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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
UW Belly Dancing Club

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Going beyond the techniques: Bellydancing UW’s emphasis on history, body inclusivity

During her freshman year, “D” attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s belly dancing organization’s kickoff meeting as a part of a challenge with her sister. 

“My sister and I were trying to see if we could go to every kickoff that we got flyers from at the org fair,” she explained. “I think the kickoff for belly dancing was super late at night, and my sister dared me to go.”  

“D” went as a “joke,” she said, but after seeing the performance by Mona N’wal, Bellydancing UW’s former choreographer, she decided to attend their general meeting the following Tuesday. 

“It just was really good energy inside the room, and I wanted to be part of it,” “D” said. Now, she is the social media and communication coordinator for the organization. 

Established in 2000, Bellydancing UW “is an organization where students can freely express creativity through belly dancing,” Miranda Siedelmann, the club's vice president, said. 

Members gather every Tuesday to learn choreography as well as the history of the dance. 

“We are trying to get our members to focus on appreciating the culture, not appropriating it,” Siedelmann explained. 

Some of its members have been attending inclusivity and diversity workshops on campus, she said. 

In March, Bellydancing UW performed at an event hosted in celebration of the Middle Eastern and North African Heritage (MENA) Month, as belly dancing is of African origin, according to Siedelmann. 

For “D,” attending the event was “special” because she was able to connect with the MENA community and deepen her knowledge of the dance’s cultural significance. 

“I could read online what belly dancing is and [members of Bellydancing UW] talk about the history all the time, but actually talking to people in the community that regard the dance as part of their culture was very special to me,” she said. 

Currently, the organization is building a mission statement with actionable visions and values, Siedelmann said. She hopes it will be used as a guide as the organization grows in the future. In addition to integrating history, body inclusivity is another value written in their statement. 

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“[In the statement] we use language that promotes the dance as more of a creative tool, avoiding the sexual stereotypes that are associated with it,” Siedelmann said. 

Through collaborations with other student organizations such as Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE), Bellydancing UW strives to be as inclusive as possible. 

For Divya VanPietersom, a member of Bellydancing UW, the organization’s emphasis on body inclusivity and positivity allows her to connect with her own values of spirituality and mindfulness. 

“It helps me connect with my body, finding little intricate parts of my body that can do different things,” VanPietersom said. “It also clears my mind, and I can find my peace.” 

Bellydancing UW will be hosting a spring showcase on April 29, featuring student choreographed group and solo performances, according to members of the organization. The event is open to all students.

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