Friday, January 13, 2012

Confessions of a Mature Belly Dancer

My dance story begins at the tender age of four. My mother enrolled me in a class, and like millions of girls before and after me, I spent an hour a week pirouetting and spinning. There was a recital at the end of the year. This was my first and last public appearance as a dancer for decades.

You can imagine what a line of a dozen four and five-year-old girls in leotards and tutus look like, attempting to dance together. It is wonderful watching your star perform, but some recitals go on…and on…and on. The doors of the auditorium are padlocked or at least protected by stern-looking adults should you wish to leave following your favorite star’s performance.  My mother does not tire of telling people about my first show. (I do not remember anything about the dance classes or the show.) She laughed so hard she peed in her pants. Need I say more?

Dance lessons were put on hold for another couple of decades, when I decided to take an exercise class at a local recreational center. I needed some form of exercise, and I was not enthusiastic about the jumping and hopping that constituted aerobics. A new class was starting at the center and it sounded fun - belly dancing. It did not disappoint. We danced around the gym, swaying and shimmying – what a great way to spend some time and exercise!

Life eventually got in the way. Children, work, family, the teacher got divorced and moved away – for all these reasons and probably more that I do not remember, belly dancing lost out.

Fast-forward another three decades. A friend of mine was taking belly dancing and urged me to join. As my body aged and the moans, groans and morning stiffness set in, I knew something had to be done.

I renewed my love of belly dancing. I moved my hips, shoulders, chest, learned to shimmy again and isolate the various hidden sections of my body. My waist, along with other parts, was now well hidden and the extra pounds did not make dancing easier.

When my husband and I relocated a priority was finding a belly dance class. I was happy to find a recreational center with a lot of exercise classes – zumba, jazzercise, Pilates, yoga and more. But the center did not offer belly dancing. I finally found a class in a nearby town.

The experience began as another fun exercise class. It has morphed into a small group of occasional performers. I am not quite sure how it happened. We performed at the end of the year in the school’s recital – the only adult class in the show. I did not know anyone in town, so I had no qualms about dancing. I could have fun, make a fool of myself and nobody (who knew me) would know.

Then a couple of ‘gigs’ came along. My instructor was asked to dance along with her students at an assisted living center. It was fun and not stressful; the old folks enjoyed the entertainment. I knew no one. I don’t think they cared that I did not have the tall, slim, sexy, young, smooth, taut body of a ‘real’ dancer.

My body is short, round, soft (OK, maybe flabby is the right word, but give me a break…), beginning to wrinkle, with a mature figure more adaptable to being a grandmother of four than a dancer of any kind.

Belly dancing costumes are revealing. Middle Eastern belly dancers, depending on their country of origin, may or may not reveal their midsection and more. I do not have a lot of body between my boobs and my butt; the idyllic long, lean look of dancers is far from my short, wide, truncated appearance.

I do the best I can to cover and dance. That is why I love veil work – the veil can be draped over the body to cover a multitude of sins (brownies, ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, Starbucks Frappuccino, etc.).

Three class members are in their thirties. They can show their midsection with pride. The instructor is my age, but she is petite, tiny and cute. That is also an acceptable dance figure – long, slim and lean - or - short, tiny and cute. 

I suggested we start a senior dance class. I think my instructor believes I was joking. I am not quite sure how long I can continue dancing with the youngsters (relatively speaking) as they move on and take this more seriously than I. I just want to dance and have a good time. 


  1. When I was a young child, my mother enrolled me in tap and ballet classes. In the end, I don't remember if one day, she just didn't take me to class and that was that, or if the instructor told her it was hopeless. But I didn't question, and I never looked back. I did love the dances of the sixties, though I still wasn't good at them. It didn't seem to matter as much, then.

  2. I took a belly dancing class once, but it wasn't the same experience that you had. I did get awfully sore, trying to make the moves, but I gave up. Aerobics and step classes do it for me and fortunately I have some at the Y. Have you actually tried the zumba class? It might fill some of the need you have to dance... :-)

  3. I've heard it is good exercise. Can't see myself doing it, but I think it's a hoot that you get to perform for actual audiences.

  4. MerCyn -- This post screams for a youtube clip!

  5. I am a Zumba fan and love the classes. As for the You Tube clip - maybe if taken at a far distance!

  6. Never tried belly dancing -- I'm excessively modest. However, I've been thinking about taking up line dancing!

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