Interview With Maha Al Musa – Author of Dance of the Womb

Dev- First of all a heartiest congratulations for writing and publishing your book and winning the Gold award in the living now independent book

Dev– First of all a heartiest congratulations for writing and publishing your book and winning the Gold award in the living now independent book publishers awards, when did you first think about writing on this particular subject.

Maha Al Musa– Thank you very much Dev for your congratulations.

I had been teaching belly dance as a pre natal exercise for about four years when in the year 2000 we were away on a family holiday in Western Samoa with my two boys who were then 1 and 4. One morning I was sitting on the beach chatting with another woman traveler telling her how I facilitated belly dance for pregnancy classes and how I had connected to my Middle Eastern roots thou the dance. We got talking about culture, my experiences of being raised in the West from an Eastern culture, the significance of the belly dance for Arab and birthing women my Moslem background on my father’s side etc etc. I mentioned that for me the belly dance represented this same poetism of expression – East meeting West and life’s experiences and how I related this to my teaching of pregnant women about birth and how powerful our personal stories can be when we allow ourselves to fully embrace life’s experiences. She turned to with all sincerity and said

“you must write about this! And share your insights and knowledge with all the women of the world! Women need to hear about this and women definitely need to be empowered around natural birth as in this modern day we need to eliminate fear around birth”

I said “that’s what my work is about and the bellydancebirth has the potential to bring women into a place of safety and autonomy in birthing!”

A month later once we returned home I thought this woman was right I must write!!!

And so I started my book in 2001.

Dev– You have added your personal memories to every chapter, there are some very honest statements about finding your mother and growing up in Australia as an immigrant, Do you relate the events spiritually and emotionally to your personal journey to become a mother.

Maha Al Musa– Yea I cannot separate my experiences as a first generation migrant (even though I was only two years of age when I arrived in Australia ) from my emotional and spiritual worlds and life as a mother. Motherhood is an extension of who I am and what I do! Who am I without my stories, beliefs, culture, upbringing, experiences of being ethnic in Australia etc etc…It is a rich tapestry of colour just like the belly dance!

I invite all women to ponder upon, acknowledge and assimilate their own life’s stories into the deeply moving experience of birthing and motherhood, both positive and negative, both in balance. Most importantly accept ourselves as spiritually integrated women regardless of colour, race or creed.

Dev– It was interesting reading about the break down of movements and explanations of belly dance as a tool for pre natal and birth. In the Middle East do people still use the techniques for birth preparation as you have explained?

Maha Al Musa– As mentioned in my book, Dance Of The Womb, I did quite a bit of research on whether women in the Middle East use the belly dance as a birth dance today – it was extremely difficult to access this information especially anything written down..there are some Egyptian Hieroglyphics that portray women squatting and being attended by women in the past – it seems to me that the modern Arab woman may have lost some of this knowledge today and in fact may view the traditional, indigenous ways of birthing as primitive as they too embrace the so called wonders of technology. I would very much like my work to go back into the Arab world and re educate women of what we may have lost culturally in regards to natural birth.

Dev– One of the main aspects of Belly Dance is looked down upon and often misinterpreted by the general public as being sexual in some way, As an educator and teacher how do you tackle this complex situation with the general public?

Maha Al Musa– I understand that the element of “sexuality” is strongly represented in the views people have of the bellydance per se…and in the audience’s perception of the dance as well as some dancers work with pregnant women takes the belly dance to another level (although in all reality pregnancy stems from a sexual act ) – we cannot deny birth is an extension of our sexual experience as women but the way it is taught and presented in my work – The Al Musa Method – is very much a spiritual practice that supports this most potent feminine experience with purpose. Bellydancebirth helps women connect to their bodies birthing wisdom rather than purely sexual in nature, so women can give birth consciously and hopefully work toward a fearless birth…

So we could say belly dance essentially has its roots in a woman’s sexuality (conception) and then can be expressed in childbirth reflecting strength and autonomy – those attributes that have become lost in the commercialism and medicalisation of birth – the general public once they begin to understand and hopefully experience the belly dance in this form of pre natal exercise and birthing will totally understand and accept its incredible gifts to women….I suppose I am wanting to revive its powerful other nature in mainstream birthing!

Dev– You have alsocomplimented your book with a DVD release, What can our readers expect from the DVD? Do you find in the present day scenario the visual presentation has much more affect on people than reading a book?

Maha Al Musa– My DVD, of the same name, Dance Of The Womb, is a follow on from the book. It basically brings the book to “life”….women can now easily follow me through the dance practices as though they are in an intimate, nurturing space with me holding them with ease and grace through their pregnancy. I definitely think that the visual representation via a DVD format not only presents an idea of my style of teaching and expressing but is also a wonderful way for women to connect with their bodies and their babies. I do think that reading also has its merits and there were definitely challenges to writing about dance in print! I did embellish upon the idea by interweaving my personal story through the bellydance for birth movements to give it a deeper, more intimate backdrop. I think it works very well as a writer…A moving experience!

So hand in hand book and DVD are wonderful resources – in the book you get to know me and my story and in the DVD we get to visually share this together…..and it is also a rare event to see a woman of 46 naturally pregnant and naturally birthing.

I guess I dance my talk!!

Dev– Going back to your book, you have mentioned the evolving nature of belly dance. Middle East is a part of the new economic and cultural globalization, how do you see the general publics view of Belly Dance in the next 20 years, specifically in the west.

Maha Al Musa – Well for me personally as mentioned, I am hoping to be a part of the new wave of seeing the art form of belly dance in a new perspective…..often traditional art forms when embraced by the West get a renewed lease of life as we apply a different perspective upon its attraction…although in saying that I do think it is always important to respect and acknowledge the roots and source of the information used so it is not too diluted to lose meaning and expression. It’s a very fine line to walk…..and the notion of who owns culture is an interesting question…would we ask who owns the Earth? Humanity?

Respect, respect, respect is of utmost importance for me….acknowledging the rich history and culture of the Middle East and the incredible gifts given over the last thousands of years from this part of the world – from algebra to medicine to belly dance for birth!!

Dev – Thank you very much Maha for your time and patience. I am sure our readers will enjoy your interview and we wish you all the success for the future.

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