Lyme Disease did a lot for me during 2000, and one of the more puzzling 'spin-offs' was rendering me virtually STILL for most of the summer. For my entire gardening career, my job has always provided me with a built-in WORKOUT. I often said that with my spectacular lack of discipline, if I ever had to WORK at staying fit, it wouldn't happen.
And here I sat, in front of my computer, turning into Jaba the Hutt....egad.
I gave some thought to HOW I might stay active once I recovered from this round of Lyme.....RUNNING?? Oh no, tried that a bunch of times....really hate it....I'm not runnin' unless somebody's chasing me! Aerobics? OH please, leaping around the living room like some demented cheerleader....at MY age. I knew the logical direction was Yoga, but somehow Yoga has never made me truly HAPPY. I'm a dancer and I come away from Yoga classes sadly wondering why the band never showed up. No, if THIS aging body (yes, I was facing 50) is going to MOVE, it's going to DANCE and if it's going to DANCE, we need MUSIC. Now we're getting somewhere.
Since it was a Sunday morning, I turned on WVKR radio out of Vassar College for Sunday Morning Cafe, the best of New Age Whacko music.....now, SOME mornings it goes Celtic, and some mornings it goes Native American....but THIS morning......MIDDLE EASTERN.
Ever get the feeling that whoever is RUNNIN' this show (George 'n Gracie, The Cosmic Playright, whatever you call It....) is LEANIN' on the railing lookin' down and wondering if I'll GET it......bellydancing. Why not.
Funny how my first reaction to finding an exercise direction is to SIT in front of the computer.....and off I go into cyberspace searching for BELLYDANCERS.....The third web site I find is probably responsible for my going ahead and doing this. It is CALLED Bellydancing for the Older Woman and it is put up by a wonderful woman who STARTED dancing at age 60 and was still performing regularly at 63. Seems her teacher was 72. But what REALLY got my attention was a button to click called ATTITUDE. Somehow I figured ATTITUDE was going to have a lot to do with this. The page opens with the quote :
And off I go.
First stop, in this year 2000, is to where bellydancing videos can be found.
Fortunately, I found a GOOD one first time out, or I might have given up. There
is a series put out by the Bidasha twins basically called Bellydancing for
Fitness. One is called 'basic moves,' one is 'fat burning' and I believe there's
a third one. I got the first two and only use the first. The 'fat burning' one
involves a ridiculous amount of hopping about holding one finger to your
forehead. Not what I had in mind at all......But the first is a very decent
workout, low impact, and gives you the idea. And My GAWDess, did it feel good to
DANCE again.....Alright, I admit, standing in front of the VCR watching these
identical twins (both of whom appear to weigh 95 lbs WITH the bangles) sweetly
announcing "I'm Veena!"....."And I'm Neena!" CAN have you starting out with your
head up against the wall......but once you get past that, they're clear and
rather elegant and it's a good place to start.....at the end of the video, ONE
of them appears in FULL regalia (no longer looking like a 95lb belly-less
teenager, I ASSURE you!!) and proceeds to DANCE with such magnificence that the
only thought, as I stand there staring at the screen in my tie-dyed Tshirt,
leggings and nearly 50 year old body is....."Oh yes, I want to do
I did cyber-buy another video which brilliantly showed me just how BAD some of them can be. This one was "Bellydance! Magical Motion with Atea and friends". Ugh. But in the interest of not shooting ANY of the messengers, Atea (who, I suspect was a store mannequin in a former life) showed me SO clearly that it IS the inner woman and not just the MOVES that make this all work. I figure she's got the moves CORRECT, but she just cannot DANCE! One of her 'friends' is a voluptuously plump creature who DOES approach that delicious ATTITUDE of all this and she's a pleasure to watch. The REST of them? It's somewhere between a Tupperware party and a barmaid's convention. Yack.
So I work with the video as much as my Lyme-recovering legs will allow, but I'm still not learning to DANCE here. So I go looking for a real, live TEACHER. The Dutchess County phone book gets me nowhere, so I look in Westchester. Sure enough, there's Zohar! I did calligraphy for Zohar a zillion years ago when she was starting a cable TV show called Zohar's Exotica. I did her logo. So I called.
WELL. Turns out, for all I last saw her all the way down in Hartsdale, she'd moved farther north and was teaching in Brewster which is a doable drive for me, AND it just so happened that a class was starting in just barely a week. Oh how perfect is this?
What a difference to be in a live class and it's a LARGE class....IN a gymnasium with no mirrors. As the course has gone on, Zohar commented that somehow we seem to be GETTING it better than the other class of beginners who are in a real dance studio where there ARE mirrors. This makes perfect sense. Having no mirrors in which to check out what we LOOK like, we really ARE dancing from the inside. Zohar teaches a wonderfully balanced class. She makes sure we are thoroughly 'warmed up' before we start any new moves, because a lot of these moves are very NEW to a lot of us. Even those of us who have studied dance.....(I have to say my HIPS would like to know what the DEAL is here)....But she gets us properly warmed up, clearly teaches us the night's new moves, reviews previous ones and then makes sure we're DANCIN' before the hour is up. Even the first night, we took the moves we'd done and hooked them together into a repeatable routine which was actually a goddess dance. Bellydancers haven't always been Hollywood Harem Floozies....we were the temple dancers, the dancing priestesses. Do check out Zohar's Web Site and be sure to click on Zohar's Vision of the Dance - it's really beautiful.
