Belly dance? Can I do it? The ICONIC Mums Program, launched by Multiculturalism in Action Project 2017, organized its third workshop “Body Autonomy: Belly Dance Workshop” on 19 July 2017, and gave us a totally different view of our body.
The morning workshop began with our Indian participant teaching us how to greet each other in Hindi: putting on hands together and say “namaste”. Our instructor Ms. Devi Novianti then invited us to introduce ourselves and say something about our own habits. Through this we discovered some interesting and unexpected commonalities among us despite our diverse cultural backgrounds. For example, a few of us loved coffee whether we were Chinese or Nepali, or a couple of us insisted on putting eyeliner whether we were Indonesian or Pakistani. We also found similarities among different cultures as they shared very similar moves in their dances.
工作坊以印度裔朋友介紹如何以印度語打招呼（雙手合十說“namaste”）揭開序幕。然後， Devi Novianti老師讓我們分享生活的小習慣。我們發現：雖然大家來自不同的文化背景，但卻有不少有趣和意想不到的共通之處。例如，不論是華裔或尼泊爾裔，大家都喜歡喝咖啡；也有印尼裔和巴基斯坦裔朋友不約而同地表示每天出門前必須畫好眼線。然後，我們透過比較不同舞蹈的舞步，繼續發掘不同文化之間相似的地方。
The most exciting part of the belly dance workshop was, of course, BELLY DANCING! Since we were all new to belly dance (and dance in general), most of us struggled to master the movements at the very beginning. The hip and waist movements were the hardest – it was like re-activating some long-lost muscles! Personally, it was also a bit of a challenge to look at myself in the mirror at first as my chubby body twitched unrhythmically as if electrocuted ☹. Gradually, however, everyone got better at the steps with practice. More importantly, Ms. Novianti kept reminding us of what beauty should be: it isn’t about having a slender body, but being thankful and confident with who you are; only by seeing the beauty in yourself can you dance with beauty. With that in mind, despite remaining clumsy, I was able to truly immerse myself in the passionate music and enjoy the fun of my first ever belly dance experience like my fellow participants did. In fact, I think we all did quite well as newbies.
Learning the basic steps of belly dance 學習肚皮舞基本步
Group dancing to vibrant music隨著強勁的音樂舞動起來
The workshop was completed with a follow-up discussion on body autonomy. During the discussion, many of us reported having had negative images of our own bodies, often due to comparing ourselves against some commercial beauty standards advocated by the beauty industry. Regarding the constant pressure from ubiquitous advertisements of beauty products and services, Ms. Novianti again emphasised the significance of self-embrace as the key to discovering one’s own beauty. We have the autonomy over our own bodies, so instead of feeling insufficient or even guilty for not being like what others think we should be, we should choose to appreciate ourselves and shine in confidence, just like we did when doing belly dance. She used two belly dancers as example, showing that even though they have different body shapes, both of them dance beautifully. True beauty is not in your body, but it is the light shining from your heart.
Discussing the concept of body autonomy討論身體自主的概念
Our attention was also drawn to the importance of defending body autonomy as a means of safeguarding gender equality. As our body belong to us, WE are the rightful persons to decide how to present or express ourselves with our body without being judged or even harassed. This was an especially powerful message for us as ladies who are often subject to the imposition of various unfair standards regarding how to dress and behave. For instance, if we dress in a sexy way, we are considered to be inviting sexual harassment; but all the while we rarely hear people say, “Well, this man chose to put on those sexy pants. He deserved to be touched!”. An interesting little episode to share here: To help us and our ethnic minority friends to protect ourselves in case of sexual harassment, we all practised shouting fei1 lai5 aa3!, literally “sexual assault!”. It was an empowering experience for many of us!
Novianti老師繼而引導我們以身體自主的概念為起點，思考性別平等的問題。她強調：我們擁有我們身體的自主權，我們有權決定如何以自己的身體表達自己(如個性和喜好)而不受他人的批判和滋擾。這對作為女性的我們而言尤其重要，因為比起男性，女性更常面對各種針對衣著和行為的不公平標籤。例如女性衣著性感會被視為自招麻煩，被性騷擾也認為是活該。但我們卻甚少聽到針對男性衣著性感的批評。在此分享一個有趣的小插曲：為幫助我們和少數族裔朋友在面對性騷擾時保護自己，我們一同練習喊 “非禮呀!” 。這個練習對我們大部分人來說也是一個充權的體驗呢！
To conclude, the workshop wasn’t just a fun experience of belly dancing, but also a lesson of self-love, which, together with the sustainable lifestyle and practice of physical and mental health we learnt from the previous workshops, is the first step to better living and self-empowerment.
Reporter 記者: Holly Fung 馮詩皓