Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My Belly Dance Journey

Hello friends! I have missed you :) I wrote most of this while taking a break from my novel writing partly because it was fighting with me, and partly because I have missed sewing and blogging so very much. I'm done writing now, and I'm happy to say I won NaNoWriMo again. I'll be back sewing very soon (as soon as I finished writing, I got a repeat plague from last year! Oh no!). I've mentioned my belly dancing in a few posts so I thought I would take this time to describe my belly dance journey.

I couldn't pinpoint a date when I first became interested in belly dance, but it was likely between 1995 and 2000. There's a good chance I saw it at an SCA event, though I can't be sure. For sure, in 2000, I attended my dad's company Christmas party with him, and it was held at a Greek restaurant and they had a belly dancer come into the room and dance for us. I was one of the people she pulled from the "audience" to dance (I was very bad at it, of course; my dad's boss was the other person pulled.)

I don't know who this lovely dancer is. Also, 20 year old me.

I spent many years thinking "Hmm, I should look into classes". I spent just as many years saying "I will call tomorrow." I have a serious issue with phones, and tomorrow always became "tomorrow", and I never did it. I saw dancers at SCA events and Greek restaurants (including a professional male belly dancer - oh, he was wonderful!), and still thought "I'll call tomorrow." I was going to dance at Isis, well-known in Edmonton as one of the best studios; actually, it was the only studio I knew of. But, I will call tomorrow.

In 2010, a couple of my friends started to dance. Ah, I wanted to join them! But, finances at the time were not conducive to doing so. I'll revisit the idea in the fall, maybe... Around this time, a bunch of my friends put together a group of us to do stuff. We always had a bunch of dresses in our closets, bought for this or that party or life event, worn once or twice and put away. Why not wear these dresses again and have tea parties? Wonderful idea! I only made it out to one party, but I met some new people, and it was a grand time.

You know how sometimes, it seems like life wants to shift yours drastically? 2012 was one of those years. I woke up on a Thursday morning in the middle of June to find out that a man was hit by a vehicle and died. I didn't know him, but the person who hit him did not stick around, and the biggest news in the city that day was the hunt for the vehicle and its owner.

I woke up the very next day, on Friday morning, to the news that three armored car guards had been shot and killed during their run the night before, with a fourth clinging to his life in hospital. What is the world coming to! Two nights in a row?! This doesn't happen in Edmonton.

It got worse. I was talking to my friend about it on Skype and she brought up that one of our friends worked for that company. She was unable to reach her, or any of her family members. It was hours before we got the news that our friend was one of the guards who had died.

The memorial "program" from the funeral. I cried when I pulled this out today.

It was almost two weeks before the funeral was held. The last time I had seen this group of friends together was at New Year's, and in just 6 months it felt like the world had been turned upside down. She passed away just two weeks before her birthday, and a mere 7 weeks after her marriage. Somehow it came up that I, and others, wanted a way to commemorate our friend's life. She was one of those people who made a room brighter just by being in it. We couldn't let her spark go out. One of our mutual friends introduced us to their belly dance teacher at the reception afterwards. "It's nice to meet you," we all said, "under the circumstances." Life had suddenly become too precious to waste another second on "I'll call tomorrow." We were going to start belly dancing, in her memory.

Three of us signed up for a trial, 4-week class in the summer. I at least had intended to take a full run of classes in the fall regardless, but was not opposed to the trial class just for funsies. It was really nice to see my friends for an hour each week for a month when I hadn't seen them for 6 months or more before the funeral. My Skype friend moved back to the city that summer and all four of us took a session together. It was one of the scariest, funnest things I've ever done. We all looked at each other when the topic of the recital came up. I normally have crippling stage fright, knees-shaking, voice shaking, when-will-it-be-over crippling stage fright. "I'll do it if you do it," we all said. So I did it. We all did it. And it was awesome.

It took a little bit longer to figure out where my dance journey was going to take me. I really liked dancing and I didn't want to stop, but I couldn't figure out why. WHY do I want to dance? I don't want to become a professional performer, even though I do recitals. I don't want to become a teacher, so what? I had always been taking classes with my friends, but the timing of getting from one end of the city to the other on public transit during winter in time for class was... an exercise in patience that I failed miserably (there was one memorable day when I would have ended up showing up at least 45 minutes late. I gave up and went home). It wasn't until I started taking level 2 classes on a different day than my friends that I figured it out.

I absolutely love to belly dance. And the only thing I need to get out of it, the only reason I need to do it, is that reason alone. It doesn't matter if I don't take it to a pro level, it doesn't matter if I decide to never perform in a recital again. I love to do it, and that is all I need out of it. And it has been wonderful. I still have a lot of things to learn; I have a lot of basic moves, and I have a lot of basic layering skills, but there is still SO MUCH I need and want to learn.

Taking belly dance classes was one of the best things I ever did for myself. My friends have stuck with it too, and I would happily dance with them every day of the week if I could.

Photo by Kazoo Productions
Kaleido Festival, September 2014

Even though I have a mental disconnect with photos of myself dancing, that the image doesn't reflect what I think I look like, I'm trying to get over that. I see photos of dancers of all shapes and sizes, and I never think anything negative about them the way that I have thought about myself. "Wow, look at her! So beautiful!" I say about them, but never about myself. But it's only in photographs. When I'm in the studio, watching myself practice, "wow, look at me! So beautiful!" I'm so proud of the things I've learned, of what I taught myself to do. My only regret is taking so long, and waiting until a day when it honestly felt like the world was falling apart, to do it.

I barely knew you, Shell, but I loved you anyway. Thank you.

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