Bellydancing At The Mansion

Me, Emily, Trish, Callie and Julz  The Bennington Beledi Bellydancers.  

Jon and I had to turn around and go back home.  I’d forgotten my earrings.

But a little while later,  as we walked up the stairs at The Mansion, Julz, my Bellydancing teacher,  opened the front door.

“I always show up early to case the joint before everyone else gets here, that’s DJ Julz’s job,” she told me later.

I wanted to get there early to make sure the space was set up for us to dance and to rally people in case the audience was spare.

But Janine, Sunday’s activity director, had pushed the couches and chairs to one side of the room and left a huge space for us to dance.  That polished wooden floor was the best stage I’d ever danced on.

And the couches were already filled up with an enthusiastic audience.

I was especially glad to see Jenn there.  After learning that she was in the Boston Ballet, I wanted her to see us.  She was supposed to go to church with her sister, but she told me she decided she wanted to see us dance instead.

More than once I looked at her smiling as we danced and it made me smile back.

I went up to each person and made sure they recognized me.  Many were from my art classes and weren’t used to seeing me wearing makeup or dressed as a Belly Dancer.

Emily, Trish, and Callie showed up soon after and we began the performance with “Gratitude”, the movements we begin each class and performance with.

We danced two songs (you can see us dancing here) after that, we took a break and Julz explained how our dance isn’t choreographed, but improvised with certain moves that we string together.  She explained how different people take the lead and we all follow.

We danced to two more songs after that.  Then Julz taught everyone in the audience how to do floreos with their hands and explained what a Zaghareet was (an expression of joy and support).  Later Peggy, who lives at The Mansion, asked how to do a Zarghareet and Julz demonstrated.

Jon was there taking videos.  You can see the video of us dancing, watch the audience doing floreos and hear Julz zaghareet here.

After the performance, Emily said she had never seen me so relaxed while dancing.  “It was like you were dancing in your own living room,”  she told me.

I wasn’t surprised at that, I feel so comfortable at The Mansion, and with the people there.  I could plop down on the couch in the great room or on one of the rockers on the porch and start a conversation with the person next to me as if I belonged there as much as they did.

It was only when I got home that I realized how much dancing at The Mansion with my sister Bellydancers meant to me.  I didn’t know how much I wanted these two important parts of my life to come together.

I wanted them to meet each other.  And I wanted the people who I have come to know so well who live at the Mansion to see this part of me.

As I let go of the family I grew up in, I’m finding my new family in people and places I hadn’t expected.  As if they were there all along.  It may not have the stability of family as we traditionally know it, it’s more like a rotating family.  But it works at the moment, and I’m beginning to trust, one way or another,  it always will.

After the show, Julz told Paryese, who set the whole thing up, that we’d love to come back in the dark days of winter and dance again.

This was the first time Jon had been back to The Mansion since his stay in the hospital.   When Julz found out she said it was a great way for him to come back.

She was right.

There was a sweetness to the morning that filled my heart and made me feel a little softer.   I can still conjure that feeling up.  It’s like when I have a really good dream that I want to hold on to, but I know the feeling will eventually fade.

But unlike a dream,  I do have the videos to watch whenever I want to.

Jon took two videos of us dancing today. I can’t post them on my blog, but you can see them on Jon’s YouTube.  Just click here and here. 

Bellydancing At The McCullough Library

That’s us, the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers at the McCullough Library before our performance.

Below is a link to a video of us dancing.  I can’t post it on my blog because of rights concerning the music but you can click on the link and see it.

It was too hot (in the 90’s) for Jon to come to watch and take pictures. We danced on the library lawn and there was no shade even for the audience.

But the Librarian had a cooler of cold water and we just sweat through it. As we danced we all, at least once, stumbled in a hole in the lawn. Even as we tried to avoid it.

But no one complained or thought about not dancing.  Afterwards my friend Kat (one of the original Bellydancers) said I was building a library of stories about different gigs. I’ll be saying “remember the hole in the lawn”.

I’ve performed four times in the six years I’ve been bellydancing and as Kat says I can remember something special about  each one.

After  dancing two 15minute sets Julz asked the audience to come dance with us.  Both women and men joined in as Julz led us through two slow songs.

Who knows,  maybe some of them will show up in our next class.

I was even more relaxed and confident yesterday than at our performance the week before. Driving to the Library I wasn’t even nervous. Which made me wonder if something was wrong. Or that I’d jinx myself for being too confident.

