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bellydance... - adventures of a red-headed stepchild in the house of love — LiveJournal
mermaid on the mic
So, I am trying to get started with dancing again. I'm having a hard time with it, though. (Oh god, not another angsty post!)

This icon was made for me by my wonderful friend Roya, and I agree with her that it is a lovely photo. But, not only do I no longer look like I did then (way back in spring of 2002) what is worse is that I can't dance as well either. I have lost a LOT.

(Then again, my *life* is actually a lot *better* now than it was then, so there's that, at least. There's been a lot of water gone under that bridge...)

I recently decided to get myself dancing again, and signed up for a drill class in Oakland. There aren't many dance classes offered in Oakland (at least not that I was able to find) and while the exercise is unquestionably good for me, I am finding the class itself just isn't that helpful. And I cringe every time I look in the mirror, which is definitely not helpful. It's just like when I first started taking lessons! But, for a different reason.

I have gotten so fat and out of shape, that not only does it take me a while to get the moves (which are usually combinations I've never done before) but I look terrible trying, which makes it all the worse. Part of this is because nobody wears skirts in the class - they wear workout wear, with a hip scarf. This is not a flattering look (at least, not on me) and usually I'm actually slightly overdressed in my plum unitard (one o those bellydancer ones with the mesh belly inset, you know) which is bad enough, but at least still bellydancer-y - but one week I went in exercise pants and a tank top (like most of the other younger-and-skinnier-than-me students wear) and I looked even more schlubby and hated the hell out of it, so it's back to the unitard. (Not to mention that I was taunted by teens in a passing car walking to bart afterwards, with a sweatshirt over the exercise pants! The little BASTARDS. One day THEY will be fat and dowdy, pushing a cart through safeway with kids hanging off of them, and I will still be a beautiful freak - an old beautiful freak, but still.)

At least the unitard is a pretty color, and a *little bit* slimming. And I look like a for crying out loud bellydancer (even if not a very good one) and not just some fat chick who can't move right!

The teacher is encouraging, but I feel like a baby elephant in this class. All her other students are slender, and most of them are younger than me. (Although, to be fair, only one of them is all that much better at it than I am.) The only place I shine is when we do the zill drills, because I'm capable of doing anything she throws at me there! It's usually various patterns - and even though most of them are unfamiliar to me, so far I have been the best zill player among the students! So I focus on creating the tone I want, and making it really sound good. That part I actually enjoy. The rest of it is painful. On Monday we did a shimmy over maya combo, which I got but didn't enjoy, though it was better than the shimmy over omi combo from the previous class - I can't see myself ever choosing to do that move, and I pulled a muscle (an oblique?) from trying to do it at double time when I didn't quite have it. I won't be making that mistake again. Ow!

I had to pay for 5 weeks at once, and next week is the last week. I don't think I'm going to renew. So I need to find a new dance class. I'm willing to travel to Berkeley, especially if it's transitable (and it looks like I'm going to have to go there unless I want to keep on with this teacher.)

Much as I hate to admit it, I want a class where we can wear skirts! I never thought it would matter, but looking at myself in the workout wear in that big mirror... ugh. Make it stop! It probably won't matter so much once I am in better shape, but for now it does.

Reading over this, I guess I need to have more patience with myself. I've been through a lot, since the time that I could just get up and dance and get my body to do what i wanted it to (even then, I wasn't as capable as I'd like). I've moved twice, gone through a divorce, as well as a tempestuous and intensely hot and cold relationship, other various life challenges, and really just about everything in my life has changed at least a little. Some parts have changed a lot! I do think I can get it back, though. I really am in a much better space, overall. I just need to find the right class.

I wanted to say that I've never been so conflicted around bellydance before... but, it's not quite true. I started in 1996 and was very seriously into it by '98 (by then I was taking multiple classes per week, and going to retreats and festivals, even travelling to them.) It caused something of a shakeup (heh heh - no pun intended, but there ya go) in my personal life - in that it was causing me to explore more of the "ooga-booga" side of life, which my then-husband totally disdained. It did not fit into his deep seated belief in SCIENCE and therefor made him question my intelligence, which seems to have been the thing he liked best about me.

