Our first place essay winner is Maria Toddes
Picking just one part of the belly dance itself is a daunting task, but when I get in that ‘zone’, I feel perfectly balanced between heaven and earth. I used to say I felt perfectly ‘bungeed’ between Mother Earth and Father Sky.
I’m a late bloomer as I didn’t discover the beauty and freedom of belly dance until my late 30’s. Years before I had seen a health program that featured a woman who had lost a significant amount of weight by belly dancing and was now and instructor. That resonated with me and I tucked that in the back of my mind, making a note to myself that I would only join a gym that offered belly dance classes. Then as luck would have it, I found a health club that offered belly dance for fitness. Well, let’s just say, that first hour was when ‘the bug’ bit me. I was hooked. My husband and daughter have been dancing with me ever since. We found a show on one of our health channels and watched religiously and practiced on our own.
Then I started looking for teachers in our area. I found one who; to this day is probably the most beautiful dancer and human I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. I jumped in feet first into the deep end. She taught us beginners the basics, zills and choreography in one block of classes. I loved it. I couldn’t get enough. As I continued to devour every book, dvd and cd of all things even remotely related to my new love – our instructors came and left. Clearly guided by the Divine; I found instructors that pushed my body and brain passed what I thought I was capable of. Having suffered from asthma, I had to sit out more than I wanted to. I pushed through all manner of health issues and in doing so, I’ve made mental and written notes of what kind of teaching style brings out the best in me and what confuses and frustrates me.
We are lucky enough to have a growing sisterhood of the dance in our area. Most of us know each other at least by face if not by name. My husband has ribbed me for years telling me I’m ‘no learning, I’m remembering’ – his opinion and I understand why, but I don’t let that come out of my mouth.
Currently my daughter and I are exploring some fusion. We’ll never forsake our first love of a more cabaret style, but being well rounded usually serves all who dare to do that. Currently we have on instructor who is into fusion; she’s gorgeous and her spirit lights up any room. She’s pregnant now and we’re all anxious to see if her delivery is an easy one. She could still do a belly roll at five months so we’ll see.
My family (hubby too) attend and participate in every Hafla, workshop and now long weekends and intensives we can afford. Writing this, we are fresh from a well planned and executed Hafla one of our teachers organized. While I’ve found that each instructor has her/his own style and ways of communication, I wouldn’t trade any one of them or anything.
In my quest to the best dancer I can be, I’ve made dear friends, learned more about sewing than I ever thought possible, but most importantly, have discovered more about myself than I thought was inside me. I love all parts and aspects of the dance, but I especially love how a dancer who is truly enjoying herself can transform from average to being the most beautiful woman in the room. That inner light, the shine of her spirit on her face, or in my case, my face is the part of the dance I love the most. Working and playing with the audience so the dancer transfers some of their enjoyment to the audience – the audience by clapping and the vocalizations, the zaghareet is my favorite noise – gives back to the dancer. What a lovely exchange.
Just today, I was watching a small troupe, with husband in tow start to get slow and drag, but as soon as they hear the appreciative vocalizations, the smile and twinkle in their eyes returned to their own delight!!
So while I do love a good drum solo, my favorite part of the routine is playing (nicely) with the crowd and as an audience member, I love to smile and try to make the dancer(s) feel as comfortable as I can.
If I’m not dancing, I’m thinking about it – what can I afford next, where will I leave more and come away with so much information I must write down, lest I forget the precious gems I just learned.
In conclusion, I love it all; the rich history, the different styles of costuming, the music which commands your body to move. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shimmied in the car, pharmacy, waiting in line. I like to practice a flat footed maya waiting in line- it’s like my little secret. I don’t care who thinks I’m crazy. But most of all I love the change of the dancer’s countenance while she’s basically ‘in conference’ with the Divine.
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