textiles · exploration · misadventure



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I don’t talk about it much, but I’ve been taking belly dance lessons since November. I’m not graceful or coordinated, but my teacher Carolena Nericcio says “she with the largest hips wins,” so I’ve got that nailed.
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I don’t talk about it much because it’s hard to photograph. Taking pictures in class is inappropriate; I practice at home, but am (super) un-photogenic*; I go to student salons, like the one pictured here, but have yet to capture dance well in still images.
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Nevertheless, I continue to go. It’s taking some grit.

Dancing is hard. Seven months into knitting, I could at least make a scarf. Seven months into spinning, I could spin woolen and worsted, and was good enough to explain purchasing a spinning wheel.

Seven months into jiggle school finds me sometimes struggling to perform moves I learned on the first day. Forget it if the teacher gives us a combination comprising more than three moves. Then I really feel like an asshole.

Mostly it makes my body feel good. It’s helping a long term chronic back injury a lot. But sometimes my hips hurt, and days when we work on body waves are killer, because my core is so weak.

It’s hard seeing myself as I am today in a full-length mirror. American culture is rough on women my age and size—many cultures are—and although my brain knows better than to degrade myself because I don’t look a certain way, my heart has a hard time believing in it some days.

But there are balancing feelings.

I took a new class last Sunday, the Andrea Sendek Salimpour one mentioned here. It was very hard. It focused on a thorough warm-up, isolations, and ballet moves I’m unfamiliar with. Two of the participants were regulars from my usual class, fantastic dancers with much more control over their bodies than me.
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We debriefed after class, and they said it was hard for them; the many unfamiliar movements made them feel like beginners. Being a beginner is hard; I hope that will give them more understanding of this new girl, as I fall over my feet in the back of the room.

Being a beginner made it easy for me to understand the class as a success. Grace be damned; I was thrilled that the previous seven months had given me the stamina to simply complete the class.

Upon meeting a friend of mine recently, my teacher Janet said to her, “Robin is a kind woman, and a beautiful dancer.” I kind of melted inside when I heard that. Janet is a kind, positive woman; I admire and like her very much, and I was touched. I plant those words in my head some days, when I go off to class. They help.

Also, my boyfriend is the most supportive and loving man on earth. He gave me my many nicknames, Curvylou and Jiggles among them. He loves the hell out of me and my body, and I can’t tell you how much that does for my positive self-worth. (Thanks, Buttermilk!**)

And then there is the beauty of the dance, so difficult to capture in still images.
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My first day of class I stayed to watch Level II, which, on that day, comprised many skillful dancers. My breath caught in my throat at the first movements, all ten or so wildly dressed dancers moving in unison to a known set of passionate choreography set to heavy, syncopated bass. In that moment I thought, “Will I ever dance like that?”

The wish to at least try has kept me coming back.
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* That selfie of me in this post? Took 400 pictures before I got it. It’s the best picture of me taken in the past 20 years. Maybe in my life.
** He has his own list of nicknames. (:

Thank you Jesse, Yuka, Michiyo, Nina, Helen (that was you under all that makeup, wasn’t it, Helen?!), and to the other dancers I haven’t met yet, for your glorious performances this past Sunday night at Fat Chance, and to Carolena and Andrea for making it happen.

14 thoughts on “Bellydance-O-Rama

  1. The dancers look like they are all having fun and i guess, thats what matters the most.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, there were lots of happy people in that room. Sometimes when I’m practicing I’ll get into a real groove, and then I’m smiling too. And you’re right; at the end of the day, that’s why I took the class: to have fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. that is so awesome. I don’t think I would be brave enough to join a belly dancing class. Or stick it out for 7 months. You rock!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You know, the first time I went I thought I’d give it three classes to see if I liked it… and it just stuck! I’m sure you have your things that you love and stick to like glue, too. (:

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello fellow belly dancer! I’m a little shy about advertising I’ve been taking belly dance classes as well (more Egyptian/Lebanese style now but I started with ATS) and the thing that got me hooked was how inclusive and welcoming everyone in the belly dance community is! There are several things that stuck with me from my first tribal class: the instructor emphasized that every person’s body is beautiful and every movement looks different on each person. In my class yesterday we were working on layering shimmies with various arm movements (talk about a brain teaser!). Of course everyone was frowning in concentration and getting frustrated when we couldn’t do it “right” and my instructor stopped and said “Okay repeat after me…. ‘I meant to do that and it was GORGEOUS!'”. So keep on jiggling!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi back, Lydia! We don’t get so much of the ‘everyone’s beautiful’ in my classes, although it does pop its head up sometimes, particularly when Janet is teaching. It’s not that it’s not a belief there, but more that it’s like water to fishes: natural, and not something to comment on. And oy! Shimmies and arms, tell me about it! Jiggle on, sistah!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I so want to belly dance! I tried it years and years ago, and my body could use a little tuning up. Plus, it just looks like fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It IS fun! I was so out of shape when I started, and I’m definitely noticing a difference in my strength and stamina levels. My stomach, known hereabouts as my batterflap, given my love of butter and fried foods and pie and such, has shrunk too. (: It’s a commitment; if you want to really learn anything you have to keep coming back, but it’s worth it. I encourage you to try it!


  5. Great photos! They really add to the post. And I think you are courageous also. Belly dancing seems like a really difficult skill to master.


    • It IS difficult; you’re right. Never having learned to dance, I went into it not really knowing that. So much of what I practice is just control. Glad you like the photos! I hope I get better ones as time goes by.

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  6. I applaud you! I’m inspired enough to find out if there are classes near me! Bravo. 💃

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awesome! It’s so body positive, and has helped my chronic back weakness SO MUCH. It’s fun, the music is great. Can’t way enough. I hope you find some classes nearby. Let me know if you do. I’d love to hear your experiences. (:

      Liked by 1 person

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