So this rocked the boat quite a bit, as you can well imagine. Anyway, the conflicting feelings I had then differed from these, but in both cases, I knew I needed to work it out so that I could dance. And now, as then, I am sure that I will. It just takes time and effort, both of which I am willing to put into it.

I'm feeling: aggravated conflicted

13 smooches or Gimme Some Love!
silverseabear From: silverseabear Date: April 26th, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
10 or more years ago I lived with a woman who later became an instructor for FCBD. At that time she was in the student troupe called Second Skin. There were many nonstick women in all those classes. And Carolina requires everyone to wear a skirt for practice. At least she used to. I think the general atmosphere of FCBD classes is fairly supportive. Again, it was 10 years ago, but I suspect that aspect hasn't changed. Maybe it'll be worth checking out.

And since you asked, I'll be at BRC in Prometheatrics camp. What about you?
djmermaid From: djmermaid Date: April 26th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dood, I started with FCBD! (About 10 years ago, as a matter of fact.) Who did you live with? I probably know her.

I'm trying to do solo style now, because i really don't want to be in a trouple - I just want to get back into shape and get dancing again. I LOVED tribal, and think it is the best foundation for beginning dancers (because you learn good posture, zills, how to hold your arms up for a long time, and how to follow, which will all hold you in good stead no matter what type of dancing you eventually do. And they are indeed very supportive.

Thanks for the suggestion - you are absolutely right on all counts. ; )
silverseabear From: silverseabear Date: April 26th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Anne Lehmer. I'm not sure when she became an instructor, as we'd split up by then.

My personal opinion is that tribal is the best way for a solo dancer to go. Biased is what I am, though. I've never seen another style that I found so beautiful.
djmermaid From: djmermaid Date: April 26th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Anne... was she the one with the tattoo of a bird with open wings on her back? She was an amazing dancer (and probably still is.) As a newbie, I remember finding her quite intimidating. She was indeed in second skin at that time - the other instructors (besides Carolena) were Rina and Karen - the FC members. I do remember Anne and Jessie joining the official FC some time after that (the Fatties as they were sometimes called then, 2nd Skin were referred to as the Skinnies, which I always found funny) and they probably became instructors when they joined the main troupe. Now they have another student troupe, called Third Tribe, which was forming just around the time I stopped going to FC classes. I did a few shows in nursing homes and the like with them - I'll never forget hearing one of the old folks say "here come the bellydancers!" and realizing they meant *us*. : )

Tribal (as FC does it, anyway) is so much about being a group dance. It's all about the lead and follow, with the leading dancer improvising in which steps to do, and the following dancer(s) following the lead. The steps are always done the same - same arms always go with same legs. I love tribal's gorgeous posture and regal style, and the costuming is super flattering - I do still wear a variation on the tribal look. But dancing by myself in more open styles, where I am free to move as I wish (more floorwork, veil, different arms and no need for cueing) has spoilt me for the strict tribal style, alas. (But then again, getting to wear pretty clothes to class has spoilt me for the workout wear look, so there ya go. We are always the sum of all of our parts, hmm?)

Oh, and to answer your Bman question, I will be in the BLD - we don't yet know where that will be. But I am determined to get to meet you while you are over here, and what better place than the playa?! You can ask around for Newt's Bar - they'll definitely know where to find us if you ask at the Hair of the Dog bar.

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comments. And I love the bellydance connection! Who would have thought?
silverseabear From: silverseabear Date: April 26th, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, that tattoo. It's a peregrine falcon, and she had it done immediately after we broke up. Intimidating...yeah, I can imagine. I remember the night I met her...if I'd been any older or smarter I might have been scared. I was nervous, but introducedmyself anyway. Or something like that.

When I mentioned tribal seeming like the best solo option, I wasn't thinking at all of how synched everyone was. I was remembering solo dances by Carolina, and Karen, and others. It's the fluidity and grace of the movements I had in mind, more than the leading and cueing. And I'm sure that if I had a choice between watching a solo tribal and a solo cabaret, I'd be at the tribal dance, just because of the way the dancers learn to move.

