Vale Stella Young

Stella Young and her awesome shoes of power.

Stella Young and her awesome shoes of power.

Today’s blog is filled with grief, as I learned today that Stella Young died over the weekend, aged 32.

Stella was hands-down, no-BS awesome. And NOT because of her disability. And not IN SPITE of her disability. She was just an awesome, funny, quirky, intelligent person who happened to also have a disability.

She will be greatly missed. Here is a TED Talk she gave earlier this year, maybe you will be able to see what I’m talking about. It’s called: “I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much”

I first met her many years ago, when she worked at the Public Program at Museum Victoria (where my husband works) one of the annual events the Museum used to hold was a “scientists versus comedians” night, where the scientists would talk about a particular scientific aspect, theory etc and the comedians would work out if it was true or not. I went to the night, very proud of my husband who was one of the scientists, and thought he was funny and entertaining. Then Stella came up to do her bit and blew me away. She had me at Cloaca. I’m serious, a cloaca. Yep, a ducks’ bum, then she moved on to the penis of a duck ( the Argentine Lake Duck). I was in tears of laughter. Her argument was that this particular duck had a penis that was 42.5cm long, while the bird itself was only 20, and that the female had dozens of cloacas so she could choose which male duck got the correct opening, so to speak, to fertilise her eggs. The comedians guessed it was untrue. Nope, true. And her final comment – “I thought it was appropriate for me to be the one to comment on this particular duck as it’s penis being 42.5 cm long is EXACTLY my sitting height!” LOL

After she left the Museum, I followed her career as a disability advocate closely, cheering from the sidelines.

“Being a disability advocate, I suppose, just means being stroppy about stuff that is not

Stella Young stirred the pot, put herself out there and never held back her opinions. Thought-proking, and funny.

Stella Young stirred the pot, put herself out there and never held back her opinions. thought-provoking, and funny, she will be missed.

fair, and raising and discussing issues that affect people with disabilities I guess.”
she told MammaMia. She enjoyed her job, as well as her work (up until last year) as Editor on ABC’s website Ramp Up, stirring the pot, making people think and giving us a laugh at the same time. Then, finally, this year (after years of me telling her she should do stand up – not that I think that had much influence over her decision lol!)) I saw her show in the Melbourne Comedy Festival “Tales From the Crip“. She, quite rightly, won “Best Newcomers Award” and nominated for a “Golden GIbbo“. She once again had me in stitches of laughter. She made us question our attitudes to disability, and about the attitudes about the way people look, a topic close to my Belly Dance Lessons Online heart.

Not many people can say they made the world a better place, she did. Her promise to herself?: “I promise to grab every opportunity with both hands, to say yes as often as I can, to take risks, to scare myself stupid, and to have a shitload of fun.”

I’d say she did that, and it is a promise we could all make.
For an interview on more that she did go to:
http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/tea-with-mamamia-stellayoung/#GIx1VptZQ1elFk1h.99
Plus a list of the Best of Stella’s Comedy and Public Speaking engagements:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-08/best-of-stella-youngs-comedy-and-public-speaking-engagements/5950766

 

Media and Magazines suck!

Belly dance students come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Research shows that belly dancers have fewer hang-ups about their bodies.

Belly dance students come in all shapes, sizes and ages. Research shows that belly dancers have fewer hang-ups about their bodies.

Rant alert! I am SICK to DEATH of seeing nothing but photoshopped images in the media! I know, I know, nothing radical or new about this rant, but as my daughter gets older, I find myself more and more protective of what she sees. Currently, she is very secure in the knowledge that has “a really cute bottom” (she says) and likes it when her bathers show it off (which in itself can be worrisome except she is soooo very proud that I am seeing it as a good thing). Now while she knows that she is also intelligent, kind, generous, a good problem solver and a confident reader, I am worried that in a few years when we move from cartoon based TV and movie viewing to “real” looking actors that she is going to change her view of herself. Growing up, I always looked for any signs of curves on female actors, wanting to feel “normal” as I always felt as if my thighs were enormous. And no matter how hard I looked, actresses didn’t seem to have wobbly bits or cellulite. Why the heck not?