I definitely made mistakes. I started one move on the wrong beat and made a mess of it. But I smiled through the whole thing sorry mostly to have thrown off my dance partner.

I’m not sure when our next performance will be. But I feel like I learned so much from how to put on makeup to smiling to finding my confidence in the last few weeks.

Makes me think I’ll do better in class too. That my new found confidence will stay with me.

Walking to the Library to dance
Walking down Main Street to the Library

Come See The Bennington Beledi Bellydancers Dance Tonight At The Library In North Bennington Vermont

Kathleen, me and Emily

Tonight at 7:30 at the McCollough Library in North Bennington Vermont  (2 Main Street), my fellow Bellydancers and I will be performing.  We’re also going to demonstrate a Bellydancing Lesson which people can join into if they’d like.

I can’t believe how I have a bit of the jitters, but I’m nowhere near as nervous as I have been in the past.  I’m actually looking forward to it and think it going to be fun (now that I’ve learned how to smile).

Please come and join us if you live nearby.

The little town of North Bennington is where Shirley Jackson lived and wrote her wonderful short stories and novels. (I’m a big fan)  She frequented the Library we are dancing at, so there is a history of art and strong women in this place.  I like being a part of that.

Okay,  have to start getting ready soon.  You know putting on my makeup and all that.

But I edited the video from our last performance into a Short.  It’s just a few seconds, but has a lot of impact.  That’s Trish and Emily doing the dancing up front.

Have a look….


A Video Of The Bennington Beledi Bellydancers At The Pride BlockParty

It took me a while to figure out, but I was able to download and edit the video that Trish and Callie’s kids took of our performance at the Bennington Pride Parade last Sunday.

We’re dancing to Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple” and you can hear the audience start to clap halfway through the song as Trish, in her orange and yellow skirt and turban,  emerges like a goddess.

We found a space in the corner of The Unitarian Church,  that was the right size for our “stage”. We danced among the tables and chairs, books, and bulletin board.

I loved being able to participate in the Pride Parade and lend my support in this way.

Carol left this message on my blog which says it so well…..”As a lesbian, being seen and showing up for our community touches my heart. We all contribute to the love of life quilt and the interconnectedness of all beings.”

Trish and Callie’s kids holding the Bellydance banner at the Pride Parade.  It was lots of fun having them there and they did a great job making the video for us.   That’s Callie, Trish and Emily behind them.

We will be dancing again this Wednesday, July 5th at 7:30 pm at the McCullough Library in North Bennington Vermont.

Is This Really Me?

Reflection of me and Jon in the church window where I danced  on Sunday

Jon always said that when I’m Bellydancing, that’s who I really am.  I could never really agree with him, because for most of my life it would be the last thing in the world I would have done.

But I’m beginning to see it the way he does.  I’m starting to question who I really am as opposed to how I’ve thought of myself.

Can I really be so different than I thought?

If I look at my actions over the past fifteen years and not my idea of who I am, they are very different.

Bellydancing and specifically this last performance has revealed something about myself I didn’t know.   As nervous as it makes me, I actually like to perform.  (Although even as I write this I have my doubts about how true that is).

Is this a change in me, or something that was always there, something hidden?

I’ll have to think about it some more.  Or maybe I  just need to watch what I do and trust it.

Bellydancing Portraits, From Our Performance At The Pride Parade

Julz               All Photos By Jon Katz

When we got back from the Bellydancing performance at the Pride Parade, Jon and I sat down and looked through all the pictures he took of us dancing.  There must have been 150 of them. We went through them three times and edited them down to 35 photos.

I found when I downloaded them on my computer that there was at least one really nice portrait of each of us.

So here they are, thanks to Jon.










Bellydancing At The Pride Parade

Kathleen leading with Callie, and me. Trish and Julz in the chorus

I didn’t get pictures of the Pride Parade.  I was too busy walking in it and zilling along with the other women.  Callie and Trish’s kids held the Bennington Beledi Bellydancing Banner and the rest of us followed.

Julz, all attitude, while we waited in the shade for the parade to begin

We zilled to the beat of the music the band was making in the truck ahead of us. Behind us, there were people on rollerskates.  But I didn’t get to see the rest of the people in the parade.

Those watching waved rainbow flags and danced along with the music.  All kinds of people were there, and I felt good being able to show our support for the LGBTQ community by marching and dancing.

