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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
* 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.