Nerd Magnet

I would never have expected myself to end up doing something that cool people did.

As a kid, I was a theater geek. As an awkward misanthropic teenager, I was the noctural nerd; a goth. And as an adult, I am a bellydancer. So, as a bellydancer, did my life take an unexpected turn from my nerdly past, or am I still a nerd?

Yup, I’m still a nerd.

Since you’re reading this… I’ll bet you’re a nerd, too.

These are the three types of bellydance nerds I have identified so far in my research. There’s probably more, maybe you can help me with that.

1. The Theater Nerd – When not exploring various heights of headpieces and the particular merits of a strip versus a flare false eyelashes, the theater nerd can
be found watching Phantom for the 37th time and tending her secret shrine to Liberace. For example, Razia explains her theatrical flair by saying, “I proudly consider myself an old school bellydancer, but my influences outside of dance come from crazy characters like David Lee Roth and Prince. In terms of talent, full-throttle stage presence and amazing costumes, these guys held nothing back and never apologized for their personalities. How is that not inspiring?” Darn tootin, Razia! And if you’ve seen her vivid costumes and equally glowing hair, you know that she has channeled her love of theatricality into a very entertaining dance show.

2. The Academic Nerd – They care about grades, being the teacher’s pet, and you don’t even want to talk about how many SAT Prep courses these folks go through before taking the real thing. Shira, who has compiled an amazing web resource for bellydance, explains the motivation for her intense focus; “The best feeling I get is when people come up to me at dance events and tell me how something they found on my web site changed their life as a dancer; ie, helped them overcome some sort of stumbling block.” Shira’s online encyclopedia of bellydance is a testament to how one person’s geeking can enlighten the world about the intricacies of an art form.

3. The Sci-fi/Fantasy nerd: This person pulls inspiration the world of hobbits, fairies (sorry, faeries?), and dragons to create their desired reality. As Zahira explains, “I started learning backbends from Xena years before I signed up for classes… in the moment of performance while I became Zahira on stage, my stage presence has a lot to do with my “interiorizing” Xena and others such characters (as by nature I’m more of a shy introvert person).” Zahira’s troupe recently performed an epic bellydance tribute to The Hobbit and a troupe local to me is creating a Game of Thrones themed choreography. While these types of dances might be lost on the Middle Eastern bride and groom you have booked for Saturday night at the banquet hall, the inspiration you get from delving into sci-fi and fantasy (or whatever genre floats your boat) will help fuel your drills and spill over into your bread-and-butter performances.

So, if you couldn’t already tell, I have a major affection for nerds. Formerly maligned in popular culture, the nerd status has become a point of pride and I think that’s great!

Well, what have I missed? What type of nerd are you?

Have fun geeking out,

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2 Responses to Nerd Magnet

  1. Academic nerd here 😉 (and I *love*!)

    Most dancers I know have some seriously nerdy tendencies, actually. I’m also a sci-fi nerd in my spare time, but it doesn’t really interact with my dancing – I’m not sure how I could connect bellydance to the kind of hard SF where the plot often revolves around obscure bits of theoretical physics… Although I’ve occasionally been temped to combine dance with my general enthusiasm for the works of HP Lovecraft into some kind of weird and inappropriate tentacle-fest.

    I’ve got a bit of a theory that *any* non-mainstream hobby or interest at all will be disproportionately dominated by nerdy types, because nerds are the people who get seriously interested in stuff, and aren’t embarrassed to be enthusiastic about something that not everyone ‘gets’. It was kind of the same when I played underwater hockey, except most of the people there were engineers, computer scientists, physicists or mathematicians – whereas bellydancers seem to include more chemists and biologists, as well as the odd language or history nerd!

  2. Atisheh says:

    Yeeeeees….. yes! Big nerd here, of the academic type (literature and linguistics subgenre), but I also spent my childhood in love with Captain Kirk and my college years doing university theatre, so I really dabble in all categories.

    To Rasha Nour, I agree, and I think it also has to do with our dance in particular… it’s a dance that people in N. America and Europe tend to begin learning as adults, so it speaks to a certain curiosity, and it offers a lot of opportunities for purely intellectual learning. You can stay just with dance lessons, but I find that dancers tend to study Arabic, Arab rhythms and maqamat, improvisational theory, anthropology, to say nothing of other movement disciplines and theories.

    For me personally, a lot of dance ideas appeal to the part of my brain that loves languages and linguistics. I chatted with Neon once about this over email — she has an MA in linguistics, if I remember correctly — and we talked about how learning dance is a lot like learning language. So you can learn vocabulary (moves), phrases (combos), you can memorize dialogue or poems (choreos), or you can practice speaking for yourself in a dynamic environment (improv).

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