I came across a very disturbing set of statistics from Raderprograms:

Women Are Dying to be Thin - Media Influence on Eating Disorders
Infographic provided by Rader Programs

Recently, Meaghan Kausman, went public about her outrage over an underwater photo in which she was wearing Fella Swim bathers, was used by Fella Swim on their own website, after photoshopping her body (and without permission). She was outraged and says she is a size 8 not a 4. Considering a size 8 is already quite petite, why would they feel the need to photoshop?

Meaghan is the daughter of body image campaigner Dr Rick Kausman, who advocates a ‘non-diet’ approach to health, and it’s refreshing his views seem to have been instilled in his daughter.

She told Cosmopolitan magazine: “Because of who my Dad is and the way I’ve been brought up, I’ve never felt any pressure to look a certain way. And if people can take one thing away from all of this it should be to love who you are, which I know can be hard, but it’s so important for people to feel comfortable in themselves and not to strive for something that doesn’t exist.

“That photo wasn’t me, and the reality is no one looks like that. It’s so important for people to realise how heavily photoshopped these kinds of images are.”

Here are the two photos see what you think:

Meaghan Kausman was photoshopped by the bikini makers without her permission.

Meaghan Kausman was photoshopped by the bikini makers without her permission.

You would have read my recent blog about the Feelings of a Plus Sized Bellydancer, why can’t our perceptions of beauty change? Yesterday, I found myself in a Facebook “discussion” about what constitutes “beauty”. One narrow-minded (yes that is a judgmental opinion!) person said that no-one over 40 who does not have tight skin and a thin physique should dance in public. You can imagine the hurt and outrage that ensued. The commenter actually honestly did not realise that she was being so hurtful until I sent her a personal message asking her to stop. She used the old “I’m just expressing my opinion” stance in defence. As I turn 40 next year, and am always advocating positive body-image, I found it extra offensive!

So this leads to the fact that my daughter is into Princesses (sigh) so, first, I showed her pictures of “real” Princesses without their finery on (Princess Eugene and Beatrice etc), and she was quite disappointed, but just said she preferred the “beautiful ones”. So when I steered her towards Merida in Brave, she says she likes Cinderella best (a doormat for a role modal NOOOOOO! Mind you, she hasn’t even seen the movie lol) Maybe I could stick these versions of the Disney Princesses into her books? Like this one of Jasmine:

Jasmine from the Disney movie Aladdin is much too tiny.

Jasmine from the Disney movie Aladdin is much too tiny.

 

This version of Jasmine from Aladdin shows a still slim, but less unhealthy looking Princess for our young girls.

This version of Jasmine from Aladdin shows a still slim, but less unhealthy looking Princess for our young girls.

And don’t get me started on female superheros costumes!

Lammily is a doll who has healthy proportions, and looks like she could do anything!

Lammily is a doll who has healthy proportions, and looks like she could do anything!

So what can I do to protect the self-esteem of my daughter? I guess the only things I can

do is read her empowering stories of Princesses rescuing themselves (A great list of Independent Princesses can be found on A Mighty Girl website), receive the realistically shaped Lammily Doll I ordered (see what kids think of her) praise her for attributes that are not to do with looks, but rather her ability to resolve situations and make good choices, and live as an example in showing pride in my curves. (And cross my fingers!)

Survivors wear their scars with pride

These breast cancer survivors in Taiwan performed belly dance at a Taiwan Breast Cancer Alliance Conference.

These breast cancer survivors in Taiwan performed belly dance at a Taiwan Breast Cancer Alliance Conference.

Women have started belly dance classes with me for a variety of reasons, offline or online. One of them is a way to celebrate life after Cancer. Especially “women’s cancers”. You spend so much time and energy feeling like your body is the enemy, you end up with parts missing, extra scars, and when you are one of the ones to beat it – then what? One way to learn to love your body again and celebrate the living body, with a new shape and a new mind, is to do something that gives you pride and pleasure. Belly dance is one way. This lady, Kellie Green, chose another.

