Zilling While I Dance

Julz and Kathleen up front and me and Emily in the back.  You can see the Zills (small finger cymbals) on Kathleen’s fingers. Even though I wear Zills while dancing, I’ve never used them before.

I lean my iPhone against the iron on my worktable in my studio.  I cue up the video of Julz dancing and Zilling with her back to the camera, my Zills already on my thumbs and middle fingers, I touch the “play” arrow on the screen.

I Zill while dancing, following Julz as she does the Shimmy, Bump and Egyptian.   Julz moves to the beat of the song which is slow compared to others we dance to. So her moves are slow too. And deliberate enough for me to easily follow while Zilling.

Julz made the video for me, so I can practice Zilling and dancing at the same time.

Tonight will be our last class of 2019.  Next week we’ll have our Hafla, where we get to socialize a little, eat the food that each of us brings, and dance.

“Next session,” Julz said to me “we’re going to focus on getting you to dance and Zill.”  It was the last five minutes of the Level Two Class.  The rest of the class danced together and Julz and I went to the back of the room and I followed her as she danced and Zilled to Rachid Taha’s Kelma. 

And to my surprise, I was able to do it.  For the first time, I danced and Zilled, to a whole song almost five minutes long.

I’ve been practicing Zilling and dancing in my studio, but it’s always hard for me to keep the beat, every time I change a dance move I lose it.  And I can do it in class for moments at a time, but never for a whole song.

The more Julz and I danced and Zilled the easier it became.  At first, I was watching her so closely, staring so hard, I felt like a machine trying to replicate what I was seeing and hearing.   But as the song continued I loosened up.

Towards the end, I was only seeing Julz out of the corner of my eye, noticing her movements rather than watching them.  And then it was as if I fell into a trance.  Before that moment my fingers and body always felt like two separate entities, but now I was in “the zone” and they had become one.

I was feeling the music rather than watching Julz feel it.

Earlier in the class, Kathleen, our other teacher, said that Bellydancing was about letting the music move through us.  I thought, at that moment, that was exactly what I was experiencing.

It’s hard for me to express how exciting it was for me to realize that I actually will be able to learn how to Zill and dance at the same time.  Because I’ve already done many things in my Bellydancing class that I never thought I could I did come to trust that eventually, I’d get the Zilling too.

But I couldn’t see how that would happen until I danced with Julz last week.

Now it’s a new goal for me to aim towards.  Something to practice at home every day.  And now, even though I still lose the beat and have to stop and catch up with the moves sometimes, I know eventually I’ll get it.

And I wonder what that kind of synchronicity between me the music, me and the other dancers and within myself, will feel like when I do.

Jon keeps telling me that the person I am when I’m Bellydancing is the real me.  I’m not quite there yet, although I do feel like every time I dance I’m unearthing along lost part of myself.

Bellydancing has rekindled my faith in the idea that change is always possible and that there’s always another layer of ourselves to explore.

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