My friend Kitty, who introduced me to Bellydancing, is known as Kat in our class. Her name changes as our clothes, and probably a bit of our personalities do too when we dance.
I see this more and more as I get to know the people I dance with every week.
I was shocked the first time I saw my teacher Julz outside of class. She was covered head to foot, hidden really, in her clothes. Navy baseball cap, sunglasses, black t-shirt, black jeans, and sneakers.
I know I must have looked her up and down, unbelieving that this was the same woman who taught us dressed in a chole, Capri leggings, and a coin sash.
I’m only beginning to understand that both the dance and the clothes are transformative.
When I first started bellydancing five years ago I was terrified to show my stomach. I didn’t think I deserved to own one of those beautiful full skirts. Now I love the way I look in my cholie and skirt. It makes me feel special, like I’m saying “Look at me, I’m worth seeing.”
Bellydancing has taught me to move my body in ways I didn’t know were possible. I learned how to walk, stand and hold my body with confidence and an attitude that I can feel down to my very center.
Jon says that when I Bellydance it’s who I really am. I still struggle with that idea, but I think he’s right. I can feel something happening when I dance, and as I learn. As if a part of my self is being excavated, dug up, dusted off and brought into the light.
It’s a slow process and I started late in life, but I’m planning on taking it as far as I can go.
Yesterday on our way to see a play at the Old Castle Theater in Bennington Vermont Jon and I stopped at our friend Kitty and Charlie’s house for tea. (We saw the play “Souvenir” about Florence Forster Jenkins, and it was terrific. We both cried at the end).
I brought my bellydancing skirt and cholie with me because Kat had some pantaloons and scarves that she thought I might be able to use.
Two weeks ago we found out that our Bellydancing toupe was asked to perform at the Bennington Museum on August 25th. They are celebrating 25 years of their North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show and we’re going to be a part of it.
Last week Julz, put together a playlist of the eight songs we’ll be dancing to. We’ll do two 15-minute sets. So now I’m listening to those songs over and over again to get to know them. I’m also practicing dancing and Zilling to them.
It will be the first time we’ve performed in years and the first time I’ll be performing in front of an audience that is there specifically to see us. I’m both excited and nervous.
Kat is one of the founding members of The Bennington Beledi Bellydancers. She no longer dances but comes to the workout part of our weekly class. And she has a wonderful collection of Bellydance outfits.
Yesterday she gave me a pair of yellow pantaloons that just need to be hemmed to fit me, and loaned me a few headscarves. Kat said being able to help me with my outfit made her feel like she was able to participate in some small way.
But really, even though Kat doesn’t dance with us anymore, she will always be a big part of BBTB. She’s always there for us, ready to help out in any way she can.
And that’s the other part of the Bennington Beleldi Bellydancers, as Kathleen, my other teacher says, we dance for each other.
Having a gig is great. It gives us something to work towards, something to practice and get better for. And a lot of the women I dance with are far bigger “hams” than I am, they love an audience. And ATS Bellydance is a wonderful thing to put out into the world.
But I do believe that even if we never got to perform again, we’d still put on our choles, long skirts and coin belts and dance together.
Because dancing together, in what ever way we can, is what it’s about.