QM Creative Talents: Laura Graham Anderson

Laura Graham Anderson is a belly dance teacher, performer and Drama student from Denmark. She has lived in London since 2012 and plans to continue performing and teaching belly dance, as well as specialising in directing theatre and film. Her work can be found on her website here or she can be found on Twitter here.

She has written an article for CUB on the allure of belly dancing, addressing some myths and details why all women should give it a spin:

‘Belly Dance: an overlooked dance style’

Something you should never say to a belly dancer: ‘so belly dancing in the Middle-East is like stripping in the West?’ The most common misconception is that belly dance ‘has to do with sex’. Although classical belly dance[1] is flirtatious and sensual, it is a style strongly influenced by western dance forms, such as ballet and jazz, which is evident in posture, arms and footwork.[2] Belly dance also requires great isolation technique and coordination skills, as well as excellent musicality. I was totally hooked at the age of twelve after a few taster sessions in my school. To me, belly dance is a truly feminine and powerful dance style that celebrates the female body. The basis of the dance lays in the hips, with focus on the interplay between elastic core movement (think accordion) and graceful ‘external’ movement (arms, spins).

Belly dance is also just plain fun. I swear I have never taught a class where someone did not begin to laugh. Through belly dancing, it is fascinating to explore yourself by moving in ways that are so different to how one normally moves. Another advantage to belly dance is that it is a gentle dance style, and therefore can be executed by women of all ages and sizes. Furthermore, as a professional your career does not need to stop at forty.

The main downside to belly dance is that it is difficult to be taken seriously. There are no professional belly dance shows on at Sadler’s Wells, nor are there any academically or artistically recognised belly dance institutions. Most dancers perform at ‘Haflas’ around London (open stage events). However, these events often allow dancers of all abilities to perform. Furthermore, the general consensus in the belly dance community is that the dance should resemble the Egyptian style as closely as possible. Thus the dancers cater mainly for other belly dancers, who appreciate and understand the cultural context.

Luckily, last year I met a dancer named Delia Lewis.[3] Delia was producing a retelling of Aladdin through belly dance and oriental fusion styles, including belly popping (hip hop). I was intrigued, auditioned and got a solo part, for which I had full creative control. Although though there were no words, the strong characterisations enabled audiences to easily follow the story and allowed the performers to display their personal styles and acting abilities. To me, performing in the show was a great challenge that truly cemented my passion for belly dancing. For some links to excellent belly dance, try these performances by Anna Barner from Denmark, Camelia of Cairo, Egypt – or Beata and Horacio Cifuentes from Germany. I strongly encourage all women to try it!

[1] Commercial dance style developed in Cairo from ca. 1925 to ca. 1950.

In addition, there are many other folkoric styles, e.g. Saidi, Baladi & Khaleegy, as well as various new fusion styles.

[2] Anna Barner, ”Mavedans og andre Folkedanse Fra Egypten” (2007) p. 27.

[3] Delia Lewis, award winning belly dancer and author of the book ”Performance Mastery” (2012)

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