I think she looks beautiful. Are you any less of a woman without breasts? (or scarred ones?) Without a uterus? Or ovaries? It may feel that way at first. But it’s not your female genitalia which makes you “female”.

Here’s what one of my student’s said about recovering from breast cancer: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years back when I was 31. Went through mastectomy (breast removal), chemotherapy and then a breast reconstruction. When I was planning my reconstruction, people said I was being stupid to go for another surgery since looks don’t matter. I agree looks don’t make me what I am but I did this to make myself happy. Today (with all the scars), I feel more happy with myself than I ever did and your classes are way of celebrating this love that I have developer for myself.
Thanks and Regards
Shruti Sharma”

Peace and happiness can come after the battle.

Peace and happiness can come after the battle.

The scars can run deeper than the skin. Some women opt for a complete breast reconstruction, some of these are not successful. Being able to look in the mirror and like what you see scars and all, can be incredibly confronting and brave. Tattoo artist, Amy Black, has mastered the 3D looking nipples tattoos, or tattoos over the area where a breast used to be, so looking in the mirror is easier and enjoyable.

Look in the mirror and be proid of what you see

Look in the mirror and be proud of what you see

Never feel you are being “shallow” for wanting to look good. Build your self-esteem, allow compliments and be proud of what you have achieved, survived and gained. Life.

 

Need more information? Want to do more?
Click these links for further help or information on breast cancer or ovarian cancer or other cancers. Also click on the link on this website to give women free mammograms to enable early breast cancer detection. Or do something to celebrate and raise funds with a “Girls’ Night In” fundraiser.
For more information on the belly dancing suvivors from Taiwan read more here: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2006/10/31/2003334121

Ripping the lables off

Amanda Trusty rips off the negative labels in her dance to Roar.

Amanda Trusty rips off the negative labels in her dance to Roar.

In a previous post, I showed a YouTube Video from tap dancer Amanda Trusty, where she danced to Katy Perry’s song “Roar”. In this video she starts out dressed up, tutu, toe shoes and hair tied back. Her movements are exact and conforming. Then she lets loose, removing not only her outer clothing, but also the negative labels she had stuck to her body. She talked about what it was like to do this video with the Huffington Post, and how she received both support and abuse. She wanted to show you can dance, even if you are a bit jiggly, and wanted to rip away the labels that were holding her back. What labels are holding you back?

So she turned to her followers and asked them to show their own labels, but this time only the positive. She wanted them to celebrate their bodies. This is what they did:

Charni from Belly Dance Lessons Online loves to dance and finds it a great sress reliever.

Charni from Belly Dance Lessons Online loves to dance and finds it a great sress reliever.

I was wondering which takes more courage: to rip a negative label off, or to proudly affix a positive one.

This relates to belly dance. Which is it easier? To wear control top stockings, baggy clothes and talk about how you need to join a gym, or to bellydance and wiggle your wobbly bits, allowing yourself to feel joy about your current shape – even on stage!

Raising a confident introverted child

Charni is raising her introverted daughter to be socially confident with acceptance and understanding.

Charni is raising her introverted daughter to be socially confident with acceptance and understanding.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am an introvert (see previous post for the true meaning of the term). In writing about it, I realised that my daughter is also an introvert, and my son an extrovert. He always wanted my attention, company or for me to sit and watch what he was doing and comment. My daughter has always been happy in her own space, could entertain herself for ages, she was fine as long as she knew I was around.

In social situations this came across differently. I have always gotten cross when people labelled my daughter as shy. When meeting a strange adult that I knew but she didn’t, she would stand next to me, look down and not say a word. People would smile at me and say “oh she’s shy” I would say clearly, “No, she is not shy, she is choosing not to speak until she knows you and feels comfortable”. I got quite a few shocked faces at that! I personally think “shy” is a damaging label, especially, as in this case, it wasn’t true. Why do I think it is a damaging label? Well, if a child is told often enough they are shy, they will view themselves as that and behave to confirm that label. It also gives them a reason not to engage in public, as they can say to themselves “I can’t talk to that person, I am shy”. It would be better to work on getting a child to feel confident in public, regardless of whether they are an introvert or extrovert.

