Trust Your Body

By Emily Goldhttps://www.papercakescissors.com/product-page/unique-collage-cards-1

I feel the muscles slide down my back.  My shoulders follow opening up and dropping down.  At the same time, my chest rises as if pulled up by an invisible cord and my whole torso lifts out of my waist.

It’s as if my body is separated into two halves.  Above the waist and below, working together yet independent of each other.

I am taller, inside and out.

It’s an amazing thing to learn how to stand straight, strong, and comfortably after not knowing how for 57 years.  My back and neck hurt less and my legs feel stronger as if they have a lighter load to carry.

It’s as if my body was just waiting for me to discover those back muscles and how they can work in conjunction with the rest of me.

This discovery happened after my Bellydancing class two weeks ago.  I walked into the kitchen after our Zoom class and my body just fell into place more like it was remembering something than learning something new.

And Emily’s words came back to me…Trust your body she said to me during one of our classes last month.

It reminded me of when I was struggling with my writing years back and Jon said I should trust my writing the same way I trust myself to make my art.

It didn’t happen immediately, but soon after Emily said that, I was practicing the Torso Twist, a move I was having a hard time doing.

Instead of trying to do the move correctly, I sunk into it. Instead of breaking the move down and trying to control each part of it, I allowed it to happen.

I trusted my body would know what to do.

And it did.

After that, it happened again and again. As I thought less and tried to do less, my body took over and as if it were just waiting for me to trust that it knew what to do.

This wouldn’t have happened in the beginning when I first started dancing, because I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.  But now, after almost four years of Bellydancing, it seems my body knows what to do as much and in some cases more than my brain does.

I feel like I’m learning to trust myself one part at a time.

Maybe someday it will all come together the same way that learning how to stand makes it easier for me to be in my body.  Maybe I’ll find an ease with being me

 

Julz’s New Blog, Her Passion For Cooking, Writing and Life

Julz during a Bellydancing performance.  Her new blog is Julzie Style

I can remember the feeling of having a creative urge, to write or make something and not knowing what to do with it.   I never wanted to read anything I had written after it was finished, and I never like the idea of my art taking up space in the attic.

Having a blog has made all the difference when it comes to my creativity.  I finally have a place to put it all.  And even if no one bought what I made,  I’d still have this way of putting it out into the world.

And that’s important to me.

So when I see my friend and Bellydancing teacher Julz, writing every day, sometimes twice a day on her new blog Julzie Style I wonder how she kept it all in her for so long.

Julz’s blog is a creative explosion.

Although she’s been writing about cooking and  The Vermont Spatzle Company, the business she started with her husband Marty, on facebook for years, her blog is about more than just cooking.

Julz is a natural teacher so her writing about cooking is full of information and her very own recipes that she wants to share.

In her recent post “ A Kitchen Orchestra” she writes about how to plan a meal so everything comes at the same time, comparing the cook to a conductor.  She wrote a whole post on Compound Butter and another on Mother Sauces.

Both phrases I never even heard of before.

But you also get to know the person Julz is from her blog. You’ll meet her family, her dogs and get to see what goes on when she’s not cooking too.

When Julz texted me that she was starting a blog, I was excited for her.  Jon offered help with the writing and blogging part and they were soon on the phone.

Jon scares a lot of people away” I texted her, “but I think that’s because they don’t really want to learn.  They like the idea of writing but not actually doing it”. 

Julz wants to learn and has no trouble writing.  She’s a natural and has a lot to say.

Her voice is unambiguous, direct, and authentic. And her blog is imbued with her passion and unique way of doing and seeing things. Even in the short time it’s been live, Julz’s blog just keeps getting better.

You can click here to read Julzie Style.

 

Bellydancing and Belonging: Acceptance, Inclusion and Authenticity

On Tuesday, I facetime danced with Julz, who temporarily left class when the Pandemic surged again in October.  Not only was it great to dance with her again but, always the teacher, she helped me further fine-tune a move that I’ve been working on.

“Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can [be] their authentic self.” Cornell University

The music, distorted and too loud, filled my studio.   Aicha, by Khaled was the first song that stood out for me when I began Bellydancing three and half years ago.  And now, alone in my studio, I was dancing to it with Kathleen, Emily and Kat in our Zoom Bellydancing class.

But in my mind I was back in the Senior Center where the class was first held.  Transported back in time by the music, my eyes welled with tears.

How is it that these women, who hardly knew me at the time, made me feel more known and accepted than the family I grew up in.    For some reason, I was able to trust them not to ridicule me when I couldn’t even step to the beat.  I still wonder what gave me the courage to open myself up to them.   In those first days, if they hadn’t been so patient and kind, I would have left and never come back.

But they didn’t give up on me, and still haven’t.

Yesterday, after losing myself in a Zoom chat with my 91-year-old mother, I found myself again as I danced that night with my Tribal Sisters.

