I got to class early and laid the bellydancing jewelry, bra cups, belt and belly drapes made with real coins, silver choker, bracelet and snake arm band on the table.
I wasn’t even sure how to wear most of them and although I had a feeling they were special, I didn’t know for sure just how special till I saw the look on Julz and Kathleen’s faces.
Although they’re heavy and well made, they picked the up carefully and held them reverently, trying to figure out where the coins were from, and which goddess was engraved on the large silver circles.
Then they tried them on.
Draping them around their hips, across their bellies, and over their breasts. Finally Kathleen wrapped one set of silver coins around her neck (“This way you don’t have to fuss with lots of jewelry,” she said,” it’s all in one piece”) and Julz clipped a hip belt around her waist.
Melinda wrote to me a few weeks ago….
“I studied belly dance 40 some years ago, when I was in my late 20s and I still have my complete set of jewelry – belt, belly drape and bra cups. Would you like to have them? I’d be happy to know they were jingling and shaking again.”
Melinda said she thought about selling the jewelry, but just couldn’t do it. She was however, “ticked pink” to give them away.
The president of the company she worked for in the 1970’s knew the President of Banco de Mexico and gave her the uncirculated centavos. Her father drilled holes in them and she had them made into the jewelry at shop in Berkeley CA.
Her troupe danced at Macy’s when they had a sale on Oriental Carpets and at Middle Eastern Restaurants. “We had fun!” she wrote.
Melinda was a part the the Bellydancing revival of the 1970’s. Her passing her jewelry on to me was like receiving an heirloom.
I knew when I opened the box and saw the jewelry that Julz and Kathleen, my Bellydancing teachers, should have some of it. I actually felt like it belonged more to them than me.
I felt like a conduit between Melinda and them. Between the beginning of the dance as we know it, and what it is now. Linking the distance in time and spanning the country from the West to East coast.
In the box along with Melinda’s bellydancing jewelry was an old Band-Aid tin with safety pins in it.
Even more than the beautiful and very personal jewelry and Melinda’s descriptions of her dancing days in her emails to me, it was the intimacy of the tin of safety pins that made it feel real.
Only someone who danced and loved it would understand the value of the pins enough to include them with the jewelry.
If it were a movie, when I opened that old Band-Aid tin, there would have been a flashback to Melinda and her Bellydancing Troupe dancing at Macy’s in the early 1970’s. Melinda, between dances, pinning her hip belt that had come loose.
The tin of safety pins, is as much a tool of the trade as the snake armband or coin bra.
I sent Melinda a photo of Julz and Kathleen wearing the jewelry and promised one of myself when I got the jewelry adjusted to fit me.
Melinda wrote back that she was just glad to know that “the dance goes on.”
I know just what she means.