Fusion Belly Dance Club challenges stereotypes, promotes body positivity

Hannah Ortega

Belly dance, a Middle Eastern art form, is often associated with seductive body rolling and hip shaking, but the new Fusion Belly Dance Club aims to challenge this stereotype.

Psychology senior Gabby Wong formed the club last month with the help of two other students, biology senior Rachita Murthy and geology senior Angela Cai, when she discovered UT did not have a belly dance group.

“It would be a good way for everyone to hang out and learn a different cultural aspect of dance, because I feel like a lot of people have a weird interpretation of belly dancing, where it could be taken as something sexual … and I (would) like to change that idea, that it’s just another dance style,” Wong said.

Wong said fusion belly dance is belly dance for the modern age, because it incorporates various styles of contemporary movement.

“A lot of people … think of shimmying and showing off fat and belly rolls,” Wong said. “But we focus more on smooth and solid movements or pop and lock type movements, which are all in hip hop or in folk dancing as well.”

The club is a place for body positivity, and the style is open to everyone, Wong said. She said the accepting atmosphere differs from her past ballet and hip-hop classes, where she was often told to lose weight. The club’s emphasis on body confidence has also impacted Murthy.

“After coming to the club, I’ve been more positive about viewing my body,” Murthy said. “I haven’t experienced this before in my other dance classes. We’re all really motivational to each other and support each other with everything. Everyone has a different body style, so everyone is good at something different.”

The club currently has less than 10 members, including the three founders, and they aim to perform publicly next semester, meet twice a week and uphold close bonds between dancers.

“I’m hoping it will be a club where everyone can be comfortable with each other and will have fun just trying to do stuff with belly dancing,” Cai said.

Murthy said while there is a certain stigma of sexuality around belly dancing, it’s not “something to be scared of.”

“It’s not what you think,” Murthy said. “People should give it a try and try to step out of their boundaries.”