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Is Rihanna Belly Dancin'-Dancin'-Dancin'?

We've converted another! It appears that rumors are floating around the celebrity gossip mill that Rihanna has been recently entranced by belly dance. And the news... is shocking!

Not that we're surprised Rihanna is belly dancing - for someone with a reputation for trendsetting, edgy glamour as well as breaking the Western Pop Culture Standard of size zero pop stars, the transition makes complete sense to us What's intriguing is the way the news is covering her new interest.

Phrases and comparisons used to describe what is essentially a traditional dance form that sprung up from Middle Eastern and Northern African regions range from the absurd to cliche, from mildly amusing to outright insulting. I'm starting to feel that being insulted IS cliche.

The rumors originated from a post by Sarah Teteh in the Daily Mirror on July 8th, using some questionable verbiage:

"RIHANNA has turned to tumthing unusual to stay in fantastic shape – belly dancin'."


I could break apart that sentence for days. Is tumthing a misspelling, or an allusion to the fact belly dancing involves the tummy? Yes, how original. Let's not take into account that almost every form of exercise/dance using the ab muscles, save maybe golfing if you only use the current waist-size of most golfers as evidence of that neglected region.

Also, why is belly dancing written "belly dancin'"? My years of journalistic experience are making me shiver. It's not Southern. It's certainly not common slang. WHY IS IT WRITTEN THIS WAY? My brain is exploding.  You certainly wouldn't call it ballroom dancin' or ballet dancin'! Not unless you were Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.

And is the use of belly dancing by a celebrity all that unusual? We've been tracking the career of many a star who uses this ancient dance as a fun way to stay fit. The only thing I find UNUSUAL here is that someone who used "tumthing" and "belly dancin'" in the same sentence has a job writing anything other than her own name.

Ok - backing off the catty train - I'm going to let this next quote stand by itself, all alone with what happens to be one of the most bizarre statements about belly dance I've seen this year (claws retracting now):

"I tried a dance class at a belly dancing studio not too long ago. It wasn't belly dancing; it was cardio striptease, but the teachers have the same sensibility for all of the classes. They encourage you to embrace your sexuality, your womanly "wiles," and use that to just move and have a good time."
- Maressa Brown


Moving on, in an example of journalists/bloggers who should have access to their thesaurus revoked, Hope Carsen describes belly dance as both "exotic" and "corybantic". For those of you not able to look up that last term in the dictionary, I've done it for you:

cor·y·ban·tic. Adjective: Wild; frenzied.

If there were two terms I would NOT use to describe belly dance, it would be wild and frenzied. Graceful, yes. Passionate, certainly. But wild? Wild seems to imply a lack of control, which to anyone who has tried the isolating movements of belly dancing knows to be untrue.

In a redeeming moment for bloggers everywhere, one with some sense emerges. uses this moment to hypothesize that we could be looking at a shift in belly dance's mainstream acceptance.

Shakira, Belly Dance, Rope, HipMix.netOzgen, Belly Dance, Rope,

While I appreciate that sentiment, I'm a little less optimistic. Belly dance has had it's share of celebrity fans. Shakira, anyone? Who else had hoped that "Hips Don't Lie" or her performance with a rope in in her tour would bring belly dance shimmying into the home of every woman in "the West"? (special nudge and kiss to benim arkadasim Ozgen - canim you RAQ it where I tried and gracefully failed).


Click on each picture to watch a version of their respective rope dances and be amazed!



Honestly, probably the best statement in any article about Rihanna's new pasttime comes from "corybantic" Hope Carsen. The author writes: "Note: Mexico—a hotbed of belly dancing and belly dancing instructors? Who knew?"

As an aside, she was mostly speaking with herself, but that statement more accurately reflects the "state of the union belly dance" more than anything else.

Yes, belly dance is popular and yes, in places you wouldn't even imagine. I do believe she'd flip her lid over Argentina, for starters!

After reading all these articles, the question I have left is: why are we focusing on what appears to be a rumor perpetrated by a person who could just as well be the neighbor’s dog walker's best friend's sister as opposed to a close source to Rihanna?

Is belly dance so scandalous that any celebrity toying with the dance form becomes instant news? Or are we just starved for any piece of gossip that surrounds a hot star's fitness routine? I'm grateful for the coverage of belly dance, even more thankful that a singer I love is trying out what happens to be a fantastic and underappreciated dance. I can't help but wonder if Ellen DeGeneres playing chess would be an equally newsworthy subject?

Well, one of my newest staffers just let slip that Rihanna is on the cover of Cosmo magazine this month, announcing that she's never felt sexier. Now it's obvious why people are talking about her belly dancing - THEY'RE JEALOUS!