We all have our images of belly dancing. Shakira might seduce us in her "Hips Don’t Lie" video or maybe Saida woos James Bond in The Man With The Golden Gun. As ancient as the dance is, it has moved its way into our pop culture. But one idea behind it is a tough hurdle: They are not strippers.

"That is the biggest misnomer out there and I hate that. We don’t strip," says Tracey Peacock, who dances under the name Obsidia.

Whatever you call her, don’t reduce her art to something cheap. If she’s not battling the stripper stereotype, she’s working to educate people that bellydancing is a serious art form. And she’s doing it one shimmy at a time.

"We truly take this seriously — as seriously as ballet or opera. It’s something we live and breathe. I just wish people would take it more seriously as art form instead of disregard it as a flimflam hippie kinda thing," she says.

The Bedford resident began belly dancing seven years ago when a friend took her to a class. With 12 years of classical ballet training, she wasn’t reticent about her body taking on a new dance form. Even she held stereotypes until she stepped into that class and had a blast.

She also discovered that it’s harder than people think it is.

"You have to learn how to control and isolate muscles but the more I took it, the more I got sucked in. Three months after classes, we were onstage," she says.

Peacock is now a tribal fusion dancer who bases her movement in flamenco, African dance and hip-hop. And she’s cool with the unique freedom it brings to being this kind of dancer.

Although she works out and does yoga on top of rehearsals, she doesn’t worry about being a size 2.

"If I wanna brownie, I can have one. I don’t have to starve myself to be a belly dancer," she says, making all rail-thin ballerinas fly into a jealous rage.

Peacock says belly dancing celebrates the body no matter size or age or sexual orientation. She really wants to even introduce the art to Dallas’ LGBT community. When time allows, that is — she’s married and a mother.

"My partner and I have 11 year-old son," she says. "I don’t teach regular classes right now but eventually want to teach in gay and lesbian community. That would make me so happy. As far as I know, I’m only openly gay dancer but the dance community is so supportive in LGBT community."

This weekend she’ll perform at the Third Coast Tribal Dance Festival, which includes belly dance workshops and performances. Peacock encourages those even remotely interested to stop by the festival.

"It’s the most fun you could ever have that’s hard work," she says. "I’d tell people to come to show and spend a couple of hours seeing something different. It kind of leads you into a bunch of different directions that explore humanity, history or emotions," she says.

But if that’s too abstract, then maybe you’ll just get lucky like she did.

"My wife and I met at a dancing gig in Houston. She moved up here for me and we’re going strong over a year later!"

—Rich Lopez

Rose Marine Theater, 1440 N. Main St., Fort Worth. Through Jan. 10. Prices vary. 3rdCoastTribal.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 8, 2010.
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