Browsing through the archives on the Gilded Serpent (it's a bit like a online belly dance magazine) I found an article that made me think. (I can't find it again, dammit, but I remember!) It was talking about the Bellydance giving you self confidence.
I've heard that old chestnut being bandied around loads of times, but I really don't think my involvement in belly dance has personally affected my self esteem in any particular way. I was never a shy and retiring kiddywink - pre bellydance, I was usually the lead in my youth theatre group, so I've always been quite happy being the centre of attention. Mmmm delicious attention. I always quite liked my body, so I haven't had any huge bellydance body-confidence adventures either.
Bellydance hasn't really affect my self confidence much at all. Honestly, my brain uses my bellydance skills and aspirations as a way to destroy my self confidence and kick myself in the face for not measuring up to my brain's standard.
So no bellydance-changed-my-life self-confidence stories here.
The article in the Gilded Serpent talked about self esteem and performance, focused on masks in bellydance - I remember it mentioning the gothic fusion mask in particular.
I have always found it interesting that my students seem to be most comfy improving and performing gothic fusion bellydance rather than regular fusion bellydance. The same peeps who look a bit unsure and suspicious when asked to improv bellydance turn into scary intense confident vampires as soon as the word Gothic is mentioned.
I guess it's all to do with having a stage persona - here on this stage, I am not me, I am SexyGothRa therefore I am confident. And I guess when you perform "normal" tribal fusion, it's just you and yourself, so it is scarier.
With the Gothic fusion side of things, even if you forget the moves, you have this persona to fill up the space. I guess with regular fusion, there is no obvious persona to fill the space with, and confidence seems to come after really internalising the moves.
Or in my case with really awesome loud music.
The article spoke of how you are compelled to watch the dancer who is totally at home in her own skin, who is onstage with no self-conciousness and nothing holding her back. And I agree. I think it seems to be easier to reach this when we have some sort of persona to dance around, but I am trying to figure out how to make dancing just with yourself more accessible and less scary. I have a suspicion it's just lots and lots of practice.