Last week Jon bought me Zills.
Zills are the little cymbals you wear on your middle finger and thumb when Belly dancing. Not all Belly Dancers use them, but the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancers, who I’m taking lessons from do.
As if just learning to move so many different parts of my body, in different ways, at the same time isn’t difficult enough. I also have to keep a beat using zills.
It seems impossible to me.
I keep thinking that maybe this is what it feels like for babies trying to walk for the first time.
Two weeks ago Kathleen, one of the teachers, told me that although I wasn’t keeping up with everyone else, I was still keeping the beat with the zills. I was just doing half as much as they were. But that was okay.
I was thrilled.
Because most of the time, I actually have not idea if what I’m doing is right or not.
Don’t worry, everyone reassures us new dancers, it takes years to learn all of this. Julz, the other teacher, says they’re all still learning all the time.
Luckily, I can take the beginners class as many times as I want. One woman in my class has been taking it for a year and a half.
If all you’ve learned in the past six weeks, is the dancers stand, Julz told us last class, than you’re doing great.
Chest out, shoulders back, butt in, knees bent, I said to myself, my body following my words, coming into the dancers stand.
I’m doing great.
I practice the moves when I get home. Or I forget them before I get home.
After I shower and before I get dressed, I practice naked in front of the mirror in the bedroom. I think I may be doing a shimmy right (as long as I don’t have to march while doing it and don’t have to move my arms and hands) but I don’t really know.
Then, I’m in my studio sewing, listening to the mix of Belly Dancing music that Julz made us, and I find my body moving in one of the ways we were taught in class. I’m not thinking about it, I’m standing at my sewing machine, guiding a piece of fabric through the presser foot and my hips start to circle around, or move side to side. I stop sewing, and raise my arms and start to move my hands, the way we were taught.
The next day Kitty sends me a video of her last performance with Bennington Beledi . I’m sitting at my desk watching it and I realize I’m seeing it different. I’m no longer just the audience, I’m recognizing the moves and seeing how they’re supposed to be done. I’m still sitting in my chair, but now my body, from the waist up, is mimicking what Kitty and the other dancers are doing in the video.
It’s like my body is learning in spite of my brain. In spite of what I think I know and don’t know.
This is all so new to me.
I gave up trying to dance after taking a few Ballet Classes when I was in Kindergarten. But as foreign as Belly Dancing is to me, there’s something familiar about it too. Like I’m remembering something, instead of learning it for the first time.
Right now it’s just a whisper in my body. Something long hidden in a deep, dark, hole at the bottom of my being. I don’t know how far I can go with this, if I’ll get frustrated and bored or if just taking the classes and slowing “getting it” will be enough for me. But I feel like somethings awakened in me. And I’m curious to see what comes next.