THERE’S NOTHING MORE CAPTIVATING—MAGICAL, EVEN—THAN WATCHING THE FLAMES FLICKER AND DANCE WITHIN A NORTHERN MINNESOTA CAMPFIRE.
What if you, too, could dance among the flames, releasing that primal urge we all have to be part of that dangerous and provocative element of nature?
Amber Hunt understands the magic and beauty of fire. She has been belly dancing since 2009. She’s been dancing with fire since 2011, and even teaches courses on fire dancing and belly dancing for other women who’d like to feel equally empowered.
Belly dance, contrary to popular belief, is a dance by women for women. Hunt performs the American Tribal Style belly dance, which includes big, earthy movements and colorful skirts and jewelry.
Belly dance is for everyone.
“Belly dance is ancient; it’s eternal. As long as women have been dancing, it’s belly dance,” Hunt explained. “Belly dance has been used for birth, and as a way to celebrate women, because it’s a dance by women for women. It’s a multigenerational dance, not just for young women, it’s for all women. And it’s for women of all sizes, too, which is really beautiful.”
American Tribal Style, or ATS, belly dance is often performed within a group of belly dancers, who often wear wide-legged pants, much like pantaloons, full skirts and tops known as cholis. Its roots began with the Banjara gypsies of Rajasthan, and the belly dancing movements are inspired by many folkloric dance techniques from around the world, including North Africa, Spain, India, and the Middle East.
Hunt didn’t discover belly dancing until before the birth of her fourth child.
“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to create art, and I secretly wanted to dance,” she explained. “When I found belly dance, it was like I finally came alive. I found what had been pulling me forward into my adulthood. It came at a time when I really needed it. It was just before I got pregnant with my last baby and it helped me to really take care of myself and love myself during a hard pregnancy and a hard postpartum recovery. And then it’s been nonstop joy ever since.”
Hunt never expected to start teaching belly dancing; it was her outlet for creativity and fun. She has been a yoga instructor for fifteen years. But there was something so intriguing about belly dance that she started performing about six months after she went to her first class. One year after performing, she started teaching belly dance classes herself.
“Belly dance helps us to move in ways that our bodies were designed to move, but we don’t know it until we go to belly dance,” Hunt explained. “The first six months were like crazy fun because all I was going to be was a student. I wasn’t going to perform, but then I became part of a troupe, and I was performing. I just kept dancing and performing. When my teacher moved away (from Pine River), I started teaching and I didn’t want to stop.”
Hunt said in 2010 she met her mentors, an ATS troupe she now dances with, who became her soul connection to the dance.
“There was just something about the way that they danced. There was a joy, camaraderie and an empowerment element that I just fell in love with,” Hunt explained. “I felt initiated into this ancient art form when I met them, if that makes sense. It was so powerful that it just changed me. I don’t ever want to stop dancing, I love it so much. Even if I’m not teaching or performing, I dance. I dance every day. I dance to love myself and celebrate life. Sometimes I dance when I’m sad, and sometimes I dance when I’m really, really happy.”