It didn’t rain as predicted, the sun shone on us all.

But they had already rescheduled the performances to be inside the Unitarian Universalist Church.  The stage area was too small for us to perform on so we chose a larger area to dance off to the side.

Emily leading with Callie, and Trish.  Julz, Kathleen and I are in the chorus behind them.

There weren’t a lot of people in the audience and Julz gave the talk about how it doesn’t matter how many people are watching.  Kathleen reminded us that we dance for ourselves.

A good audience is a bonus.

We started off in a circle doing Gratitude, a dance movement that is our way of giving thanks for being able to dance.  Then we danced for 17 minutes to five songs.  Callie and Trish danced while balancing swords on their heads to one song.  And we all danced to two slow songs and two fast ones.

Jon took a ton of pictures, all the ones on this post except for the one of Julz before the parade.  He missed the parade but had enough to do to find a place to park and get to the performance space.

Trish and Callie balancing swords

For me, it was the best time I ever had performing.

I practiced smiling in the car as I drove to the parade and smiled as I zilled all through that too.  “Remember,” Julz said to me before we began walking, say to yourself, “This is me.”

And I puffed up, my spine clicking into place, my shoulders sliding down my back, my chin square with my neck, my lips curling up at the ends.

Kathleen, me,Emily and Julz in the back.

I had fun.  I loved walking down the street in the hot sun and enjoyed taking the lead on the slow songs and ditching it on the fast songs.

(We change the lead constantly throughout each song. And again, the dance isn’t choreographed, we all just follow the leader and never know who will lead next.  We also danced in a chorus.  This means that three or four of us stand in a line, zilling doing a slow dance move in sync with each other while   two or three dancers dance in front of us.)

At one point I was following Callie and moving my hips in the wrong direction.  But I just kept at it till I could make an effortless correction.  I doubt anyone in the audience noticed.

Mostly, I played it safe leading with the easy moves I am most comfortable and familiar with.  But as I took the lead during the last slow song I got the timing just right on a move that worked perfectly with the music and heard the supportive yips from my fellow dancers behind me.

That always feels good.

Julz, Emily, me and Kathleen

It turned out that the audience was a great one.

They were right there with us the whole way.  And when they started clapping to the beat (Even Jon put down his camera to clap along) in the last song, we dancers in the chorus clapped our zills together with them.  It was completely spontaneous a direct connection between us all.

Jon said it was the best performance he ever saw us give.  He was so moved he felt like crying.

I’m not sure why it felt especially good today.  I think it was partly the atmosphere of the Pride Parade and the people who were there.  But we were all in sync too.  It’s the first time I have had the chance to perform with all the women in my class.  In the past, there were always one or two people who couldn’t make it because of work or other obligations.

Maybe that had something to do with it.  After all those years of learning and  practicing together, sticking it out through the pandemic it felt like a kind of rebirth.

Or a coming together, a celebration of years of dancing together.

Belly Dancing At The Pride Parade In Bennington Vermont On Sunday

From our last performance at The Bennington Museum.  Upfront and going left are Trish, Emily, Callie, Jula, and me.

A few nights ago I had a dream that I was in a room full of people.  I wanted to get their attention, but they weren’t listening to me.

So I banged on the floor with my foot, which make a sound like glass breaking.  Then I said, “Listen to me.  I have something important to say and you need to hear this.”

I work up before I could say anything more, but the people in the room did stop talking and paid attention to me.

I’m going to remember this dream when I perform with the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers at the Pride Parade in Bennington Vermont this Sunday.  If nothing else it will make me smile, which is half the battle for me, remembering to smile.

Although for some reason,  I have a feeling that I’m going to enjoy this performance more than any so far.  I feel like I’m finally really ready for it.

We will be marching Sunday in the parade which begins at 12 noon On Main Street in Downtown Bennington, Vermont.   And we will be performing on School Street at 1pm. 

If you live close by come see us!

Dancing With Swords On Their Heads

Trish and Callie dancing with Swords balanced on their heads.

When Trish and Callie asked me if I’d like to learn to Bellydance while balancing a sword on my head, I didn’t hesitate.

They seemed as genuinely happy to have a third person join them as I was to try it.  I’d already worked with balancing a basket and found it was great for my posture and for keeping my head from moving with the rest of my body.  Something I never thought too much about but is crucial when dancing.