I know now that any contact with my mother is a trigger and that will not change. She, like the other members of my family, spiral me back to a time when I was voiceless and unknown.  After our conversations, no matter how benign they may be, I sink into a place of self-loathing and confusion.  My confidence and ability to make decisions are buried along with my sense of self.

The contrast between the two Zoom meetings yesterday was striking.

I felt bad and guilty admitting this to myself, and feel bad as I write it now.   But it’s the truth.  And the truth, the facts, are the thing that pulls me back to reality.  Saying them out loud, without judgment,  reminds me of how I was able to become who I truly am since distancing myself from family.

For some reason, I always trusted the women Bellydance with.

From the beginning, I laid myself bare, allowing myself to honestly show my inabilities and my vulnerabilities.   Including literally exposing my belly for the first time since I was a seven-year-old in a bikini.

Last night as one of my teachers, Kathleen, was explaining The Ghawazee, a move I’m having trouble with, she talked about how every dancer has to find her center.  It’s like a carousel horse’s pole, that grounds you and lifts you at the same time.  “When you know your center”, she said, “you can shift your weight in any direction around it and never lose your balance.” 

A memory of being in art school when I was in my early twenties flashed in my mind.  I was trying to paint the sunlight on the wall of my kitchen and the words, “The center is missing” popped into my head”.  

For the second time that night, I felt my eye brimming with tears.

What Kathleen was telling me reached beyond my physical body and into my emotional and psychological self. Could I weather the outside forces that rocked me, as long as my center was intact?

Dancing brings me back to myself.  But I’m beginning to think it has as much to do with the women that I dance with. They’ve created an environment of trust where dancing together is a priority that we are all committed to.

I’m not sure, but I think it’s that commitment that holds us together. That makes us want to be kind and helpful to each other. It keeps us on our best behavior and helps us be tolerant of one another.

My whole life I’d been searching for a sense of belonging.  I found it in another person when I met Jon and then in my art when I began making quilts.  I feel it when I walk in the woods.

And now I know it with the women I Bellydance with.

Bellydancing Tonight

A card that Antionette sent me.

For the three years that I’ve been taking Bellydancing lessons, it’s been on Thursday night.  Last week the Bennington Beledi Tribal Bellydancing class met at the farm.  This week, and for the next few weeks, we have a new place to dance in Bennington just a few minutes away from where we used to hold class.

Tonight, Wednesday, instead of Thursday is our first class in the new space.  The room is in an old warehouse.  There are high ceilings and the floor is taped off into eight-foot sections six feet apart from each other.  We’ll all have our own “box” to dance in.

Two of us will stay after class to disinfect the space afterward as it was disinfected before we got there.

Oh, and it’s airconditioned too.  I can’t wait!

 

Gratitude, Bellydancing At The Farm

Lulu and Fanny

I turned my head towards my outstretched arm and there was Lulu peeking around the side of the pole barn.  If any animals on the farm would get Bellydancing it would be the donkeys.

Julz, Kathleen, Emily, Kat, Trish, Callie, and I stood in a circle between the house and the barn.  It’s called “The Gratitude“.  It’s a series of motions each with its own meaning that we do at some point during every Bellydancing practice or performance.

We are giving thanks for the people we dance with, our dancing ancestors, the music and the space we are dancing in.

There is superstition around The Gratitude.  Kathleen and Julz both have stories of serious mistakes made during dance performances where they forgot to do it.

Just before the women from my Bellydancing class started to show up at the farm to dance together for the first time since March, the sky got dark, the wind came from the north in howling gusts, thunder rumbled and soon the rain started.

It seemed fitting.  I thought we were worthy of such a force of nature welcoming us back.

The storm passed quickly and cooled things off for a while.  But soon the sun was out again and we moved around the yard trying to find the evenest ground with the most shade.

But no one complained about the slippery grass, uneven ground, or the scorching sun.  These women are professionals. And it felt too good to be dancing together.

Next week and for the weeks after that, we’ll be back in Bennington on Wednesday nights instead of Thursday.  Julz and Kathleen found a new space for us to dance in.  It’s in an old warehouse, with mirrored walls, high ceiling and airconditioning.

It sounds luxurious compared to dancing outside on the grass.

But this evening, as I swept my arm around gesturing thanks to the space around me and I saw Lulu looking at me, I had the feeling she knew, not necessarily how grateful I was to be dancing on the farm, but that something meaningful was happening.

And she was so right.

Bellydancing Muscle-Woman

 

The thread drawing I made of Julz for the potholder.

I forgot to turn on my heat so it was cold in my studio when I got there this morning.  On top of the cold my body was humming with an uncomfortable buzz.

I thought of the Tribal Workout video that my Bellydancing teacher Julz made for the class last Thursday.  I didn’t get to it then, but today it would be just the thing to warm me up and dull the buzz.

In the first video Julz made for us, she was uncomfortable talking to the camera.  But in the few weeks she’s been making the dance videos she’s become a natural.  She talks to us as if we’re all in the same room together and I find myself talking back (or when things get too difficult yelling back).

