


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.



Related Articles

Other articles on this web site related to dancing for older students include:



About this Column

Shira has received many questions from readers over the years related to various aspects of the dance. In this column, she picks some of the more interesting ones to answer publicly. Details contained in the questions are sometimes removed or disguised to protect the anonymity of the person who asked the question.



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