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

When Your Child Is Harassed at School
Because *You* Are a Belly Dancer

By Maria

 

Note from Shira: In Egypt, one of the biggest insults a kid at school can fling at another is to call him "Son of a Dancer." Even here in the U.S., kids at school may be harassed because their mothers are belly dancers. In this article, Maria from Boulder, Colorado shares her experience in helping her own children deal with harassment from classmates.

 

I have four kids, and some of my kids have had bad experiences because their mom is a bellydance teacher/performer. It is a sad, but a true fact of life that children can be cruel.

Some of the experiences my children have had range from fist fights at school to large amounts of verbal abuse. Some of the names people have called me when talking to my children are slut, whore and tramp. I am proud, however, to report that my children stuck up for themselves and never backed down from a fight. It did affect their ability to learn in a class environment, and it did affect their health. I had to coax some of this information out of them when they were younger. When children don't want to go to school and cry about it, and they are not sick, you know something's up!

 

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How to Deal With It

Here are some tips that have worked for me:

  1. Make an appointment with the principal and let him know of the incidents and how you will not tolerate any of that (in a nice way) of course.
  2. Call other parents if need be! Their ideas probably come from the parents, but, it lets them know that you will not let your child be harassed because their mother is teaching/performing an art form from the Middle East.
  3. Arrange to have (and this is the hardest one, most time consuming but most rewarding) a "multi-cultural" day at the school. A small assembly for the children is a great idea to start with. Dress appropriately, in other words, NO cabaret outfit or flesh showing except at neck, wrist and ankle. Invite friends you may have in the ethnic dance community, such as African drummers, Flamenco dancers, Hawaiian dancers, etc, to come to the school. You can speak a little bit of the culture. Schools love for you to make a presentation educational. Make sure to check further on this Shira.net web site for information and articles about belly dancing, so you are armed with as much information as possible. Make sure you are as educated, polite and professional as possible when you present your ideas to the school. Do a nice cane piece or some other folk dance for the school, such as Tunisian pot dance. Schools also love handouts. This has really worked for me! After I did something for the first time at the school, my son became the coolest kid, because what his mom did was "SO COOL!"
  4. What do you do when you are presented with evidence of tacky bellydancing, in the way of shows, ads, newspaper articles, dancers having to be blurred out on the 4 o'clock news? Here is my answer: "Unfortunately, as in any profession, there are some that are not true representatives of the art". That's all I say, it's short, to the point, and I am not being defensive.

The older the children get, and the higher the grades, the less abuse they receive It is always the worst in middle school/junior high. Hopefully my tips will help you to help your children and the school copes with the harassment that comes from having a parent be a bellydancer.

 

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About Maria

Maria is a retired professional belly dancer and flamenco dancer from the Boulder, Colorado area. She was one of the main dancers at the House of Marrakesh in LODO Denver and the former Mataam Fez in Boulder.

Maria taught bellydance to hundreds of students in the Boulder area.  She was also Director of World Dance at former dance studio "Dance West". As former Event Manager for Boulder Creek Events, she coordinated and scheduled high profile Boulder events such as the "Boulder Community Dance Stage" at the Boulder Creek Festiva for nine years.

Maria was previously owner of Boulder BellyGrams by Maria, a successful entertainment company. Maria also co-founded a storytelling / music / dance troupe called "Ziva Dunya" ("bright world"), developing a program "Tales & Rhythms from the Middle East" which they brought to schools, multicultural festivals, senior centers, etc., to great acclaim.

PHOTO CREDIT: This dramatic skirt photo was taken by Fritz Penning.

Photo of Maria

Maria has also worked with Broomfield Heights Middle School from 2000 to 2008, as a choreographer for the after school Dance Club Program. Maria has also been invited as a guest speaker/performer for the "Art Café" which had its premier at the Colorado Art Expo 2003. Maria has also been invited as guest dancer/teacher at women’s retreats, women’s events, and other cultural events in and around the country.

Maria has now retired from dance in order to pursue her education to become a Registered Nurse (RN). She is diligently studying and working as a nurse assistant while she pursues her degree.

Click on either of these two photos of Maria to see the image in more detail.

Maria

 

 

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