BLD? Newt's Bar? What? Dude, it'll be my first burn. Be gentle with me. It'd be cool to spend our birthday together, but we can always have a special afterbirthday party on the Playa. Whattaya say?
djmermaid From: djmermaid Date: April 26th, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good point about the movements. I think it's time to dig out some of my old vhs tapes! Maybe I should just take yoga and work on dance on my own. Finding the right teacher is so challenging!

And I had completely forgotten about having the same birthday! You should totally come to my party! You'll be here then, right?

Jovino's bday is the 3rd and we are both turning 40 so it should be quite the event. Of course, we can also have some champagne on the playa (you do know that champagne was invented on August 4th, yes? Sometime back in the 1600s, by one of those wine-making benedictine monks, a Dom Perignon!) I've been thinking of trying out his namesake champagne on this milestone birthday - we'll see how rich I feel when it actually rolls around though.

Anyway, our party is sure to be a blast and you are definitely welcome (and welcome to bring people!) It will be in Oakland, on the Saturday night just after the 4th. (I think that'll be the 5th, but whatever Saturday is right after.)

As to burning man, I will be camping in a village called the BLD. The name is a historical acronym which now means many things (and at the same time, nothing.) The most publically prominent feature of our village is Newt's Bar, and I will be able to be found there fairly frequently (and the Hobbits who run the place should know which tent is mine as well.)

The Hair of the Dog bar is run by friends of Newt's, and they are usually listed in the event guide, map etc. If you find them, they can direct you to Newt's, which will be in the heart of the BLD. So it should be possible to find me. Of course, I will also look for your camp!

One of the things I always try to remember is a notebook, to be attatched with a pen to my tent, so that if people come by when I'm not home they can leave messages. It can be really helpful.

Let me know if you'll be around for the party, and how to contact you, and I will be sure to get you directions etc!
From: catwoman69y2k Date: April 26th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Its a matter of bodyimage it really is. Part of the reason you may not be dancing at your poersonal best can be the self image you have of your body. I have learned to accept my curves, embrace the chub I have. Personally the skinny bellydancers dont do well for me because I think you need a belly first if you are going to bellydance.

Bellydance is hte one form of dance where you there is room to have more meat on your bones. From the times I have seen you (like last FC) you seem like youare built rather like me, just a little extra chub. Personally there is nothing wrong with that. YOu can dance and your bones dont rattle.

Work on stretching per day, wear what you are comfortable wearing (in other words, dont conform to the dancewear that everyone is wearing if you are not comfortable in it). Heck, if anything, you may want to get some practice pants from FCBD. They are comfortable to move in, airy so you dont break a sweat too badly and they can help accent the assets you ahve and might be alot mofore comfortable.

In my experience, you never really forget how to dance. YOu may lose sight of techniques you once knew but the will come back if you just let those memories in. Breathe in and remember the good times dancing, use that to your advantage.

Okay, you may kill me now for my positive outlook.

djmermaid From: djmermaid Date: April 26th, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the kind words. In my case, it really IS a matter of physical capability, totally separate from the body image issues.

I actually used to be a *good* dancer, I trained regularly and took classes with excellent teachers, as well as taking yoga. I was in great condition at the time. Now my flexibility and strength have deteriorated. It's not about having a belly, it's a matter of *can I do the moves* and too often the answer to that is "barely" or even "not really". And that has to change. But I know I can get it back. I just need to keep at it, and maybe find a better class.
From: catwoman69y2k Date: April 26th, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC) (Link)


It is a matter of flexibility. I have never been that flexible myself but I have to work hard to get more limber. All in all it takes work. Finding the right class is one of those key steps into doing that. I wish you the best of luck.

zoe_serious From: zoe_serious Date: April 26th, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

belly woes

I can totally understand where you are coming from. I started doing BD with Fat Chance about about a year and a half ago. I loved it. I loved the group aspect, the teachers, the costumes. Then I moved to Toronto... fast forward a year and I'm blessed to have tribal starting up here! I'm starting my second tribal class in two weeks. The other women in the class all wear Melodias (or something close to it). I am the only one in a skirt ever- heck I've started wearing two now as one just wasn't enough! You should decide to not care what the others are wearing and wear what makes you comfy.

