Scientists take a look at the feel-good benefits of belly dance

September 8, 2014, Springer

Belly dancers have fewer hang-ups about their bodies. Most women who participate in this torso-driven dance do so because it is fun and they get to perform interesting moves – not because they necessarily feel sexier while doing so. This is the conclusion of Marika Tiggemann of Flinders University in Australia, leader of a study in Springer's journal Sex Roles about the body image of people who belly dance in their free time.

Body image is the way in which someone perceives, feels and thinks about his or her body, especially factors regarding shape and weight. Previous studies in the US and the UK have shown that street and modern dancers hold a more positive of themselves than exotic dancers do. Tiggemann's team wanted to add to the scant literature available on belly dancing. The researchers therefore tested how participants of this potentially sexually alluring yet embodying dance form see themselves, and also sought to find out what they gain from it.

The authors recruited 112 belly dancers from two dancing schools in Adelaide, Australia, along with 101 college women who had never participated in this activity before. The participants completed questionnaires in which they rated their own bodies, how they think others view their bodies and about the attention they attract from men.

The researchers found that belly dancers see their own bodies in a better light than the college students do, and are less likely to be dissatisfied with how they look. They also have fewer self-objectifying thoughts, and therefore take what others might think about their bodies less to heart.

Most belly dancers enjoy this activity because it is fun, and because they get to perform interesting movements with their body. Tiggemann says this underscores the fact that belly dancing is an embodying activity that gives women a sense of ownership of their bodies. It allows women to be mentally and physically present "in the moment" and to feel good about themselves.

Most women rated the possible sexual nature of the activity as a lesser reason for enjoying belly dancing. This supports the idea that women participate in this somewhat erotic and sexually alluring activity purely for themselves, rather than to feel sexier and more attractive to others. In fact, the belly dancers in the research group scored no differently in their enjoyment of such sexualization, or being seen as sexual beings, than the did.

"Belly dancing is an activity associated with positive body image, because participants tend to focus less on their external appearance, and more on the experience and what they are able to do with their bodies," concludes Tiggemann. "It allows a rare, safe and creative opportunity for exploring and expressing their sensual and sexual selves."

Explore further: Ballet dancers face high risk of injury

More information: Tiggemann, M. et al (2014). Belly Dance as an Embodying Activity? A Test of the Embodiment Model of Positive Body Image, Sex Roles. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-014-0408-2

Related Stories

Ballet dancers face high risk of injury

June 24, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Ballet dancers are exposed to a high risk of injury compared to other adolescent athletes, a study shows. 

Objectification in romantic relationships related to sexual pressure and coercion

August 21, 2014
To sexually objectify a woman is to focus on her body in terms of how it can provide sexual pleasure rather than viewing her as a complete human being with thoughts and feelings. While objectification has long been considered ...

Body image not always a drag on women's wellbeing

January 31, 2012
Deakin University psychology researchers have found that body image isn't always a negative experience for women.

How belly fat differs from thigh fat—and why it matters

January 11, 2013
Men tend to store fat in the abdominal area, but don't usually have much in the way of hips or thighs. Women, on the other hand, are more often pear-shaped—storing more fat on their hips and thighs than in the belly. Why ...

Research study shows men find dancing women more attractive during most fertile time

August 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers from the University of Göttingen in Germany have found that men viewing videos of silhouettes of dancing women were more likely to describe those who were ovulating at the time as more ...

Good body image goes hand in hand with happier relationship

December 6, 2013
(HealthDay)—Women who are happy with their bodies are better able to maintain a happy relationship, a new study finds.

Recommended for you

How we explain the behavior of others depends on our beliefs about their 'true selves'

August 14, 2018
Why did they do that? It's a question we ask every day in attempting to understand the behavior of others and make meaning of the world around us. How we answer the question, however, varies depending on our moral attitudes ...

The science behind rooting for the home team

August 14, 2018
Young children often observe society dividing its members—by ethnicity, religion, gender, or even favorite sports team. But a review by a Yale psychologist published August 14 in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences ...

Study identifies distinct origin of ADHD in children with history of brain injury

August 14, 2018
According to a study in Biological Psychiatry, physical brain injury in children contributes to the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), distinct from genetic risk for the disorder.

Online solution for OCD treatment

August 14, 2018
Almost 1 in 30 Australians experience Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) at some stage in their life.

Angry people might not be as smart as they think they are

August 13, 2018
People who are quick to lose their temper are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence, a new study from The University of Western Australia and the University of Warsaw in Poland has found.

Rude to your coworker? Think of the children

August 12, 2018
When people are rude to their coworkers or treat them badly, they probably don't realize the unintended victims in that encounter could be the coworkers' children. Women who experience incivility in the workplace are more ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.