I drove home from Bellydancing class certain that I shouldn’t be dancing in the upcoming performance. Even though Julz was positive about it, saying it was the first time I had danced to these songs and we had two months to practice, I felt like all I’d be doing by dancing is make us all look bad.
In the past, I’ve prepared for our Hafla’s by choosing two songs and practicing to them. But the audience at the Hafla is the other people in our class. There are eight songs to get to know and practice dancing to for our performance at the Bennington Museum. That’s two sets of dancing for fifteen minutes straight.
Because the type of Bellydancing we do is improvised and the lead dancer, who the rest of us follow, is constantly changing, we never know when we will be leading and to what part of a song we will be leading the dance.
This is one of the things I love about ATS Bellydancing. It’s very creative and like my quilts and potholders, no two dances are ever alike.
But it’s always what makes me very nervous. There have been many times when I’ve stepped into the lead and completely forgotten all the moves I’ve learned.
All the way home, I thought of texting Julz and telling her I could dance the slow songs, but I didn’t think I should be dancing to the fast songs at all. And when I got home the first thing I told Jon was how bad I danced.
Then I went upstairs to put my clothes away and when I pulled my skirt out of my bag out came the shawl that I had been given in class.
In my anxiety, I had completely forgotten about the shawls that Julz and Kathleen, presented to me and Trish before class.
Last night we had our yearly meeting. During the meeting, we went over how the money we pay for classes is spent (to cover rent for the space, any extra is donated to a charity we all agree on. The teachers don’t get paid) and talk about the structure of the class and ask questions if there are any.
Then Julz said how when people are ready to dance in performances they officially become part of the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers. She pulled two shawls out of a bag and handed one to me and one to Trish.
Everyone who is a Bennington Beledi Bellydancer has one of these shawls. They’re all different colors and designs, and Julz chose the shawls that would go best with our skirts.
Then Callie ceremonially tied Trish’s shawl around her waist and Emily tied my shawl around my waist.
I don’t think I really registered the impact and meaning of the shawl until I pulled it out of my bag, brought it downstairs, and showed it to Jon.
That’s when I thought of how when I knew I danced poorly last night I didn’t think that I could practice and get better. I immediately wanted to give up. I was sure it proved that I’d never really be able to dance well.
I’ve felt this many times after class, but five years into it, I’m still trying. I’m not sure what keeps me going back after I lose confidence in myself. I think part of it is the women I dance with, that we are kind and encourage each other.
The other thing is, when I get it right, it makes me feel really good about myself. The way it boosts my confidence is cumulative, while the times I lose it don’t last long.
It may turn out that during the performance I don’t dance all the fast songs, or maybe I just don’t lead during any of them. But that’s something that will become clear as we practice in class.
I still believe that I’m not a natural dancer. But I also know that I’ve learned a lot in the past five years, more than I thought was possible.
And, that I can and will keep learning.