Wednesday, August 5, 2009
A Bellydancer's Post
So I was contacted by a ghost from the past............... my friend Mary, who taught me how to dance with a sword. I am forever grateful to her for teaching me how to dance with a sword, because not only are there so few sword dancers around, but good luck in finding one to teach you. Anyway, she recently had a baby and other than me going to her baby shower, we haven't talked much.
She learned sword dance from my first teacher, Zahra who went by the name Jewel. Jewel was from Egypt and introduced us to everything: finger zymbals, the drums, cane dancing, double veil dancing, the candleabra, costumes, the sword etc............. She sold me my first professional bellydance costume, which I still have.
Jewel drilled us hard, and with no AC in her house during the summer, and we were better dancers for it.
We lost contact with Jewel because she literally had mental problems, lashed out against all of us, and we all quit one by one. But I still think about her when I dance, and would still put up with her bs for her to teach me again. Mary and I both would, we still talk about her. When I danced under her, maybe my choreography wasn't as strong, but people responded better to me, and one man, a flamenco dancer told me watching me dance made him fall in love with me. The same man who introduced me to my favorite Spanish restaurant and Santana Row when it was first built. He is long gone in Spain.
Anyway, Mary called me because she wanted a bellydance tape from me, so I went to storage and searched through the old VHS tapes Jewel sold me. Bellydance is popular now, and many people are interested in it thanks to Shakira, but when I started in 2002, which isn't even that long ago, it was still hard to find a good dancer or dance DVDs or dance accessories. So I had to settle for the bad quality VHS tapes she sold me and overcharged me for.
It was funny watching the tapes, because the stuff on it was from the late eighties, early nineties, and the women teaching the moves were wearing those awful eighties fashions and had bad perms.
There was one woman teaching us how to stretch. She was wearing this shiny nude body suit with a bad perm. She had a good body, but with her hairdo, it looked like you'd find her on a brochure for a Great Expectations ad from the early nineties (which I used to get randomly mailed as a kid).
Anyway, she was teaching us how to stretch while doing the splits, and when she was doing the splits, you could kinda see through that suit a little, and it was bad. But I was so busy laughing at her fashion sense that I didn't realize that hey, I should take her advice, and learn something. While that bad body suit is outdated the moves are not.
I also watched old video clips from Egypt of the old legends performing. That was a treat. I almost forgot I had those, they were clips from I would say the 60s or 70s. Old Bellydance Legends that slowly disappeared after the government started cracking down on it, in some cases even paying dancers to stop dancing.
I also watched a clip of the famous dancer Egyptian Lucy, who dances in Cairo, Egypt. She gave the interview back in the 1980s and while I was busy laughing at her perm and talking about "western rock music" like Michael Jackson, I still really love her interview.
Being a bellydancer in Egypt is no easy feat, and looked down as mainly lower class. Especially since the conservative government is cracking down on it. Many poor women twenty years ago and maybe even today dreamed of making it out of their poor neighborhood, and as a bellydancer in night clubs, nice hotels and high-class weddings.
In conclusion, there is a huge bellydance scene here in my area. Lots of teachers, lots of costumes, lots of new bellydance styles, lots of articles written about it, almost anything you could think of.
But things that are hard to find...........
- A traditional Egyptian dancer (luckily we do have one in our area) as most dancers here have no connection to Egypt. My old teacher, Zahra is long gone and the house she used to teach from is no longer hers.
- A good sword dancer to teach you moves
-Bellydance legends, you have to go to Egypt to see that. Once in a blue moon they travel out here, but rarely. Although last September I did meet Tito, who is Egyptian as they come, no English and he was fasting for Ramadan during our lesson. My picture with him is pasted above to the right. Best teacher ever.
Anyway, I am holding onto these tapes until they fade out.
Bellydance is a huge part of who I am as a happy person. I like to write about my experiences because I enjoy going back through the blog and reading about it as time passes by. It has opened me up to staying in shape, learning about the history of the dance, new cultures, and meeting new people. I've tried to learn other forms of dance like Latin Dance, and while I love it, I always find myself going back to putting my coin belt and dance shoes on for another shimmy.
P.S: The pictures above are of me, but the one on the right with the lady in the blue costume is Lucy. You can click on it to get a larger view. She is a class act all around, to me.
The girl in the picture with me with the navy blue dress is my friend Mary after we danced at her friend's wedding. She taught me to sword dance, dulled down my new sword so I wouldn't slice myself, and her mother made a beautiful cover for it. She taught me the importance of sword dancing like I am a diva and God's gift to audiences everywhere on stage, because without confidence, your audience won't stay engaged.
Somehow by the grace of God I had a little tan going on, as I used to work outdoors in car rental.
Okay, that is all for now. I will write more bellydance stories from time to time.