I did a make up class with the same teacher that was non tribal/basic bellydance and wore some flared yoga pants- I did not like that class as much and I think part of it was that I felt odd seeing so much of my legs (I'm not fat but I'm certainly 15 lbs heavier then I have ever been in my whole life) and I didn't feel as sexy.

The only class where I felt like I was off and struggling was the last level two class that I took at Fat Chance when I was in town last month. I felt so uncoordinated and clunky, and it was a matter of layering and having to lead (and I suppose going out dancing til 5am with an 11am class didn't help!).

Anyways, it will come back. It will take a while to feel it in your body. I'd totally reccomend getting some tapes and practice on the side. I'm loving Rachel Brice's Yoga and Drills dvd (you can do 15, 30 or 45 min workouts) for strengthening, and I'm happy with the Level 1 and 4 from Fat Chance (though Carolena has a great little package with book that has a dvd that has parts of 1 and 4 dvds together for only $20).

I'm not sure where you are doing the classes, but there is tribal in Oakland with Ultra Gypsy http://www.ultragypsy.com/UGLearn.shtml (scroll down). I've heard great things about their classes. Also you may consider going to Fat Chance again as you can walk from the 16thBart station.

Best of luck. Keep at it. No one is judging you as much as yourself. And, I'm going through some of it too!! thanks for sharing.


p.s. I'm going to be at the Fat Chance classes Friday May 5th if you feel like joining me :) I'm flying in for some Burning Man meetings and always schedule time to head to Fat Chance!
djmermaid From: djmermaid Date: April 27th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: belly woes

Yeah, that Rachel Brice DVD is a good one. I have mostly vhs in my instructional/workout library, and no tv, but can run the dvds on my lappy. I do have a vcr so maybe I need to scrounge up a tv! (We've got a video projector here at the warehouse but it only works when it's dark out, because of all the skylights, and I don't want to subject the housemates to hearing this stuff over and over and over in the living room anyway.) But yes, Rachel Brice is a good start. I'm actually considering just taking yoga and doing dance practice on my own, although it's always nice to have a class.

Thanks for the comment! I'd love to join you for the May 5th classes - it has been a while since I have done the FC format and I know they have updated, but I'm sure I could at least manage the basics class. Keep me posted? (m-at-djmermaid-dotcom)

nifercritter From: nifercritter Date: April 26th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I first started Muay Thai, I suffered through *months* of watching my plump and uncoordinated image in the mirror, trying to jump rope in the beginning of class whilst I avoided smacking my toes with the rope (ow!) or tripping over my feet. I understand how daunting it is to compare where you want your skills/body to go and where they are in the present.

When wanting to make big changes in one's life, it's hard not to focus just on the big goal that we want to accomplish. And because there are huge leaps to make these goals, we can often become discouraged.

--Focusing on the day-to-day/week-to-week goals, instead of the month-to-month ones.
--Be kinder to yourself.
--Celebrate the small stuff. (When I first started Muay Thai, I used to be so proud of myself if I made it through jumping rope without hitting my toes with the rope!)
--And for gawds sake, don't compare yourself to other people in class or who you were (or what your skills were/etc.) a few years ago. This is about you.... NOW. Love yourself in the present, yo.

BTW, Kudos to you for sticking it out, even if you aren't enjoying many aspects of it now. It will make your successes that much more precious. :)
djmermaid From: djmermaid Date: April 27th, 2006 06:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hey girl, thanks for the kind words and right-on advice. You are totally right, and I remember how much harder it was the first time! At least now I have some idea of what I should be doing, and even how to do it, it's just getting back to where I can do it well (and have some endurance) again. And, yes, it takes time. Must remember that! Focusing on the short term is tough, especially when I remember what I used to be capable of! But you are right that it would help me.

I do think I need to find a more suitable class though. There are so many different styles of bellydance (and of teaching as well) that I should be able to find something that's a better fit.

Thanks again for your encouragment! Much appreciated. It was good to see you Saturday - hope to run into you again sometime when I'm not so busy and distracted.
13 smooches or Gimme Some Love!