Tying the turban was the first thing I learned.  There needs to be some padding between the head and the sword.  And although there is a notch for the sword to balance in, it in no way holds the sword stable.

It just gives a little support.

I have to admit I felt powerful dancing with a sword on my head and was extra careful, and moved very slowly.  A sword falling off my head is very different than a basket.

I loved practicing, but with our upcoming performances at The Bennington Pride Parade on June 25th (the parade starts at noon in downtown Bennington) and at the John G McCollough Free  Library in North Bennington, on Wednesday, July 5th at 7:30 pm, I’m busy enough getting to know the music we’ll be dancing to.

But Trish and Callie have been practicing dancing with their swords and will be performing together on both dates.

Kathleen is shaking the spiders out of the Bennington Beledi Bellydancing Banner (I’ve never seen it) that we’ll be carrying at the parade and the kids of some of the dancers will be joining us too.

I’m still not sure when and where we’ll be performing after we march, but I’ll let you know when I do.

I hope if anyone out there lives nearby, you’ll come to watch.  Both my teachers, Julz and Kathleen will be performing together.   It’s been years since they’ve been able to do that because of work schedules and the pandemic.  And Emily, dancer, baker, and artist, who makes all those wonderful Appreciation Cards for the Army of Good will of course be dancing too.

Okay, I have to go, I’m still practicing putting on my stage makeup and it’s almost time for me to leave for class.

Bellydancing Make-Up, Between Me and The World

Julz helping me with my makeup in class. 

Sometimes I’ll look at one of my sister belly dancers when we are dancing and I see an image from my Language of the Goddess book.  It’s a reproduction of a drawing on a piece of pottery of a woman with her arm circled over her head, her body holding a pose.

It’s easy to see the goddess in the women I dance with.  Bellydancing is one of the oldest dance forms so it’s no wonder that the people who perform it today are reaching back through time.

Two weeks ago Julz, my teacher and friend, showed me how to use an eyebrow pencil.  Something I’ve never done before. I’m learning how to use makeup for our upcoming performances.

Everyone is willing to help.   When the eyebrow pencil I bought made me look like Martin Scorsese, Trish brought me a lighter shade that she had at home.

Trish told me that when she got promoted a co-worker let her know that if she wanted the men in the office to take her seriously she had to wear makeup.  Ever since then, she thinks of her makeup as war paint. 

I get that.

She, like the other women in my class, talk about how they wear makeup for themselves, not for other people.   It does something for them. That’s the same reason I put on earrings in the morning and think about what I’m wearing, even though most days,  Jon is the only person to see me.

I do it because it makes me feel good.

So along with practicing dancing, each week before class I practice putting on my performance makeup.  And each week I get another helpful tip from the experts.

I never wore make-up. I wasn’t allowed to at the age most girls start wearing it.  After that, I lost interest.  Now I see it as another part of my costuming for Bellydanicng.

After getting over my initial anxiety about having stuff on my face I became curious about the artistry of it.  It’s kind of like wearing a bra (which I rarely do).  After a while, I get used to it and sometimes it gives me more confidence.  Like I have protection between me and the rest of the world.

Which makes me think about what Kathleen, who has been dancing for over 25 years, told me last week about performing.

I’m still uncomfortable leading the dance and will often rush through the moves.  I do the same thing when I tell a story.  I rush through it thinking no one really wants to hear what I have to say.

Kathleen said that when I’m dancing  I had to believe in myself the same way I believe in a piece of my art that I put out into the world.   What I want to be saying with my body is, ” I don’t care if you look at me or not, but I am worth looking at.”    I’m dancing because I want to and I’m good at it.

It’s that kind of attitude that I saw in the Bennington Beledi Bellydancers that made me want to learn to belly dance more than six years ago.

“Fake it until you make it,” Julz says.

I’ve always felt comfortable in the long skirts and jewelry, but it took me a while to adjust to showing my belly.  Now when I dress up in my belly dancing clothes, I feel strong and beautiful.  It is a shield in a way and I can imagine the makeup playing the same part.

It might be just what I need to put between me and the world, while I’m still faking it.

And I have a  feeling that eventually if I keep at it,  I will “make it“.  Because sometimes when I  see myself in the mirror during dance class, I think I look like that illustration of the dancing woman in my Goddess book too.


me and Julz last week when I came to class with my makeup on. Julz said I had “good eyebrows” and might not need to use an eyebrow pencil at all.
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