Tuesday, 10 May 2022 01:12

Dance Lesson

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The sway of the instructor’s hips mesmerized me. Jingling like bells, the tassels of her dress sashayed in rhythm with her hips as she twisted and turned. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her flawless figure, her precise foot fall, the way her shoulders sliced through the air as she maneuvered across the dance floor. At that moment, I fell in love with belly dancing.

     At thirty-six years old, my belly roiled with nerves about taking my first formal dance classes. I had enjoyed dancing since I first watched Britney Spears and the boy bands in middle school. When I moved to music—even if I were alone in front of my dresser mirror--a feeling of longing washed over me. When I dance to music, confidence eclipses my fears, and I move into a natural rhythm even though I have no formal training. 

     When my husband of nine years told me he was leaving me for another woman, the music stopped. For months, my eyes marinated in salty tears and stung when I woke up every morning. My face was a blotchy and bloated pufferfish.

     I didn’t know who I was without him. I woke up in the middle of the night reaching for him only to find a hollow space. I concluded that I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough, and I blamed myself for not trying hard enough to fix our marriage. 

     Friends, family, and my counselor told me the same thing: the end of your marriage was not all your fault. You are loved. You are worthy of love. 

     I began journaling about my childhood memories and the death of my mother and simultaneously examined the death of my marriage. I realized that fear of abandonment and loss came naturally to me from an early age, and probably always would haunt me; however, I did not kill my mother or my marriage. 

     I thought back to before we married. I had wished he would have taken lessons with me to prepare for our wedding dance. Instead, I went alone to a free studio lesson in salsa. I couldn’t keep up with the instructor and stepped on his toes many times. Yet it thrilled me to feel that music in my body. Before we were married, I had loved to dance, during our marriage, I had loved to dance. After my divorce, I still loved to dance, I just needed to find it again.

    I found a nearby studio that offered Aerial Arts and dance classes. At my first class of aerial silks, the instructor had us pull ourselves up using only the silks as leverage. We were suspended upside down in the air by our forearms wrapped in silks. Weeks passed and soon I was strong enough to shimmy up the strips of silk like a monkey in a tree, wrapping myself in them, and inverting to look at the world from a different angle. My perception, along with my sense of direction, was distorted and I wasn’t sure which way to go. My life, too, was upside down. 

     “Okay now drop!” My instructor encouraged me.

     “You gotta be kidding me.” From upside down, her snarky grin looked even more impish. 

     “I promise, it will be okay. You will not land on your face,” she insisted. 

     Looking down at the blue mat, I shut my eyes and held my breath. Then, I released my bound leg.

     “Eeek!” I let out a squeal as I felt myself plummet towards the ground. The silks loosened around me briefly, but instantaneously I felt them grab me out of the air. When I opened my eyes, the floor was within arm’s length. I hadn’t died. I had fallen but I hadn’t died. 

     I learned to trust the silks to catch me. I let go of the negative thoughts swarming in my mind; instead Self-love. Self-care. Self-worth. These words became my mantra.  

     When the studio began offering belly dance classes, I signed up for my first lesson. The instructor drilled us with shoulder rolls, belly rolls, shimmies, and body rolls. All movements were to the count of eight.  

     “One.” Ball of shoulder raises. “Two.” Ball of the shoulder rolls forward. “Three.” Ball of the shoulder comes down. “Four.” Chest expands as though pumped full of air. “Five.” Other shoulder raises. “Six.” Shoulder rolls forward. “Seven.” Shoulder comes down. “Eight.” Chest puffs. ONe. Self-love. Two. Self-care. Three. Self-worth. 

     I felt my confidence rise within me as I watched my body snake and writhe in the studio mirror. I had found my rhythm again.  

     I looked around to see that the other women in my class exuded confidence. They didn’t hesitate to take off their shirts and reveal their bellies. 

     I find new strength and power within myself when I’m grinding my hips to music, twisting my body around silks, or when I’m in the presence of other women of all shapes and sizes. Yet, the new activities are not the source of my power. I realize the core of my healing is not what is happening to me or around me, but what is happening inside. I only had to trust myself to catch me. 

     Find what brings you confidence and joy that is separate from the person or persons you once knew. Find something that makes you happy and fills your cup to overflowing. For me, that was the new activities and surrounding myself with strong women. Seek your own and take a risk. Step out of your comfort zone so you can grow and heal. It’s the best way I know how.

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