She’s made us videos giving lessons on specific dance moves and practicing Zilling (those small cymbals we play on our fingers while dancing) along with dancing and workouts.

This afternoon I was transported back to puberty as I followed Julz dancing to “Freak Out” and “Stayin Alive“.  There’s always a new playlist with Julz and when she goes back to the “oldies” it always makes me laugh.

As one song wound down, and before the next one began, Julz lifted her arms in a muscle-woman pose and gave us that  “Look at me!  I am wonderful ” stare. It’s that attitude that made me want to learn to Bellydance the first time I saw it.

There have been so many days in these past weeks when it feels like Bellydancing has helped keep me sane.  It’s like when I don’t do yoga for a few days and my body aches to move and stretch in certain ways.  Now it’s the same with Bellydancing. It moves my body in ways it now craves.

I don’t know what happens, but when I Bellydance it not only makes my body feel good but it helps me emotionally. I feel settled and grounded after dancing.  I don’t know, but I’m convinced it has something to do with the way the dance moves my body.

For the past few days I’ve been trying to think of the perfect potholder I could make for Julz as a thank you gift for all the videos.  Then she did that muscle-woman pose at the end of the dance and I knew what I wanted to do.

I froze the frame of the video and took a photo of it with my iPhone.  Then I drew it and stitched it.

Tomorrow I’ll make it into a potholder and get it in the mail to Julz.

 

“Nothing Is Going To Stop Me From Dancing Tonight”

The coin sash that Eve brought me back from Sinai, Egypt.

I tied the coin sash around my hips and did a little shimmy to try it out.   It made a soft swishy sound, unlike any of the other’s I have.

Last Sunday our friend Eve Marko came to visit and she brought me the coin sash which she got in Sinai, Egypt on a recent trip there.  I was surprised not only that she brought me a gift, but also that it was the perfect gift.

This evening, I tied the coin sash around my hips again, took off my socks and put on my Zills.  I clicked on the video in the facebook message on my computer screen then hit the “play” arrow.

There was Julz, my Bellydancing teacher, in a choli, skirt, and coin sash,  ” Nothing,” she said, “is going to stop me from dancing tonight.”

The music began and Julz started dancing, and I was in my studio dancing with her.

A few days ago Julz sent out a video to everyone in our Bellydancing class of her doing a tribal workout.  That’s the 30 minute dance workout that she leads before every class.  Every week Julz comes up with a new playlist and improvises a workout that combines bellydancing and strengthening exercises.

Before our classes were canceled I’d been practicing dancing and Zilling in my studio.  This was the second week without class and I realized that practicing is fine, but without someone else to dance with I was beginning to get bored.

I found myself doing the same moves over and over again, which is fine for practice, but not very creative or stimulating when dancing.   I also keep doing the moves that I would usually do to get out of the lead, but there’s no one else to take over.  No one for me to follow.

I’ve always been more comfortable dancing alone in my studio than I have been in class, but I don’t think I’m interested in comfort anymore. I’m craving the interaction that goes on between me and the other women in my class when learning and dancing.

That’s why the videos that Julz made for us means so much to me.  Seeing her dedication and determination is heartening.  And I know that the other women in my class are dancing in their own homes to the same video.

And then when I tied on the coin sash that Eve gave me, it’s like she’s a part of the dance too.

So even though I’m the only one in my studio, I’m not dancing alone anymore.

 

 

Dancing In My Coin Belt

Julz, was good enough to take this video of me dancing in class last night so I could see what my coin belt looked like in action.

I know it was good and loud, I could hear it which is helpful when I’m dancing so I know if I’m really shimmying or not.  (sometimes I forget to shimmy when I’m focusing on another part of a move that has a shimmy in it too).

That’s Emily and Callie I’m dancing with.  We’re practicing to Rashid Taha’s song Kelma. 

It’s good to see myself in the video because I can see I move my head around too much instead of looking up and keeping my head straight. I could also be more lifted in my chest.

But I can also see myself Zilling, which is kind of exciting.  Even though don’t feel exactly comfortable doing it, in this short video, I don’t think that comes across.

It was Carolyn Smith who gave me the piece of fabric that inspired me to make this coin belt.

She said she got it in Myanmar.  Carolyn wrote about her trip to Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1980’s on her blog Cats In Cambridge.  Click here to read it, she has some wonderful photos as well.

Making A Bellydancing Coin Belt

My Bellydancing coin belt turned out different than I first expected.

The Bellydancing jewelry that Melinda gave me was too heavy to attach to the thin scarf that I was using,  so I put it aside for the next coin belt that I make.  I had some jewelry that came off of my coin bra, so I used that instead.  Along with felted balls, buttons, beads, shells and earrings.

I may still add more to it.  I’ll try it out tonight in Bellydancing class and hope it holds up.

My coin belt
Full Moon Fiber Art