Did I Have To “Deceive My Imagination” To Learn To Bellydance?

Me, Callie, Trish, Emily, and Kat Photo by Julz Irion

I love this photo that Julz took of us at the Hafla.   We were just standing around when she snapped it.  She made us laugh by saying “Smile’s Everyone” like Richardo Montalban in the TV show Fantasy Island.

That was Julz’s way of getting us to remember to smile while we were dancing.  Something most of us were doing only sometimes or not at all.

The photo also makes me think of a John Singer Sargent painting.  Not one in particular, but a combination of his paintings of women.  I’m not familiar with all of his paintings, but in the ones I have seen, the women are all strong and confident.

Seeing us all dressed up in our billowing skirts, coin bras, hip scarves, jewelry, turbans and makeup,  is a vast contrast to how we looked when we arrived.

I couldn’t help noticing the difference between the hallway where we hang our coats and leave our shoes outside the classroom.  All those dark winter colors and heavy boots.  It’s as if we shed an outer layer of skin and are transformed into butterflies for a few hours.

Bare feet and bellies, we jingle when we walk, as the coins on our hip scarves sway against each other with each step.  There’s something bewitching about it.

But this transformation doesn’t just happen once a year for the Hafla.  It happens every week when we come to class.  Even if our clothes and jewelry aren’t as elaborate, we step out of the everyday world when we gather for our class.

It reminds me of the quote by the French philosopher Nicholas Malebranche who said, “It is necessary to deceive our imagination in order to awaken our spirits”

Is Bellydancing with its costuming, movement, and music enough to take me so far outside of myself that it awakens my spirit?

I know that Bellydancing has changed me in tangible ways.  It’s made me more confident and made me like and understand my body and what it’s capable of.

Maybe I did deceive my imagination and continue to every time I dance.

Because I never even dared to imagine that I would be able to dance.  Not even when I showed up for the first class.  I wanted it, but I never really thought it was possible.  Yet something made me keep going back to class each week and kept me from quitting.

Maybe the process of deceiving my imagination began the first time I saw the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers perform. Maybe I was enchanted by the way they moved, their confidence and attitude, the costumes and music.   It sparked something inside of me, touched a sleeping part of myself that had been hiding until that moment.

My first painting teacher in Art School told me that I wasn’t a very good painter, but there was “something there”.  Similar to what Julz wrote about me on her blog... “It seemed a bit hopeless for the first few months, but she (referring to me) showed me little signs that she could dance.

Maybe what motivated me, (along with the support from the other people in the class) was that I felt there was “something there” too.

Jon always says that when I’m dancing it’s who I really am. I still don’t quite know what he means.  I guess because even though I’m doing it, I still don’t see myself that way.  As a dancer I mean.  Like my body knows, but my mind hasn’t caught up with it yet.

But I think I’m getting closer.  Like I wrote yesterday, I’m starting to have a new understanding of myself.

It would be a big change in my perception of myself.  But looking at that picture that Julz took of us helps.  Because there I am, in a group of women who look like they just stepped out of a John Singer Sargent painting.

That makes it harder for me to deny.

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