Susan Cain, acclaimed author and expert on introverts, agrees that introverted children have their own quiet strength. My daughter just didn’t like talking to people if she didn’t know them. She also used to be hesitant to speak up in front of a group, but one-on-one she talked non-stop.

She is now quite confident socially, and in front of a group, and I aim to have that continue.

How have we achieved this?

This is what worked/is working for us and is not intended to fit all kids, as my daughter has a few characteristics that are also commonly found in kids on the autism spectrum, such as: she does not make eye contact if she is not interested, can’t see the point in social niceties and has to make a real effort to remember to say hello or reply when spoken to, has certain routines that need to be completed before she can go on with the next etc. (By the way, I had her assessed for social skills, spectrum behaviours and school readiness, and the result confirmed what I thought – she is fine, just an introvert and a unique quirky person.)

1. Understand how they think and what motivates them.

I know that my daughter needs time to be by herself to recharge. I also understand that her priorities are not the same as mine. I think it is important to put your shoes on and leave the house to get somewhere on time, she thinks it is important to finish colouring in her picture. Me telling her why she has to stop and do what I am asking does not work, as she doesn’t see what it has to do with her (the “why”). So if I put it in a way that she can see the benefit, she is much more likely to cooperate. “By leaving the house on time, you be in time to do *insert fun thing here*”. Plus I can give her plenty of warning of when a change is about to take place. “In 5 minutes, it will be time to finish colouring and put your shoes on”, “Last minute before it’s time to put your pencil down” or “what part of the picture are you going to stop, and come back and do later?” On the flip side, this means she is very focused and tenacious in achieving a goal.

2. No pressure to socialise

Instead of foisting her into a large group of people and expecting her to just “get used to it”, I found a place where she felt there were fun things to do, which also had a group of kids. We had a fantastic Kindergarten, and she had seen her brother go there for two years before it was her turn for 3-year-old Kinder, so she was confident to start 4 year-old Kinder. The teachers understood her, and didn’t pressure to join the other kids, simply praised her for any interaction or cooperative play with others. After 6 months, she was starting to do activities where other kids were, and by the end of the year she was fully interacting in social and creative play situations.

3. Acceptance for who she is and her strengths, teach others how to treat her.

She did not speak up in mat time at Kindergarten, and while the teachers gave her opportunities, they quickly moved on if she did not participate. On starting school, I gave a detailed behaviour description with strategies to the Prep teacher. At first she was very hesitant, played by herself on the playground or only with a couple of the girls she knew from Kindergarten, or looked for her brother. She was the target for some bullying, which was quickly addressed and the whole class taught about what was acceptable behavior. Once she became familiar with the routine and learnt what the expectations were, she started speaking more. By the middle of the year she was speaking up in front of the class and regularly played with all the kids.

4. Give her time away from others to recharge.

My introverted daughter has her own "recharge space"

My introverted daughter has her own “recharge space”

When she comes from school, or on a weekend and especially at the beginning of school holidays, she does not really want to socialise. Arranging a play-date at the beginning of the holidays does not go down well, or if we do, it needs to be with people who know she sometimes likes to play by herself until she is ready to interact.

5. Give her a space to do alone activities

I recently repainted and rearranged her room, and set up a craft/drawing table just her size, just for her, with all her pencils and colouring books in reach. She loves it and it gives her a needed “head-space” place.

So, as the years pass, I watch my daughter blossom and become more and more socially confident. She is now confident enough now to get up in front of the school to accept an award. And at dinner last week she asked if I could belly dance at assembly, with the proviso that she can come up with me, in a nice costume and do the moves she knows too. Shy? I don’t think so!

 

 

Schooling for the teacher

A true teacher never stops learning.

A true teacher never stops learning.

