Sunday, May 28, 2017

Have belly, will dance

A few weeks ago, I took on a new challenge. Ignoring the fact that I don’t dance, sashay, or for that matter balance well, I signed up for a weekly belly dancing class through our local adult education program. Spouse didn’t even snicker when I suggested it. I think he was grateful I had stopped suggesting we take ballroom dancing lessons together. He escaped that one because those dances require high heels, and I’m afraid of heights. You don’t need shoes for belly dancing. I’m in.

Any type of dance can be intense exercise, so for this reason I chose not to tell my body where I was going ahead of time. Let’s head toward the ice cream stand, I told my quivering thighs. We’re just going to satisfy our imaginary craving at the nearest drive-thru, I convinced my wobbly arms. I took a right into the school parking lot and never looked back, except to wonder if the ice cream stand would still be open after class.

Shortly after I entered the classroom a handful of women joined me, most of us somewhere in the middle of middle age. The instructor, however, was anything but middle aged - more like an age between First and Second Born. With her perfect posture and tiny but strong dancer’s body, she could rock the bells off her hip scarf. I had to wonder whether this young whipper snapper could work with us old-ish fogies, but she was wonderfully patient and sweet, and she immediately began teaching us just how to whip and snap our somewhat mushy bodies into belly dancing shape.

Luckily, we are relegated to the school cafeteria for our lessons, which means there are no mirrors typically found in dance studios. I would only be able to stand so much hysterical laughter (which would be coming from me) if I had to watch myself attempt to be graceful. Our instructor stands in front of us and we try to mimic her moves. Of course, when she delicately swirls a leg in the air, I thrust my leg out and instantly grab a chair back so I don’t fall over. As her hips make a figure-eight, mine are going more for a triangle in an attempt to not knock a hip out of joint.

Our instructor has been staying after class, video-taping herself reenacting the lessons each week, and e-mailing them to us so we have the option of practicing before the next class. During the first week, I stood in front of my laptop in our living room before Spouse woke up Saturday morning. I studied the video and attempted to follow her steps. It only took 25 minutes of practice to successfully complete a 50-second routine.

As uncoordinated as I am, there is something freeing about belly dancing. The moves can be close to fluid with a little practice, or with a lot of practice in my case. Hip scarves are provided by our instructor to use during the class, giving us the chance to jingle and jangle when we jiggle. I’ve learned to let my fingers and arms slip smoothly through the air in a gentle lilt. I can protrude my pelvis and shimmy my shoulders right along with the other eager students who are challenging themselves to experiment with this very different kind of movement.

There are two more weeks of lessons to go and I can guarantee you won’t be confusing me with a professional belly dancer any time soon, but I’ll keep practicing. Any dance where you can shake it while shoeless is my kind of dance.

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