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A Defense of Hobbies Because Not Everything Should Become a Side Hustle

raqs sharqi—my first year of college. I had never taken a dance class before, but I had always enjoyed dancing at weddings and parties. My academic adviser, who believed I needed a way to express myself that wouldn’t involve writing, signed me up for a class.

I went to the first one self-conscious, aware of the ballerina in front of me who could lift her leg over her head. When I first heard the drums, the zills and the distinct beat of dom-ka-tec-tec-a-boom-boom-tek, I started to move. The steps came naturally to me.

I was good, even better than the ballerina. Since that first class, belly dancing has become an important part of my life. In addition to technique and choreography, our teacher also shared the long and complex history of the dance—it’s one of the oldest forms of dance practiced—which has made it an even more meaningful pursuit.The name belly dance originates in part from the French phrase danse du ventre, or dance of the stomach. Belly dancing, however, began up to 6,000 years ago—long before the French ever saw the danse du ventre.

One theory is that the dance was created by women to honor their fertility, since the movements can help prepare muscles for childbirth. Belly dancing as we know it came from the regions of present-day Turkey and Egypt. Other countries such as India as well as traditional African dances have also influenced it, which is why it’s difficult to determine an exact name for the dance. While the term belly dancing has colonial ties, there are so many different influences and types of belly dancing that calling it raqs sharqi doesn’t incorporate all of its many forms. Belly dancing first appeared in the U.S.

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