I'm not sure what it was that drew me to Oriental Dance (one of the preferred terms). I will say that, as a middle-class suburban white girl, it has been pounded into me over a lifetime that I should hate my body if it is not super-model perfect and that I should, in particular, hate all parts between the knees and shoulders. Several honorable men have labored to educate me against this falacy, but they couldn't overcome a lifetime of societal conditioning. Keep those things covered, for the love of God - nobody wants to see that!
As well, the messages include that if I am to embellish or use those parts of me, it should be for someone else's use: children, mates, etc.
I went to my first bellydance classes this week at Farfesha Studios in the 'Buerque. I attended at a couple different times to get a sense of what teachers I'd like the best.
I loved it. Although I can't speak for others, here is what I like and why I'm going back:
- It is a completely woman-friendly space. Nobody ogles, makes lewd comments, or acts catty. The women there did not know each other, but there was a certain happy satisfaction in the air. It was charged with anticipation, and we chatted about superficial, girly things. The comfort level of the room, and all instructions were tuned to a 100% feminine clientele, including an admonishment that "You can't see skinny hips move. Eat some cake!"
- Once I got over my intial awkwardness, I bared the belly, and I found that it was by far NOT the least attractive one there, but nobody seemed to care. Everyone was pretty confortable with themselves, even an extremely large woman who, I found out later, was a professional dancer.
- You get to drape myself in pretty, beaded, gauzy, jingly things. It's like playing dress-up.
- Remember when you were little and you danced in front of the mirror alone? You get to do that in dance class.
- It sounds cliche, but I felt empowered when I left there. I felt womanly, with a renewed idea that I am NOT a man, and that my body does not move or look the same as a man's body, and that it's a perfectly acceptable body.
- I like feeling graceful. Racing around in triathlons is great for exploring what my body is capable of doing in a strong, enduring sense, but dance class allows me to explore what my body can do is a graceful sense.
- Two words: toned core.
Do I plan to get on a stage? No. Endeavor to make Husband feel like a sultan? Maybe. After all, his birthday is coming up soon...and there's father's day, Christmas, anniversaires, and well, hell, every day is a celebration of some sort, right?
But mostly, this is my thing. For 60 minutes once or twice a week, I get to spend learn ways to move to music, toning my body and making it do things I didn't know it could do, and I'm feeling strong.
And that is what "it is" with old ladies and bellydancing.