Inspire Belly Dance: Shira, 31 Years of Sharing Balance and Belly Dance
Most belly dancers with a computer know the name Shira, the woman behind the website that bears her name: Shira.net. First a folk dancer, Shira came to belly dance with the approach of a historian, hoping to discover a new folk dance. What resulted was 31 years of life in belly dance.
Already an experienced folk dancer, when Shira discovered a belly dance class in an adult education catalog, she was hoping to find another form of dance that would give her insights into a culture she didn't already know. She connected with belly dance instantly.
"My first belly dance class was in January 1981," Shira said. "It just felt 'right' from the very beginning."
In her daily life, Shira works in the high tech industry. She’s happy in her job, but can't rely solely on a paycheck to feel complete. In belly dance, Shira found herself a creative outlet as well as a social environment essential to building and maintaining friendships.
In fact, most of her close relationships were formed during dance classes. One fellow dancer wore a shirt one day that continues to speak to Shira. The shirt read: 'Folk dancing is friendship set to music.' The phrase holds true for belly dance as well.
"Even people who initially start dancing in order to feel more sexy will eventually stay with it for entirely different reasons. First and foremost, belly dance is a social dance," said Shira.
Through teaching, Shira is able to share this dance with the local community of belly dancers. Through her website, she is able to take the message further, providing a valuable resource for belly dancers around the world looking for more information on the dance they love.
Maura Enright used Shira.net extensively when she first started belly dancing, citing it as a gateway for beginners looking for more information. Even for dancers who are no longer beginners, Shira.net and Shira's website for larger dancers, bellydanceplus.com, continue to fill a need within the belly dance community.
"Shira.net is, essentially, an online encyclopedia," Maura said. "I still use it frequently when researching history, costume making or videos."
While Shira is constantly teaching belly dancers about the history and culture of dance, she has learned that she can't change every mind. She takes this piece of knowledge into consideration when confronted by negative opinions about belly dance.
"If they seem willing to have a dialogue, I'll engage them in a respectful conversation and try to educate them. If not, I shrug and move on," said Shira.
It's important for Shira to always remember that dance is first and foremost meant to be fun. When approaching the balance between dance and her daily life, she must keep that fact in mind, of which her husband is happy to remind her. He serves both as her biggest supporter as well as a voice of reason when she needs to spend more time at home.
"It's very easy to get obsessed with belly dance, and very easy to pour your time and money into it," Shira said. "There was a time when I was a student and attending classes 4 nights a week. My husband wanted more time with me, so I cut it back to two. He's still my best friend."
Taking time off from belly dance is essential for Shira to manage the stress that comes with managing both personal, work and dance priorities, but no matter how long or how many breaks she make take, she knows she will always come back to belly dance. After all, she is first and foremost a student.
"If you're not learning any more, it doesn't mean you now know everything. It just means you've outgrown your current situation, so maybe you need a change. Smart dancers will tell you that you never stop learning. Even after 31 years in this dance, I'm still learning!"