Keep Dancing When The Music Stops

Dancing in the ATS Flash Mob this fall.

I had taken the lead.  I stood in front of Emily and Trish, doing a taxeem trying, too hard, to think about what move I’d do next. I awkwardly transitioned my arms above my head to go into a corkscrew turn when the music suddenly stopped.

It was sudden to me anyway, I didn’t know the song so instead of ending the dance gracefully, I dropped my arms and cringed embarrassed by my mistake.

That’s when Kathleen, one of my teachers said, “Keep dancing even when the music stops”.

Kathleen said if the music stops and I’m in the middle of a move, I should just keep doing it as if it’s what I meant to happen.  And then she demonstrated and what I felt as I watched her dance that one move said so much more than any words she could have used.

Because she wasn’t just demonstrating a dance move, she was demonstrating an attitude.  An attitude of confidence that demanded attention from anyone watching her.

“Look at me,” Emily said from across the room. “That’s what you’re saying when you’re up there dancing.”   She too saw how I crumpled in on myself embarrassed when the music stopped.   “I just told my daughter this morning that she should be making mistakes, that mistakes are how we learn.”

It was the attitude that I saw in the dancers the first time I saw Bellydancing that made me want to learn how to do it.  And I knew Kathleen’s and Emily’s words were about life as much as dancing.

After getting my MFA in sculpture, I decided not to make art anymore.  I believed I couldn’t do what it took to be an artist.  The music had stopped and I went into hiding.

But years later,  when I accepted the barn that Jon offered me as a studio, made my quilts, got a blog and started my business, I was dancing after the music stopped.  When Jon decided he didn’t need to publish a book to be a writer, he was dancing after the music stopped.

I now believe in my art and my ability to be an artist and make a living at it.  Not in the traditional way, but in my way.  And I have more confidence in myself now than at any other time in my life.

But there are still times and places where I’m afraid to make a mistake and don’t really believe I’m worthy of “being seen”.

That’s part of the beauty of my Bellydancing class.  It’s one hundred percent about dancing, but like most art,  it often blurs the boundaries between art and life.

I am learning to Bellydance every week, and so much more.

 

 

 

 

Bedlam Farm Open House, Opening New Doors

One of Liz’s Sheep that she’s offering me. 

This is the frist Columbus Day Weekend, in many years that Jon and I didn’t have a Bedlam Farm Open House.

I believe that when we stop one thing, it opens a door for something new to come in.

All the years we had Open Houses at the farm I loved doing it.  It was a lot of work and it had its problems, but I always felt it was worth any trouble that came from it.

When we decided not to have an Open House this year, I felt relief.

Relief at the thought of not having to empty out my studio, relief at the idea of not having to put a hold on my work for the three weeks it took to prepare and doing the finishing work after the Open House was over.

There were, of course, many good things about the Open House too.  It was complex.  But I was ready to let it go.   And I believe that left a space for something else to come in.

This weekend two things happened that did just that.

The first was my dancing in the Worldwide ATS Flash Mob with my fellow dancers of the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers.  Dancing was in a way the opposite of the Open House for me.

One of the things about the Open House was that I was in complete charge of the part of it that was about the art and artists.   And there was safety in that for me.  I was choosing the artists, making the rules, controlling things as much as possible.

Dancing on Saturday evening, Bellydancing, in general, makes me vulnerable in a way I’ve never voluntarily allowed myself to be before.

Every class I make a ton of mistakes that are visible to me and the people around me.  I’m often singled out and in front of everyone try again and again to move my feet in a  way that they can’t seem to move.

But this doesn’t bother me.

In the past, I would have been afraid of making mistakes, or even well-meaning criticism.   Now I feel like I just want to learn.  And I’ll do what it takes to do that.

The other thing that happened this weekend is that our shearer Liz offered me two of her sheep.

They’re a Cormo/Romeny and Blueface Leicester mix.  A wonderful combination of wool sheep. I’ve been thinking and talking to Jon about whether to get them or not all weekend.

To me, these sheep feel like another possible way of filling the space the Open House has left.  Taking on two good wool sheep would be like making a renewed commitment to the flock and my business of selling wool.

If I add two new sheep to the flock I will have too much wool for the Fiber Mill I use now to process.  So this is an opportunity for me to get creative about how to sell the extra wool.  I’m just beginning to explore the different options and have the feeling that I can figure something out that I never would have thought of before since I didn’t have to.

Last year I was certain we’d have more Open Houses even if in another form.  But now I’m not so sure.

