BELLY is an intimate peek into the personal lives of several belly-dancers who have been profoundly affected by this unique dance form. Sometimes referred to as Middle-Eastern Dance , it has evolved beyond its origins, and the dancers presented in this documentary share a distinctly American experience.

Samira Il Naia comes to belly-dancing from a background in cheerleading. BELLY follows her as she takes her unique style of dance to a national competition, the Double Crown, held in Vancouver, WA.

Jamela and Calypso, both come from LDS backgrounds that encouraged artistic expression. They find a joy in belly-dancing that allows them to relive the fun and excitement they felt as kids taking dance classes.

Amy Sigil and Shelli Decant, with no previous dance experience, helped form the innovative and award winning dance troupe “Unmata”, who are invited all over the world to perform and teach their workshops.

Delilah and Mahisha have both been dancing for over 30 years. Belly-dancing has touched every aspect of their lives, from their families to their spiritual beliefs. From Delilah being a mother who regularly dances and performs with one of her daughters, to Mahisha healing herself from stage four cancer, it becomes clear from their experiences that belly-dancing is a phenomenon very different than any other dance form.

Director’s Statement

I dreamed of making a documentary about belly-dance years before I started making films. Up to this point, my husband wrote and directed most of our projects. This is my turn to tell a story.
I have been a dancer all my life. After the almost overwhelming heartbreak of not becoming a professional ballerina in my mid teens, I felt that I would have to find a way to live my life without dance. Some experiences with modern dance in college almost fed my hunger for dance, and then I found belly dance at age 23. I found my soul food, and it has nourished me for 14 years, and can and will feed my soul for however many years or decades I have left on this earth.

I have danced through illness, surgery, and grief. I have raised my children, fallen in love, gotten married, and changed careers many times while belly dancing. And I am looking forward to taking it to the next level and expect to hit my prime in 17 years at the age of 55, when most belly dancers hit their peak.
I have been incredibly blessed by the opportunity to get to know and love my sister dancers. Their stories are amazingly rich with the different aspects of what it is to be a woman. They are everyday heroes, Goddesses in disguise, and at the same time just like every other woman. Belly-dance has created new rituals for women to express themselves, their pain, and their joy.

BELLY tells personal stories of what it is like to be a belly-dancer, but more than that, it tells personal stories of what it is like to be woman. As women, we hold the fabric of society together. It is the unsung but heroic acts that keep the world spinning. It is the women who care for people on both sides of their passage in and out of this world. We work and care and love, and give. This is a story about how we also celebrate and play.
I chose 7 different dancers, or dance groups, some that I knew very well, and some I had never met before. I picked them from small Idaho towns, to large metropolitan areas. All of whom agreed not only to let us interview them, but also offered us a place to sleep and food to eat. The making of BELLY was in the same spirit of community that is created by belly-dance.
-Cecilia Rinn

Production Notes

BELLY is a feature length documentary by Cecilia and Chad Rinn of Full Tilt Boogie L.L.C. that is an intimate exploration of belly-dancers living America today. BELLY was shot on mini DV and produced with funds raised only from Cecilia’s belly-dance performances and belly-dance costume making. Cecilia took class, performed in shows, dressed and lodged with many of the subjects in the documentary while filming BELLY, in order to create an intimate and honest story of these dancers. BELLY explores the multi faceted lives of these women; mothers, spouses, professionals, and community members, and the effect that belly dancing has had on their hopes, dreams, and expectations as lived through their dance

Production story

When I first began belly-dancing over 14 years ago, I would sometimes torture my husband, Chad and my two sons, Jacob and Joe, with belly-dance videos. For the most part I watched them on my own, but occasionally I just had to share something that really excited me. One of those videos was of a beautiful belly-dancer rolling a quarter on her belly. Chad and the boys were equally impressed and even tried the trick on their own bellies.

One of the main locations we traveled to was The Double Crown Competition in Vancouver, WA. Jacob traveled with us as our photographer. While we were there we saw Delilah, a belly dance legend, perform and were so impressed that we decided to approach her about being interviewed. It wasn’t until after the interview, when Chad and Jacob were standing in front of Delilah’s vending table watching a video she had on display, that they realized that Delilah was the beautiful young dancer they had seen roll a quarter on her belly all those years ago. Until then BELLY had felt like a new project we were working on, but at that moment it suddenly felt as though we had been moving towards this project for over ten years. It is always difficult to explain the magic that is felt when you become part of the belly dancing world, but in that moment of synchronicity, my husband and my oldest son felt a little bit of that magic.