I have just been schooled. I pride myself on using phrases that work inline with mental imagery and brain learning systems, using NLP techniques and always keeping it positive.

I refuse to accept the word “can’t” in my student’s vocabulary, they have to say “I am finding this difficult” or “I haven’t mastered this move yet”. I encourage positive ways to think and feel about your body and engaging your muscles.

However. I have just read the most interesting Huffington Post article by tap dance teacher Amanda Trusty. She points out that using phrases like “tuck your booty under” and “suck your tummy in” give both an incorrect engagement of the muscles and contribute to negative feelings about the body. I am guilty of using the phrases “tummy in, tail under” A LOT! Now a booty/tail should be tucked under, but this is not because a booty is a bad thing – (definitely not! Especially a sticky-out booty like mine!) it is all postural to protect the lower back. A tummy needs to be pulled in, not because a voluptuous tummy is a bad thing, it’s so as to engage the core muscles for strength and stability. But ‘just’ sucking your tummy in doesn’t actually engage the tummy muscles. Amanda points out that we can use better phrases to get a better result – and without the body image stigma attached to it. Since as Amanda is a positive body image advocate and blogs about her recovery from eating disorders – I am going to listen!

She recommends:

1. Visualise a beautiful tail feather at the base of your spine in whatever are your favourite colours. Then say: “point your tail feathers to the floor”.

Aim your tail feathers to the floor while shaking them!

Aim your tail feathers to the floor while shaking them!

2. Use “Engage your belly”. She uses Pilates exercises to teach about the core, and then encourages her students to check standing in the mirror that they are not raising their ribs or shoulders while doing it.

3. “Show off your necklace” she asks her students to imagine they are wearing a beautiful necklace and they want to show it off. This means keeping shoulders down and chin up and lifting the ribs slightly. To remind someone she will say “I can’t see your necklace” and instantly their upper body posture will change and chin will lift.

Amanda lives what she teaches. Here is a video of her dancing to Katy Perry’s Roar. Where she starts out demure, covered up, restrained. Then she takes off the layers, undoes her hair and more importantly rips off the limiting words (literally) and breaks free enjoying the freedom and movement of a body with curves. Go Amanda!

Introverts can be confident!

Can an introvert be a confident performer?

Can an introvert be a confident performer?

I am an introvert. What? When I said this to a friend recently, they said “No, you can’t be, you seem confident to me and you love to perform belly dance!” and therein lies the misunderstanding. Introvert does not equal shy. Introvert does not equal afraid of the spotlight. According to Wikipedia introverts can be characterized as people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. In other words, as I like to put it, large crowds and social interaction are mentally draining, and I feel renewed after peace and quiet. Getting it is admittedly a bit challenging as a Mother!

Susan Cain agrees with me that introverts are misunderstood and undervalued in this society. She wrote a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking which talks about our special skills and how the “quiet ones” can change the world.

While not all introverts avoid the spotlight, before Susan Cain gave a TedTalk she admitted in an interview that she needed to work with a coach for a week beforehand to feel comfortable doing it. I think she nails it:

So which one are you? How do you feel renewed? In a crowd or by yourself?Just as introverts can be confident, extroverts can be awkward in social situations and hate being in the spotlight. So either way, do something that makes you feel good and build your confidence – like belly dance! (And if you don’t like a crowd, belly dance at home through online lessons).

 

 

I’m “All About the Bass” too!

Meghan Trainor and her song "All about that bass" is catchy and has a great message.

Meghan Trainor and her song “All about that bass” is catchy and has a great message.

I have just heard a really catchy song that I just can’t get out of my head: it’s “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. So I, like millions of others (9 million and counting), checked out the YouTube video, and now I have cute Katy Perry-esque visuals to go with the catchy tune! Her message is what I have been saying all along. Your size is perfect how you are today, so rejoice! (And focus on fitness and fun instead, like maybe through belly dance, nope not biased at all!).