I like these new directions I’m taking.  Being more committed to and active on the farm (whether I get the sheep or not), and stretching my creativity in a new way through Bellydancing.

 

Emily, me, Kathleen and Julz dancing Saturday evening.

Dance Talk

Julz and Kathleen

Jon took many beautiful photos of us dancing yesterday.  I especially liked this one of Julz and Kathleen.

Even though you can’t see Julz’s face and Kathleen’s is in soft focus, you can see the connection between them.  Kathleen is obviously using her eyes to talk to Julz.  You can also see their hands both doing the same thing, which is another way we communicate when dancing.

And I love how Kathleen’s face is framed in the bend of Julz’s arm.  Separate but connected, each dancer is as important at the other.

Our New Podcast: The Meaning Of Bellydancing

Emily and me

Jon and I were still talking about Bellydancing this morning as we lay in bed.  This should be a podcast Jon said.  So we got, up had breakfast and made a podcast about Bellydancing.

You can listen to it here.

We talked about how Bellydancing has changed me and what it meant to Jon and our relationship.  I also describe the dancing we do, how it’s not choreographed and creative in a way I’ve never experienced before.

Below is a video of  Julz, Kathleen, Emily and me dancing yesterday in Arlington Vermont.  This is one of the songs we danced to before dancing the ATS Worldwide Flash Mob.

ATS Flash Mob, BellyDancing With Women Around The World

Me, Emily, Kathleen and Julz

Yesterday, all around the world, American Tribal Style Bellydancers danced in unity to one song, Dil Gaya by Omnia.  It was a Flash Mob and the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers (who I dance with) were a part of it.

The day before Julz sent us all a picture of the marble sidewalk covered in leaves.  “Don’t forget your shoes,” she wrote. We didn’t want to dance on that surface in bare feet.

At three o’clock I began to get my costume on for the Flash Mob.  I put on some makeup and real Dahlia’s in my headscarf.  Jon helped me tie on my Coin bra and an hour later, we drove to Arlington Vermont.

We danced, in front of the town offices,  to a few songs to warm up then danced to Dil Gaya, like so many other women were doing around the world.  A couple of neighbors came to watch and lots of cars honked as they drove by.  Julz’s husband Marty took a video of us dancing to Dil Gaya and later posted it on Facebook.  You can see it here.

Jon took photos and videos too which I’ll be sharing with Julz, Kathleen and Emily.  I’m still not used to seeing myself in costume.  I look so different, yet when I see me, I think that I know I like the person I see.

It was only when I watched some of the other videos on facebook,  of women dancing to the same song, from places like Russia, Mexico, Germany, Ukraine, and The United Kingdom the feeling of being a part of something so big hit me.

ATS is a language that all of us understand.  There may be different dialects, but, we could go anywhere in the world and dance with any of the women I watched on facebook yesterday.   And, in a way, yesterday we did all dance together.

Jon took this video of one of the dances we did yesterday.

Shut Up And Dance

My new Bellydancing skirt

In a little while, I’ll be leaving for my Bellydancing class.

It’s a special class, called Dancing in the Flow or Shut-up and Dance where we just dance for forty-five minutes.  No teaching, no talking,  the only breaks are quick ones for water.

I love it.  The first one I ever participated in allowed me to dance without thinking and see how much I really did and didn’t know.

Today’s Dancing in the Flow is a bit of a dress rehearsal for this coming Saturday when The Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancer (with me included) will be a part of a Flash Dance Mob in Arlington Vermont.

American Tribal Bellydancing or ATS is a language all its own.  That means anyone who knows it can dance with anyone else who knows it, anywhere in the world.  And this Saturday all the ATS dancers all over the world will be dancing to one song.

The song we’ll be dancing to is a fast one.  The first time I tried dancing to it I couldn’t keep up.  So I thought I would just be in the chorus, doing one or two moves in the background while the other women in my class danced upfront.

But the more we practiced the more I was able to keep up with the others.

And then last week Julz, one of my teachers, said they decided it was more important for us all to dance together if we could.  So she would lead and keep it simple, not doing any complicated moves.  That’s one of the things I really love about the women I dance with, the tribal sisterhood that shows up in ways like this.

They care more that we dance together than about their own individual egos.

Okay, now I have to get ready for class.  I know I’ll be too tired to blog when I get home tonight, so have a good night and see you in the morning.

 

One, Two, Turn, Turn

“I can do it slowly, without music, when I’m alone in my studio”, I told my Bellydancing teacher Julz as she showed me for the millionth time how to move my feet for the Turkish Shimmy Half Turn.

