Unlike other forms of modern dance, belly dance is wholly feminine and natural; it does not require extreme or unnatural contortions as do some common forms of dance. Belly dance brings girls back into union with the natural way their bodies move. It connects them with the primal force of feminine consciousness by connecting them to an ancient lineage of women who have done the same movements in dance, in birth, and in celebration of life and womanhood. This can be very healing in a physical, mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual way.
The work of transpersonal psychotherapists Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks has shown that many emotional problems can be lessened by paying close attention to one's body and by treating one's emotions and sensations with the utmost respect. The spiritual and creative dimension of belly dance provides an opening through which girls can begin to explore the light and dark places of their own psyches, on their own terms, leading to a restoration of self.
Dancing also stimulates the unconscious, heightens life, and leads to a feeling of wholeness. It contains a spiritual dimension that is associated with the experience of ecstatic dance. Ecstatic dance involves a paradoxical melding with one's body while achieving a shift of focus and consciousness to the spiritual realm. This occurs when the dance becomes a spiritual discipline, a tool that teaches girls how to live inside, interact with, and grow through their bodies. For belly dancers, the body is not an obstacle to enlightenment or realization of spiritual truth. Rather, it is the key. Union with her body allows a girl to know herself, her essence, and her connection to all life in a way that mainstream American culture denies.
Belly dance as a spiritual practice is available within a wide variety of religious frameworks. For example, it has found an easy home within the modernday pagan movement. Many pagans are also part of the belly dance community and bring their dance talents into their spiritual practices. In addition, some have studied the Middle Eastern rituals and incorporated modified versions into their own spiritual paths. The dance can also play a role within the context of mainstream American religion. Some progressive Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Unitarian congregations have welcomed belly dance as liturgical dance during their services. Even some of the more conservative Christian denominations have accepted belly dance as part of special events, such as talent shows and celebratory dances during certain services. Consequently, even girls within mainstream religious institutions can experience the benefits of the dance.
Dance has long been used as an expression of cultural values, including the religious and spiritual rituals within different cultures. In addition to its historical functions for political advantage, celebration, and healing, dance is often (intentionally or unintentionally) a trigger of religious and/or spiritual development. Dance can also serve as a tool for promoting healthy emotional, physical, and mental development in young people. For example, with today's excessive emphasis on the shape of girl's and women's bodies, belly dance can provide a physical, emotional, and spiritual release from the pressures young people face. Belly dance celebrates the natural shapes and movements of a woman's body, a celebration that may go far toward combating the contemporary "thin-is-in" cultural message bombarding young girls. Rather than starving themselves for an unnatural slender figure, belly dance allows girls to rejoice in the natural curves of their bodies. This connection with the body provides a spiritual liberation that goes bone deep.