I took a workshop with Frank Farinaro during Cairo Caravan 2011, and he said something interesting about belly dancers. He said that he had heard from another dancer that there is a difference between a belly dancer and a Bellydancer.
A belly dancer is a hobbyist. He or she takes maybe a class a week, doesn't really practice, just does it for the fun of it or for exercise or whatever. A Bellydancer is a professional.
Because belly dance is such an informal style, it's sometimes hard to tell the Bellydancers from the belly dancers. When I think of a Bellydancer, I think of Rachel Brice, Frank Farinaro, Sharon Kihara, Ariellah, Steven Eggers. People for whom belly dance is a full-time job, and they spend all their time practicing, rehearsing, putting on shows and workshops, traveling all over the world.
And I certainly know some belly dancers. They are the women who don't show up to class every week, or don't practice at home, or joke around in the back when the teacher is talking about a concept she's trying to fix inside our heads. And that's where the grey area is. Some of the women who don't show up to class every week have reasons: they don't have enough money to pay for class, or they have to work, or there's something else going on at the same time as class, or they're so tired when they get home from work or there's too much to do and they can't practice. And I wonder, is this really worth it to them? Do they really want to dance that badly?
Because I do. I make sure I have money every week to pay for my classes--for awhile, I even had a budget specifically for dance class, and now I have an account that's specially earmarked for future workshops fees and conferences. I make time to go to class, and I've turned down social engagements--hell, I've turned down family dinners--in order not to miss class. Sure, I've made exceptions. I have a book club that meets once every 6 weeks on the same night as class, and to me, the book club and the time I spend with the people are as important to me as dance class. So I am fine with missing class that one day, every 6 weeks.
So I guess, using our definition, that makes me a Belly Dancer.
And my question is, how badly do you want to be a Belly Dancer? Because if you really want it, if you dream about it and dance about it and write about it and talk endlessly about it...there is no excuse. You can't say you want to be a Belly Dancer and then, in the same breath say "But I can't afford class, and my friends are going out that night, and I have to work, and I'm so tired from working all day."
If that's your excuse, you'll always be a bellydancer.