Belly Dancing for People with Disabilities

by Marisawright

If you're physically challenged through disability or injury, you may think dancing is beyond your grasp. Belly dance may offer the solution!

An Inspirational Story

Before I look at options for dancing with disability, I'd like to share the story of Neena Nour, an inspirational belly dancer from Arizona. She's a great example of how bellydancing is accessible to everyone, regardless of age, size, shape or physical ability!

Neena was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was six years old, after being asked to leave ballet lessons because her balance was so bad. Doctors said she would never be able to dance - but Neena was determined to fulfil her dream of becoming a professional dancer.

It took the discovery of bellydancing at the age of sixteen to give her the opportunity she needed - and the rest, as they say, is history. Today you would never know she once had a limp and struggled to keep her balance.

Of course, Neena's determination was a big factor in her success - but she would've had an even greater struggle had she chosen ballet or contemporary dance as her career!

Although belly dance at its highest level is as challenging as any other dance form, it's uniquely accessible for beginners and manageable by those with physical limitations.The other nice thing is that you don't need to learn a lot of steps before you can put together a routine.  So even if you can manage only a few steps, you can still enjoy the dance.  

Because there's no demanding balancing or stretching, it's also more adaptable to physical impairments than many other dance styles. You can even do chair bellydancing!

There are plenty of belly dance moves where you don't have to be able to kick your leg high, you don't have to balance on one toe, and you don't have to dance at a million miles an hour. So you don't need a lot of flexibility, core strength or stamina to get started.  Even when you get more advanced, it's possible to choreograph dances while avoiding belly dance steps which are difficult for you.

For instance, I have bad knees and can't do deep knee bends. A sudden drop to the knees is a belly dance step - but I have enough other options that I don't need to worry that I can't do them.  Arabesques are a belly dance step, which Neena avoids - but her dances still have plenty of variety and interest, so most people would never notice.

belly dancer

You can read more about belly dancers dancing with health problems in Amulya's article on Belly Dance and Chronic Health Problems on Bellydancing Diva.

Belly Dancing is for Men, too!

Gentlemen, this Hub applies just as much to you - men can belly dance too. Just look at this video clip of Shiva, one of the top Australian male belly dancers.

I must be honest. In the history of belly dance - and still in the Middle East today - male belly dancing has unfortunate associations with rent boys. But then, female bellydancers are not considered respectable in Egypt these days, either! The Western view of belly dancing is very different from the attitude in its country of birth.

If you'd like to take a class, do ring the teacher first and check that she takes male students - not all bellydance teachers feel competent to teach men, and some tribal schools are women-only.

In fact, that advice applies to anyone who has any kind of physical impairment - ring in advance and discuss it with the teacher. Some will work around your limitations with confidence, but others may be reluctant to take it on - not all bellydance teachers are qualified in exercise or physiology. If you're asked to get a doctor's clearance and don't feel it's necessary, please don't get annoyed with the teacher - it may well be a condition set by her insurance, not her personal choice.


Text copyright Marisa Wright. Photo by Alaskan Dude

Updated: 08/05/2014, Marisawright
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Angel on 01/24/2012

This is such a great story! I watched the belly dancers at my daughter's last dance recital and I want to sign up so bad. Not sure I will do well but I may give it a try. I recognize you from HP.. Welcome!

You might also like

Wizard of Oz T-Shirts and Gifts

Wizard of Oz fans will love these tees and gifts! L. Frank Baum had no idea ...

The Importance of Singing In Choirs to Your Health

I've been singing all my life in a variety of settings and genres. There is s...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...