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Belly Dance Dropout

by Roberta McReynolds

It’s a mystery where my interest in belly dancing originated. It doesn’t appear to have links to my ancestry, so I can’t claim exotic blood runs through my veins with any authority.

My fascination reached the point of curiosity winning over dignity. The call of the desert wind blew all sensibility out of my head. This didn’t happen overnight; it was much more insidious.

When browsing through my favorite fabric store, I often found myself drawn to flowing material and trims with dangling beads. I could picture it coming together in a fabulous costume worthy of an epic Biblical movie. I struggled to resist the impulse, because what good is the outfit without the proficiency to do it justice?

I happened to be shopping at a bookstore in search of a DVD on yoga to go with the exercise mat I found on sale. Both would store nicely in the darling, light green satchel with the white embroidered flowers on the sides I bought to specifically to match the mat (along with two coordinated foam blocks and a stretchy exercise band). I would tell you more about that well-intentioned notion, but there really is nothing additional to say, if you get my drift.

I passed on purchasing the yoga DVD when the set of three yoga VHS tapes at home, still in cellophane, came to mind. Naturally I picked up two DVD’s on belly dancing instead. This now gave me a valid reason to revisit the fabric store. (If you happen to be a married man, hopefully you’ve grown wise enough not to argue the logic in this.)

I was practical enough to search for a pattern before loading the trunk of the car with bolts of extra yardage. Having no knowledge of the accurate measure of fabric has caused me headaches with prior projects. Either I end up spending money on more than I needed, or buying too little and making a frantic trip back, hoping no one else had taken the last of my material.

The pattern I selected was in the Halloween costume collection. The only copy in stock contained three consecutive sizes: none of them mine. It shouldn’t surprise you that I bought it anyway. It was on sale.

I spent a few days familiarizing myself with the cutting and sewing instructions before the next shopping spree. I justified this phase by restraining myself until the monthly ‘40% off’ coupon arrived in the mailbox.

Trying to narrow down a color scheme, based on the fluidity the skirt required, took me hours. I changed my mind over and over. I could be seen unfolding a few feet of promising material so I could sashay about in the aisles, trying to envision the completed skirt. I fondled so much fabric that I’m certain that the individual monitoring security cameras was becoming concerned. Perhaps employees on break were buying tickets to watch the crazy woman with the fabric fetish. Thankfully, nothing has appeared on YouTube, as far as I know.

I proudly displayed my final two selections to my husband, explaining which would be the overskirt and underskirt. He looked at my armload blankly. This is a stare I have seen frequently. I haven’t figured out if it is due to speaking a language totally foreign to his ears, or if he is masking emotions I’m better off not knowing about.

Two weeks later (okay, maybe it was a month and a half) having yet to remove the cover off my sewing machine, I came across an item in the newspaper. Belly dance classes were going to be held at the Senior Center! The clothing items required to participate were a tank top and a long, loose-fitting broomstick style skirt. Neither one hid in the depths of my closet.

I combed several retail stores without success. Tank tops were unseasonable and those skirts seemed to have gone out of fashion. I could have gone to the fabric store and made my own, but even I had to admit that wasn’t going to happen in time. A search through a second-hand store yielded two skirts and one top. I was ready to go.

The evening of the first class I was beginning to wonder what had possessed me to pay $35.00 for the opportunity to humiliate myself in front of a roomful of younger, lean, athletic beauties. As the day worn on, that list of attributes grew longer. My own body image exaggerated into a sad caricature. The dancing hippos from Fantasia swept through my mind.

Somehow I managed to muster enough courage to go to class and face the music, so to speak. Two college-age students had arrived before me, causing me to sigh with deep relief. The sudden knowledge that at least my belly wouldn’t be the largest in class settled my nervousness.

More women straggled in and once everyone was accounted for, we formed quite a diverse group of would-be belly dancers. Ages spanned nearly four decades and with that, every body type imaginable was represented. I fell somewhere in the middle range, but best of all I began to fit mentally. I was impressed and admired these women for trying something so bold.

Our instructor was nothing like I expected. I would estimate she was in her late 40’s. She was anything but stereotypical, dressed in a flamboyant array of red over an apple-shaped body. If she could do the moves, so could I.

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©2007 Roberta McReynolds for SeniorWomenWeb
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