 

So I decided to do some research on Meghan, and found a couple of interviews. Turns out she was a song writer for other artists, wrote this song for fun and was encouraged to sing it herself. The girl who lived by the beach but didn’t feel confident enough to wear bathers is now empowering people to think positively about their shape. She says to stop photoshopping and idealising the stick figure Barbie shape.

She has also come under attack, why? There seems to be a few “criticism camps”:

Criticism 1: She talks about “skinny bitches” so gets accused of skinny bashing.
The truth is the full lyrics (see below) are:
“I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top”

So she is really saying; I know everybody has body image issues no matter your size.

Criticism 2: She is not “fat” enough. Yep, that is the talk.

This guy has some moves!

This guy has some moves!

That no-one on her video is fat “except the obese black guy dancing” (His name is Sione from Vine). Meghan and her back up dancers are all “normal sized” with healthy proportions. She is certainly not a “size two” (scary thought) and I don’t see how this stops her from commenting on what it is like to be a woman of curves in a society which idealises skinniness. Plus, as I mentioned in my last post, their BMI is probably overweight to obese. (Which is meaningless in regards to health)

Meghan Trainor and her dancers for "All about the bass" called "not fat enough"!

Meghan Trainor and her dancers for “All about the bass” called “not fat enough”!

 

Criticism 3: Her song does not have a strong bass beat.

Size differences between the instruments show that the more "bass" and instrument, the larger and rounder it is.

Size differences between the instruments show that the more “bass” and instrument, the larger and rounder it is.

Yep, some people missed the point. Well I will admit to some confusion when I thought she was singing “all about that bass, no trouble” and was relieved when I saw from the lyrics that it is “no treble”! It’s actually a great shorthand. A bass instrument is deeper and larger than a treble – think double bass compared to a violin.

 

Full Lyrics “All About That Bass”

Because you know
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble (x3)
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I’m supposed to do
Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazines workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty beauty, just raise ’em up
Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

Because you know
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble (x3)
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
Hey!

I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
No I’m just playing I know you think you’re fat
But I’m here to tell ya
Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top

Yeah my mama she told me don’t worry about your size
She said boys like a little more booty to hold at night
You know I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll
So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along

Because you know
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble (x3)
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass

Because you know
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble (x3)
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass

Because you know
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass, no treble (x3)
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
I’m all about that bass
‘Bout that bass
‘Bout that bass, ’bout that bass
Hey, hey, ooh
You know you like this bass

If you haven’t had enough, here is a cute little behind the scenes making of the music video clip:

You run like a girl? Good for you!

Wonder Woman knew how to punch, run and kick like a girl!

Wonder Woman knew how to punch, run and kick like a girl!

I am the first to admit that I am not the most sporty of people. Throw a ball my way and I’m more likely to duck than catch it. I am not a fan of violence, so I wouldn’t know how to throw a punch. Yet, when I think about it, I took self-defence classes as a teenager, and it got me out of a potentially dangerous situation of assault, leading to the successful conviction of someone who would have been likely to repeat an attack on someone who looked vulnerable. So just because I don’t condone violence, doesn’t mean I will passively accept it.

I came across a video done by “Always”, a feminine hygiene company (why do they always have the good ones?) and it got me thinking. The topic is #likeagirl

I loved this idea. Because, yes, doing something “like a girl” normally has negative connotations. Why? I love how the young girls were the ones who didn’t buy into the social expectation, and how the older women, once they realised, were able to change their behaviour to reflect reality. My favourite? How the boy said he wasn’t talking about his sister, he was talking about girls, and the look on his face when he realised it.

Go on - run like a girl! I dare you!

Go on – run like a girl! I dare you!

Angelina Jolie had it in for me

Charni used belly dance to help her feel good during pregnancy

Charni used belly dance to help her feel good during pregnancy

In 2006, while pregnant with my first child, I was convinced that Angelina Jolie had it in for me and was taunting me. Not very rational, as I know she was unaware of my existence, however, I happened to be pregnant with my first child at the exact same time that she was with hers. I’m talking due dates the same and everything. So in the beginning, while I was dealing with tiredness, nausea and sore breasts, I would see her grinning on the cover of a magazine with Brad. As her bump expanded with mine, her slimness was applauded, she was asked for health advice and would go to gala nights looking carefree and glamourous, while I navigated maternity wear and stretch marks.

