Sometimes, the things that give you the most confidence are those moments when you fearlessly put yourself out there – especially as a performer.

I attended the annual Arabesque belly dance show at the historic Scottish Rite Temple this past Saturday. I first learned about the event’s organizer, Snake Charmer & the Belly Dancer in 2012 when I wrote a story about them for the Fort Bliss Bugle. A mother-and-daughter duo, what prompted the two to venture into the art of belly dance was the need to find a skill that boosted confidence and aptitude. At a time when Seneé Barraza was struggling in elementary school, her mom Sonia Flores got her into belly dancing, which she said led to Seneé’s academic improvement. What started off as a fun exercise flourished into a lifelong career for Seneé and Sonia.

The two have been teaching belly dance and hosting Arabesque and the 1920s/’30s-themed show, The Cat’s Meow, for the past several years, giving audience members and performers an opportunity to appreciate dance and body types of all kinds.

The age range is also what’s really impressive. I’ve seen belly dancers in their 60s and 70s, dressed to the nines with a sense of confidence that younger generations often struggle to find.

While some performers might have washboard abs, the whole point of belly dance isn’t to showcase one body type. You’ll often find thicker figures making moves that will leave you mesmerized.

Ultimately, the point is to showcase a skill that takes much study and practice and to promote diversity, femininity, and historically speaking, fertility. It’s no wonder that such an art form would instill confidence in performers.

“Belly dance has been the way my soul writes love letters to my body,” said belly dancer Darlina Marie, who performed at Arabesque. “It gives me liberation and allows me to be brave in my own skin. It is my hustle, my passion, my exercise, my therapy and my connection to so many other beautiful souls. It’s the breathing for my sanity.”

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