In all of this, as part of my hypnotherapy training, we were going through a 'grounding' exercise which involved pulling the hot, red, molten earth energy up into our bodies and the high, blue sky energy in through our heads and in the course of this exercise I 'saw' the bellydancer to end all bellydancers. And it's true - what we do from the ribcage down is earth-focused (LOTS of figure 8's), lower chakras, it just FEELS all red and orange and ROUND. And what we do with our upper bodies is all flowing and floating .............and it all meets in the middle. Amazing stuff.
A friend of mine on the west coast became intrigued with this idea and was fortunate enough to find herself near to classes being given by the Fat Chance Belly Dance troupe!
In my wanderings around Suite 101 where we now have 1500 editors, dontcha know we DO have a Middle Eastern Dancing editor and she JUST put up two good articles on BellyDancing and HEALING. I knew this all made sense. When I first started to pursue this and read about various attitudes towards bellydancing, it most certainly DID seem like a splendid idea for hooking up with Menopause as Adventure - re-connecting to the FEMALE in us. Taking it back. We earned these bellies, these hips, these curves (and not just Victoria's Secret curves, but REAL curves that come with living and maturing) and what a wonderful way to honor them.
But doesn't Suite101's Julie Elliot take it further. One article is on physical healing and one is on emotional healing. I find myself suspecting that Bellydancing could be entered into from sheer fun or curiosity and the side effect could be some wonderful healing whether you're looking for it or not. I know I have a different comfort in my own body from it (and this is being written at the end of October 2000, about a body that could not walk just last July/August) But it goes far beyond whether it WORKS or not (the body in question) it's about the PRESENCE.
And I must say, for all that very first class crashed
me into a flash-back of being five and starting ballet lessons in my own little
over-achiever kind of way, it has mellowed (thank god) and more and more of what
I saw other women saying in those web articles was true. It becomes a part of
your life. It suddenly occurs to you to gently send your ribcage around in a
circle while sitting at your computer. A simple stretch ends in fluid, beautiful
arm movements just because it feels good. (and you should SEE just how many
figure 8's you can conceal beneath a long skirt while sashayin' around the
I don't know if I'll be doing the half-time show in some Greek Restaurant any time soon, but THIS goddess-in-training is having a SPLENDID time!
LATER ON, FARTHER
INTO THE BELLYDANCING COURSE.....late autumn, 2000
I've never asked MUCH of my ribcage. Mostly it's just a cage for all that important squishy inner-organ stuff......I've certainly never asked it to DANCE.....but last night, when all I really wanted was some nice, satisfying figure 8's, Zohar decides we're going to LEARN 'Spirals'.....If you get your hips doing a nice CLOCKWISE circle and pausing at, say 3 o'clock, then your ribcage is supposed to pick it up at 9 o'clock. Circle, circle,
STOP.....circle, circle STOP......well, I ALMOST got that goin', but hey....that's not a spiral. Then she goes ribcage to arms. It WORKS if you STOP the part below so the part above can TAKE it, but it's none too graceful.....THEN she goes the OTHER way and goes hips-to-FEET....so the hips are goin' round and round and the feet are doing this step-slide thing in a CIRCLE and if you don't turn the slide/outside foot IN slightly, you look like Charlie Chaplin Bellydancing (which I was just in NO mood for) Goddess help us, we tried to put it all together, and I felt like a Salvador Dali Version of a Barber Pole.......No Greek restaurant is EVER gonna want THIS......
But Oh Ho, Zohar has MORE fun in store, now we're gonna learn SPINS......First we do the Whirling Dervish stuff...where you LOOK AT your extended hand so ALLEGEDLY you don't get dizzy....Well, you should have SEEN us.....Spin/spin/spin/spin/ STOP and stand there looking vaguely SEASICK. (a dizzy bellydancer....VERY exotic)....and
THEN we did moving (what we called in Ballet class gene? jeune?) turns, a half-turn with each step, but 'spotting' so your head stays focused on a 'spot' for the first half and then flips all the way around on the second, (where's Linda Blair) AS you move across the floor. Aside from the fact that this began to send all manner of earrings flying all over the Gym......I spent 7 years in Ballet class KNOWING that the only way you're going to get AROUND is to CLOSE your arms in front of you on ONE part and open them on the other. OHHHHHh no, bellydancers keep their graceful arms OPEN for the whole thing (in spite of the fact that bare feet just don't TURN on a gym floor so good....)
So ANYway, dancing out the week's crazies didn't go so good........ but I was to find, eventually, that there is Life After Class
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