“One, two, turn, turn,” I repeat over and over to my feet in a whisper, hoping they’ll hear.

There is so much more to this dancemove, but the feet have to become automatic, then I can work on the rest of it.   So I’m practicing, hoping that when I get to class and the music is playing and the dancer I’m following moves smoothly into a Turkish Shimmy Half Turn, my feet will remember.

When I get discouraged, I think of how I keep hearing how healthy it is for our brains to keep learning something new.  How learning to move my body in this way, a way I never moved it before or even imagined I could, is sparking nuerons in my brain, carving new pathways, keeping my brain guessing and engaged.

I’m actaully practicing three of the many things I’ll someday be doing when I get the Turkish, I’m practing moving my feet, keeping my posture and spotting (which is turning my head and looking at where I’m going before I get there,  to keep from getting dizzy.)

And throught it all, I’m givng my brain, as well as my body, a work-out.

Here’s a video of what the Turkish Shimmy with quarter and half turns looks like:

 

Meeting Myself

One of our new Mystery Snails.  She’s been hiding in the plants since we got her, but today she finally came out.

 

I don’t know what it is about Bellydancing, but every time dance I feel better. It happened again tonight and I’m just hoping I can hold onto this feeling.

Ever since I started accepting monthly donations on my blog I’ve been out of sorts.  Sometimes it’s worse than others.  My anxiety, which felt like it had been gradually dissipating over the years has come back full force.  And it’s not just that I’m anxious, it depletes my confidence and self-worth.

It feels equally emotional and physical which makes me wonder if it isn’t partially menopausal.  The last couple of days have been the worse as if my old insecure self has risen up, like a zombie out of its grave and taken me over.

I’ve been trying to understand it, to figure it out, by doing the things I’ve learned to do when I feel this way.  By talking about it, walking, doing my work, meditating and going inside myself and asking for help.

And I think I do understand what triggered this bout of anxiety.

It has to do with my beliefs that I shouldn’t really be able to succeed.  That success is for other people, not me.  And if I found myself doing well, I should take a step back and make room for someone else to succeed.

I learned as a girl, never to do better at anything, than boy.  And as I grew older, until I met Jon,  I found that my doing well was met by anger, ridicule, and dismissal from the men in my life.  I also had a mother and a good part of society reinforcing this belief.

So, this fear of doing well, of succeeding is a part of me on a very instinctual level.

Talking to Jon about it this morning, I feel like I came to understand it a little bit better.  And later as I meditated on it in my studio, I felt strength, through words, rising in me.

I am Maria Wulf, I said out loud, I am an artist, I am responsible for my life.

I repeated these words again and again.  As if introducing me to myself for the first time.

Because that’s what if felt like.

As if I hadn’t caught up with who I am now.  My old self and new self weren’t integrated. There wasn’t one Maria living inside my body and mind, but two.  And they were at odds with each other.

I drove to my bellydancing class hopefully, knowing how good I feel when I dance, repeating out loud, the words that came to me in meditation.

I’m at a threshold I thought to myself.  If I go back it’s like death, if I stay where I am now, it’s purgatory, a no man’s land, oscillating between darkness and hope. But if I cross the threshold I get to live my life more fully.  With all the joy and disappointment, courage and responsibility that it takes.  A life that frightens me so much I can’t even imagine it.

And now after an hour and forty-five minutes of dance class, I feel, for the first time in weeks, like myself again.  Like the person I’ve become in the last 10 years, not the person I used to be before that.

My mind and body are clear, free from anxiety.

I feel like I worked my way to becoming aware of the threshold I’ve been living under for the past few weeks and that tonight, dancing, I stepped through it, onto the other side.

“Do you think I can hold onto it.” I asked Jon as we ate dinner.  “This is who I really am, I feel like me again. Maybe I need to dance every day.  I’ll write myself a note that says,  Fucking Dance Maria!  to remind me.”

I know it’s not just one thing.

There isn’t an easy solution, no magical thinking, no silver bullet.  Anxiety knows where and how to find me, it probably always will.  But I’ve added Bellydancing to my list of things to do when I feel myself start to slip away.

Maybe dancing balances some chemicals in my body, or maybe it’s the class itself, the comradery,  feeling safe and welcome like I belong, even though dancing doesn’t come naturally to me.

I imagine it’s both and everything else that’s good and fulfilling in my life.

I’m going to go to bed now.  I’ll ask for a dream that will help me imagine what’s on the other side of the threshold.  I’m not looking for a rainbow and a pot of gold, but maybe some understanding and acceptance of who I’ve become, who I really am now.

