Monday, September 28, 2009

Adventures in Bellydancing

I haven't blogged about my bellydancing in a while, I think because I've had so many other things on my mind. But this weekend was our annual fall hafla, and it reignited all of the reasons why I love it so much. So I thought I would dedicate a wordy post to it :)

I enjoyed dance even as a child. I took the traditional tap/jazz/ballet route from age 4 to early high school. Of the three, ballet was always my clear favorite. I'm very traditional in oh so many ways. Tap was ok; I liked the clear rhythms that went along with tap dancing. But I never really took to jazz. Too free form for me, I suppose.

When I got to college, I thought about taking back up with ballet and never got around to it. After I had Henry, and got into the frenzied routine of motherhood, plus working, I eventually realized that I need a creative outlet for myself. Not anything that would take me away from my husband and son for any length of time. But I longed for something that I could do out of the house, once per week, that would satiate my desire to just "be me" for an hour.

So I picked up the continuing education bulletin for our town. I gravitated to the dancing classes, and honed right in on Middle Eastern dance. I've always admired that form of dance, and my sister had given me a few workout videos that featured bellydancing moves. Plus sparkly costumes...that speaks for itself. I was intrigued, and consulted with Mike about it. He told me to go for it. So I did.

And I loved it. And I made new friends. Each week I looked forward to going and learning new moves. What I like about bellydancing is the 'earthy' feel I get from it. It kind of reminds me of Native American dance in that way. You're very in tune with yourself and your surroundings. Bellydance is very feminine and celebrates the female form at all ages and body shapes. This is not a dance form that promotes unhealthy body image and emaciation. You need hips to bellydance :) Many of the most famous bellydancers in the world would be considered "plus sized" by our society's standards, but are in fact beautiful, healthy women that are mesmerizing to watch.

What bellydancing does NOT involve is anything lascivious, which is a common misconception. My instructor, Claire, always says that bellydance is "not lewd or crude;" it's totally G-rated and family friendly. It's true, that bellydancers expose their, well, bellies. But everything else should be attractively, but modestly, covered.

So, the hafla. I arrived for the 7 pm show at about 6:45, my cute maroon costume in tow. I noticed right off that the upstairs dressing area that we used last year was cordoned off, with an ominous sounding note indicating that it was "structurally unsound." Well, that doesn't exactly instill a sense of confidence in the entire facility, no? Alas, it's an American Legion. I don't think they often have bellydancers bouncing around on the floor.

I find the alternative dressing area, and it wasn't very private. It was a room right off the kitchen, and a male caterer was in there, preparing food. I think he was getting a little bit more than he bargained for when he signed up for this gig. We all took turns using the single stall ladies room or squeezing into this little crawl space area next to the bathroom that was away from the open kitchen door. After costuming, we all quickly donned our coverups. It is considered terribly inappropriate and gauche to be seen in your bellydancing costume unless you are actually performing. I don't yet own a proper coverup (I need to acquire one pretty quickly if I'm going to continue bellydancing) but Claire taught us how to wrap our veils around ourselves as a coverup, in a pinch. So I did that.

My class is a conservative bunch, even when not in costume. Pretty soon, a featured soloist, a lovely young woman, came in to change and started to undress right there in that not-so-private area by the kitchen. We all exchanged looks of alarm, feeling protective of her. Do we (a) form a modesty panel around her with our bodies, or (b) tell her about the loose males loitering in the kitchen so that she gravitate to a more private location? We opted to be on the safe side and did both. Around this same time, members of another class started to drift in and take turns in the ladies room. My class assisted with any needed pinning and zipper fastening. One woman came out of the ladies room and asked if I would zip her up. Within 1.7 seconds of me touching the zipper, it was broken. In my mind, I said a very bad word. As if I wasn't sweating enough already. Very unglamorous, I assure you. Sweat and chiffon don't mix well together.

It wasn't totally my fault. Apparently, this had been a prolematic zipper from the start. It was a puny little thing, not nearly industrial enough for a costume someone is going to be dancing in. I fumbled with it for a few minutes and soon resorted to trying to force it back on track. I was getting nowhere. Luckily, one of my classmates came to my rescue and managed to get the zipper back onto the track while I squeezed the fabric of the costume together in the back.

We were up first to dance, for which I was immensely grateful. This meant that we could relax immediately thereafter and enjoy the rest of the evening of dancing. I needed some relaxation pretty badly at this point. So, Claire introduces us and we walk out. I'm a librarian - I'm shy. Performing is just not natural to my disposition. More sweat ensued. But it went very well. We all remembered our combinations and smiled cutely. We hip dropped like pros. Our number is very short - a peppy number performed to the song "Bellydance" by Saad. Claire always has us (I nearly wrote "makes us" :) do a little solo 8 counts at the end of every number, so that each of us "our moment." I would happily exchange my moment for just about anything, but alas. I did a few hip circles and hoped for the best.

After we changed (all of smashed back into the crawl space) I watched a few solos before the intermission. Intermission = necessary stop at the cash bar for a glass of Chardonnay. I felt like I'd earned it. As I entered with a few classmates, every man in the bar turned to stare at us.

"LOOK! *gauffaw* It's the girls from upstairs. What are they again?"



We were all wearing pants and long sleeved tops, nothing belly or dancery about it. I think they meant the attention as a compliment, but it sort of annoyed me. We pointedly ignored them.

Back upstairs, I gulped my wine and enjoyed the rest of the show. When the open dancing improv section began, I even allowed myself to be coerced into joining in. It's amazing how much my shimmies improved with a little Chardonnay.

So today, instead of getting more work done, I'm dreaming of buying a new hip scarf. I'm thinking of going pink this time...

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