Angelina Jolie's first pregnancy was at the same time as Charni from Belly Dance Lessons Online

Angelina Jolie’s first pregnancy was at the same time as Charni from Belly Dance Lessons Online

Was it fair for me to compare? No. She had staff to take care of housework, errands, cooking, plenty of money firmly in the bank, plus personal trainers, and a team of people to glam her up to go to the gala events.

The question was – how could I not compare? When a celebrity is pregnant, she is often snapped looking great and the media comments on it favourably, with Scarlett Johanssen being the favourite at the moment.

Scarlett's curves have been emphasised by pregancy the media has pointed out.

Scarlett’s curves have been emphasised by pregancy the media has pointed out.

Notably, Catherine Zeta Jones, Milla Jovovich and Charlotte Church were criticised for gaining too much weight during a pregnancy – since when did the media become obstetricians?

Catherine Zeta-Jones was critisised by the media for gaining "too much" weight during her pregancy.

The media was quick to point out Mila's weight gain during her pregnancy
The media was quick to point out Mila’s weight gain during her pregnancy

So I had a choice, I could dislike a woman who was probably going through her own set of insecurities and health issues, as well as feeling pressure from the media to look good, or I could work out how to deal with this on my own terms and ignore the magazines.

So I turned to belly dance. I had been a belly dancer for a number of years at this stage already teaching for three years with Happy Hips Belly Dance here in Melbourne. I started to focus on how the pregnant curves of my body enhanced my dancing. I became aware of how the baby behaved during different moves (he seemed to like the gentle shimmies the best). My belly rolls looked amazing, though I had to reassure my students that it would not hurt the baby (no matter how hard you pull your tummy muscles in, they are not strong enough to hurt the baby especially through the amniotic fluid cushion). I found the regular exercise was great for keeping fit and my morale improved. So I started researching more about how this dance form was used for thousands of years in the Middle East as preparation for birth and recovery afterwards.

One of my main reliable sources of information about bellydance; the dance ethnologist Morocco (Caroline Varga Dinicu) also known as “Aunt Rocky”, was able to witness a very private birthing in a Berber tribe in Morocco known as “dancing the baby into the world”. Going in “undercover”, she was privileged to be a part of a sacred circle of women dancing and singing around the birthing mother. The movements and singing gave her a sense of comfort, well-being as well as encouraging her to do different movements for the different phases of the birth.

Morocco or "Aunt Rocky" got a rare glimpse into the traditional way to "dance a baby into the world" in a Middle Eastern Tribe.

Morocco or “Aunt Rocky” got a rare glimpse into the traditional way to “dance a baby into the world” in a Middle Eastern Tribe.

Aunt Rocky, accounts how in is this modern age, a lot of birthing classes focus on relaxation – the idea being that a tense and scared birthing mother is more likely to experience complications and longer labour, hypno-birthing is becoming more popular with the same idea . The women in the tribe, did not know that they were causing an hypnotic state during labour, and the women also didn’t know that birth was supposed to be scary and painful. As a result, it was joyful, and the birthing woman, without any medical intervention, simply squatted over a hollow in the ground and safely birthed twin boys and then the placentas. According to Aunt Rocky, the only sign of strain was the “perspiration soaking her hair and forehead”.

I myself ended up using many belly dance moves during labour as I found it a great way to ease the back aches, plus it gave me a way to move through the contractions and something to focus on. Many times, I didn’t consciously pick a move to do, I just moved however it felt right at the time – maybe some of them even echoed the women in the Moroccan tribe?

I would think that if it was suggested to any of these Moroccan women that they should spend their pregnancy focussed on looking svelte, lean and fit, they would laugh loudly and long.

Did Angelina Jolie have belly dance in her life? Probably not – hey – maybe she is envious of me!