“Belly dance is a Middle Eastern folkloric dance. There are many types of belly dance. The one that we would usually dance for an audience is called raks sharki, where the music is composed specifically for the dancer”, said Christine Yaven, an Indonesian belly dancer, to Jakarta Globe.
Belly dance is getting well-known Indonesia, specifically in big cities such as Jakarta. Nowadays belly dance classes can be found in fitness centers and belly dance clubs. It’s performance can also be seen in wedding parties, restaurants, even nightclubs.
There is a ‘common’ judgment towards belly dance in society. Belly dance is known as an erotic dance which for some people, is still a taboo, impossible to watch. Not only the movements, but also how belly dancers dress has created such comments. Performing in public only with a bra and skirt is seen unethical for Indonesians who hold onto Eastern culture. It’s hard for them to understand the cultural aspects in this dance; they only see it from the sensuality. Another judgment also arises from the media. Coverage about belly dance or its classes have got more spaces on some TV features or female magazines.
“Belly dancing is promoted in the media for loosing weight, that you’ll flatten your stomach and become slimmer. But that’s not the case. Belly dancing will help you gain body confidence and better flexibility and posture, but it’s not a dance to lose weight,” said Indonesia’s Belly Dance Icon Christine Yaven on Jakarta Globe.
In the middle of the controversy about belly dance, Christine is present to break the hegemony.
“My goal is to show Indonesian people what true, artistic belly dancing is, and to show them that belly dancing isn’t for slim girls only. It’s the curves that make it beautiful,” she said.
She has been establishing Bellydance Jakarta, a belly dance school, since 2006. Not only raks sharki, she also teaches Egyptian folkloric dances such as Saidi, Balady, etc. Sometimes she shares knowledge and know-how about Arabic musical instruments to her students as well. To sum up, she is passionate in teaching Middle Eastern culture, especially belly dance.
Christine doesn’t have Arabic blood; she is a mixture of Indonesian-Chinese and Taiwanese. She had fallen in love with belly dance, though. It was ten years ago when she was completing her master’s degree in Australia. Her passion in this dance had brought her to the World’s Middle Eastern dancers such as Hadia, Tamalyn Dallal, Dr. Mo Geddawi, Raqia Hassan, Jillina, and many more. She was their student.
Moving back to Jakarta, she decided to fix ‘what-had-gone-wrong’ in Indonesian belly dance communities. Christine tries to risen a prestigious image about belly dance; she wants to make it seen as an elegant dance. Finally, she could make belly dance performed in the city’s theaters like the historical Gedung Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta’s Building of Arts) and Umar Ismail Theater which are known for their “High Culture” arts. “I am helping people build confidence and believe in themselves without being cheap, slutty and acrobatic. That was the only reason why my mother lets me do this. She can see what I am trying to build,” said Christine.
Besides, Christine wants to make Bellydance Jakarta become a community. That was why she named it like that instead of using personal name for her school’s title. “Yes, I am the founder but I want it to grow and have a long life, taken over by the next generation. I might not always live in Indonesia but the community will always live, even if I am not here.”
Pictures taken from Christine’s personal archive.