Thursday, September 2, 2010

Just Dance!

I've always said that in my next life, I'll be a dancer. I'll have a flattish chest, slim hips, and long legs...like Penny in "Dirty Dancing". My best childhood friend was a stepdancer, and from the time were 5, I watched her practise diligently every morning before school; by the time we were teens, she was a well-known dancer in North American stepdancing circles. She now has a studio where she passes this skill on. And although I may be biased, I have never seen a dancer like her. It's as if she is suspended a few inches from the ground, and her feet only come down to strike the floor in that wonderful rhythmic way. Her name is Chanda, and you can see her dance here; she's the second from the left, in the pale green shirt.

Although I felt almost giddy every time I saw people dancing in movies (remember when "Footloose" came out?), I had the mistaken notion that you had to be petite, or thin, to be a dancer.

When I visited my sister in Victoria about 12 years ago, she was taking a belly dance class; I attended one lesson with her, and lo and behold: I was a natural! It might be our Irish Washerwoman Birthing Hips, but the women in my family can belly dance! It was a revelation to me! I didn't seek lessons when I returned home, but a few years later, I was living in a one-room schoolhouse, beside an old general store that had been converted into an apartment/studio space. One day I saw a poster advertising belly dance classes...and that was that.

I learned quickly, practised diligently, and started performing and teaching not long after...spending way too much on sparkly, jingly costumes that bared my belly in a way I'd never dared before! Belly dancing brought so much to my life; self-acceptance, physical strength, improved balance and posture, a saucy swagger...even when I went to the grocery store in sweats, I knew that underneath it all, I was a BELLY DANCER! My curvy shape was an asset! Belly dance tradition embraces a woman's soft figure, celebrates that little pooch under your belly button, loves rounded arms and graceful hands.

Of course, as with many of my artistic passions and pursuits, having children seriously curtailed the time and energy I had to put into dancing.

I did do one performance after Jude was born, bravely baring my newly-rounded mama belly:
(yes, I've enlarged it from a postage stamp-sized picture...photo by Ben Anderman)

Then, after Violet was born, I spontaneously decided to do an American Tribal-inspired opening for a band; a dancer friend and I hand-sewed our costumes the day of the performance with two toddlers and a preschooler at our feet...this was a real "coming out" for us, as there was yet more belly to our belly dance, having both had babies within the year:

Feeling like a goddess, crowned with flowers

The dancer's figure represents her bountiful love and generous spirit.

The point here is, anyone can dance. And it doesn't even have to be performance art. If I lived in an urban centre, I wouldn't perform anywhere, but belly dancers are few and far between in our rural haven...big fish in a small pond kind of thing!

Having children has changed my direction a bit; before, I was really INTO the costumes, and showing off my belly (as I'd recently lost quite a bit of weight and was just amazed that I felt comfortable baring it to audiences!). Now, with a few stretch marks, a strange belly button, and a load of laundry on the "washboard", I feel shy about it again. I'm getting to a point where the DANCE is the most important thing, and am considering doing a class for my colleagues after work, at their request. Belly dancers don't HAVE to bare their torsos; in fact, some of the most evocative, graceful, and sensuous dancers I've seen have worn neck-to-ankle, loose-fitting caftans.

I would like to continue learning new techniques, but for now we just dance in our kitchen. I love watching my kids dance; Jude watches his reflection in the oven door, Violet twirls a lot, and Margot does this squat-and-pump-your-arms kind of move (she's also adding a little side-to-side bum twitch which is so funny and cute).

Just dance! Forget about what dancers on "So You Think You Can Dance" look like (bare feet, strong muscly legs, short-shorts, barely-there tops...and all of 18 years old!)...dance in your apron! Your sweats! Your hippy skirt! No one's watching. Close your eyes if you're shy. My favourite dance song these days is Janel Monae's "Tightrope"...I dare you to listen to it and sit still. I've pulled over to dance on the roadside to this one...like a complete geek and lover of life. Just dance.

Before you do, though, watch this:



7 comments:

  1. I LOVE this.... I dance a little and sing a lot in front of my kids... not really anyone else.... but oh well :) The mama belly thing had me giggling because even though I'm a petite person, no one but my husband needs to see the "had four babies" belly! lol Really, those slightly stretched bellies that held beautiful babes should be a thing to celebrate, even if only in our own kitchen:)

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  2. What a happy and inspiring post Stephanie...and I must say, wow you have a lot of skills! Sewing, cooking, teaching, performing music, and now belly dancing! You're an impressive woman. :)

    I really love that "Dancing at the Movies" video..absolutely impossible to watch it and not smile. I was happy to see clips from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers in there too, as it's one of my favourite movies ever. :)

    Laura (http://gettingthere.typepad.com)

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  3. Mama you Rock, what a fab post, love love love it xx

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  4. Love to bellydance. It has been years. Spent tons of years taking Ballet. Then thyroid and life kicked in.

    I want my daughter to do Celtic dance. As a baby we would put Celtic music on and she was off and bouncing!! LOL

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  5. Thank you for this post; I love to dance and in this fifty-third year of my life I am dancing in my home with two neighborhood toddlers. We have a wonderful time and my husband sits smiling and tapping his feet, rocking with us.

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  6. Just started belly dancing....LOVE IT!
    I grew up doing ballet, so imagine how "freeing" it is to just shake and shimmy.
    xo

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  7. LOVE this post. SO happy to hear you are going to dance again. LOVE the movie video- I smiled through the whole thing. Remember the dance I made up at 15, for the pageant? I thought I was that gal in Flashdance! Oh and seriously, how gorgeous was Patrick Swayze. Sigh.
    Did I mention I love this post?

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