 

Bellydancing Day

Me wearing the Bellydancing choker Melinda gave me

I woke up slowly, the morning sun softly lighting up the windows in the bedroom.  Jon is alway awake long before me, usually reading the news or a book.  “What time is it?” is ask, my eyes closed again.

It’s always somewhere between 6:40 and 7am, then I try to remember what day it is.  Today and every Thursday, Jon answers, kind of gleefully, “It’s Bellydancing day”.

Bellydancing has entered our lives like a new animal on the farm.  Not a puppy, more like an cat who  lives outside, but  has a presence strong enough to permeate the house.

Jon seems to enjoy how I’ve taken to Bellydancing almost as much as I enjoy doing it.  He’s an advocate and encourager.  Because he see’s what it does for me, how it boosts my confidence and belief in myself and my body.  I always feel better when I get home from class, no matter how I felt when I left.  And me being in a good mood, is better not only for me, but for Jon too.

Last week I took the choker that Melinda sent me (along with so many other beautiful pieces of Bellydancing jewelry) to Heather at the bead shop in town.  It was a little to big, so Heather put a smaller sterling silver chain on the back with a carnelian bead to match the stones on the front of the choker.

Now it fits perfectly and I love the way it feels and looks on my neck.

I wore it to class last week and Kathleen pointed out how when you wear a special piece of jewelry like that it actually helps you hold your head higher and keep your neck long.

And I know what she means.  Wearing the choker made me feel like I was worthy of it.  And that feeling affected my body posture. And because it’s heavy around my neck, it makes it’s presence known.

Melinda’s choker a demanding piece of jewelry that wants to be noticed and admired.

Until now I’ve been reluctant to own or wear too much bellydancing clothes or jewelry.  I have this feeling that I need to earn it.  I didn’t want to dress the part, without being able to actually do it.

But I’m also seeing how there are times when the costume can help with the dance.  Like how the sound and movement of the the coins, on the coin belt, tell me about my own movements, especially when I shimmying.  And like the feeling of the choker around my neck.

Melinda also gave me a silver snake armband that I haven’t had the guts to wear yet,  but I’ll get there.  I have a feeling that it will have its own power and I’ll learn something from it too.

 

 

Dancing Into My Own Skin

Callie, me and Kathleen, dancing  at the Bennington Farmers Market.

I’m sitting on the front porch, Flo is laying next to me on the wicker bench, there’s a breeze blowing the bamboo shades which are blocking the sun,  back and forth and the sound of cars going by on Route 22.

I’m thinking about how I feel about Bellydancing yesterday at the Farmers Market.  I want to write about it in a way that conveys the what I’m feeling, because I know it’s important,  but I’m still not sure exactly how I do feel about it.

So I sit here asking myself… How do you feel about Bellydancing Maria?

Then I remember how last night I felt like it was  “another me” who danced on stage.

It had to be “another me” because the person I’ve been my whole life would  never have done what I did yesterday.  That person could never even clap to the beat of song, could never move her feet or body the way I did yesterday.  She never let anyone see her belly, actually spent her whole life being ashamed of her stomach, which she was told,  was never flat enough.

And  for as long as I can remember, until I met Jon, I  was  made to feel, first by my parents then by my ex-husband, ashamed of my own femininity and the power of it.

But right now, I’m not feeling like there’s two versions of me, I feel like the genie has been let out of the bottle.  And she’s not going back in.

The words that come to mind are self possessed.

So I looked them up.   My dictionary says…calm, confident, and in control of one’s feelings; composed.  That’s sounds right. 

Bellydancing with Kathleen, Kat, Callie, and Trish yesterday  was like walking through a portal. Like stepping into the mirror and realizing that I had been living on the wrong side.

I think, yesterday, I danced myself into my own skin.

I was doing so many things for the first time, dancing in front of an audience, dancing with a group of women I admire,  showing my naked belly and wearing makeup.  But, not for a moment, was I uncomfortable with who I was and what I was doing.

This doesn’t mean I did everything right.  I didn’t.  I did plenty of things wrong.  But it’s not about right and wrong.  It’s about doing and learning.  Constantly.

Now I’m thinking of my mistakes with genuine curiosity, not judgment.  And that is another completely new experience for me.

I don’t know what it is about Bellydancing that has made this possible.

Maybe it has something to do with the movement releasing certain chemical in the body.  Maybe it’s the ancient ritual of the dance. I’m curious to understand it better, but I don’t need to know “why”.  I’m already a believer.

So I guess I do know how I feel after all.

 

 

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