Teela Gets Her Groove Back, Part II

Today I taught the second class of the fall schedule. It was with two women, one new, one returning. I laid down the law: no tee shirts and sweat pants. They were to come to my class in appropriate attire, meaning long skirts, and BRAS~!.

You can’t do breast lifts without a bra. That would be lifting 10 lbs of lard (or less) by sheer will. A bra makes it so much easier because it corrals those girls and squeezes, getting their attention. Or something like that.

They did pretty well today. They came with at least a part of them looking like bellydancers. But what was good was an attitude shift in both of them. The returning student, we’ll call her Sala, picked up where we left off 5 months ago, but this time she really wanted to learn. Before she didn’t move much and I didn’t know how to reach her. You take belly dance lessons? You HAVE to move many parts of you. Otherwise, you are wasting your money and my time.

Who knows what happened, but she really will bloom now. Summer is over, she has a lovely tan, and her body is nice in anycase….with shapely arms. She is lovely to look at. And she wants to learn.

It’s nice when students have a natural beauty and they are discovering the ways to promote that beauty through movement.

Mala is a different case….she hasn’t had much dance, if any, and she doesn’t quite know what to do with her body. But what was interesting and touching to me….is how fast from the first lesson she learned something. I asked her if she had been practicing at home in the previous week, and she said no. But even though she hadn’t, there was progress in her present movements. She was much more confident and from that confidence, moved better. Plus, she had the most interesting tattoo of a lizard circling her belly button. I request my students get over their fear and loathing of their bellies and by pulling down their skirts,  expose that visual center of our particular dance. In doing just this simple thing, Mala started to look like a belly dancer.  I was amazed at the simple transformation. She was beautiful and will be a strong, commanding dancer.

Teaching these women is teaching me something about myself I didn’t expect. I am more patient, or at least more patient than I thought I would be. Perhaps having only two students in the room at a time allows me the possibilities of focusing on their movements in a more concentrated way.

And I didn’t realize how much I would care: care about how they did the movements, what they looked like, if they were pushing themselves to pain or discomfort. I also tried to gauge where they were mentally. You have to look behind the bold smiles to see if they ‘got it’….or were frustrated, or were in pain. Both have physical issues with shoulders and backs.  So you attend to these issues. Pain is the first thing that will drive a dancer away. Lack of encouragement is also up there. Every little step to invention and creativity should be applauded with sincerity. It’s damn hard to do these things, though I hold they are very natural for all women. It’s just that we don’t think they are.

I think we accept ‘messages’ about our bodies and our abilities that are restrictive and just plan wrong.

I’ve been thinking of my own journey as a dancer lately. I was thinking seriously of giving it up, but like a good friend in Ohio said: “You will never give it up, because it’s in your blood.”

It’s probably in my DNA. My mother was a ballet teacher for many, many years, and at 89 is still a teacher at times. It’s something that doesn’t leave you, because you have trained your body in ways of movement and presentation that just won’t quit. At almost 90, my mother strides into a room and every one notices her. She has a commanding presence and is usually wearing high black boots and a mini skirt. And she can pull it off, because she doesn’t move like an elderly woman. Her body is still awesome at her advanced age.

I was trained in ballet for a couple of years when I was very young, and with my mother, it was inevitable. But I developed boobs and that wasn’t good for a ballerina. Plus, I was more interested in horses, and one ballerina in the family was enough.

I did folk dancing and was a fencer for about 10 years, but that is a young man’s sport and I definitely wasn’t a young man.

A bit more than 5 years ago, something attracted me to belly dance. I plunged in with multiple classes weekly, and fell in love with flamenco. I was also very lucky to find a teacher, Aya Arsan, a Turkish woman who became my first and most influential teacher. I learned classical Turkish/Egyptian style from her, and because I was ½ Hungarian, she was starting to train me in Rom dance. (Behind every Hungarian stands a Turk!) Other local and regionally well known teachers followed: Shadia, Jenna, Samora, etc, and then last January up in cold Montreal, Audra Simmons.

I have written before about Audra. She was a gas. I learned more from her in one 4 hour intensive class than I had learned over the course of the previous year. I don’t know how to equate that, but Audra is one fantastic teacher and dancer. Inspirational.

Something clicked there for me, and I also learned more about arms than I had before. Something that was very missing from my training over the previous years. Watching Audra do an ‘arm dance’ to Sigur Ros (an Icelandic group)…the piece was “Ara batur” and was a transforming moment for me.

I came home with that piece of music in my head and the vision of Audra dancing to this in place. I started to use it in my classes with the few students I had over the winter/spring…..and today I tried to demonstrate it but the video wouldn’t come up. Damn. Next week, because I know what it will do for my students.

We all worked hard today, and I think we are all sore. I also now know that there may be only two students in the room with me, but there are three students to attend to. I have to be so damn careful what I demonstrate and I am pushed to do it properly because my students are bent on imitating  right now. Soon, they will come into their own, and I will just be positioning them, correcting and pushing the speed of what steps we are doing.  Adding layering.

Oh, layering!  They already have picked up that word and use it against me.  And they are right.  The issue of layering is too soon, but I am anxious to see them using more zones of their bodies. That will come in time.  I forget how I learned 5 years ago.

I outfitted them with veils and coin scarves because they are bellydancers now, and they are mine. Once they pass that portal of the first lesson, either they catch on fire, or they run away. These two are sticking it out so far, and it ain’t easy in the beginning. There are so many things to face: our bodies, our fear of failure, our energy levels, etc. But if we stick it out….we will start flying.

Belly dancing is one of the most transforming and energizing things a woman can do for herself. And many times the energy you gain here is not understood by others who aren’t dancers. You are opening channels in the mind and body that you never thought were there. They are, just waiting at any age, for you to plunge in and start to explore what can be done.

For now, all our missteps are just seeds for the future.


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7 Responses to “Teela Gets Her Groove Back, Part II”

  1. Berowne Says:

    Interesting! Do you find any similarities between flamenco and belly dancing? The use of castanets in one and finger cymbals in the other suggests some common ground. Or ballet as well; seems like the relation of the three might be rewarding to explore.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Absolutely. Many belly dancers are drawn to the discipline of flamenco. I was and I infrequently dance flamenco. The rhythms in the body are the same conduits towards movements…and there is no Chinese Wall between the two.

    I frankly would rather dance flamenco…because it brings into play some fierce leg work, and while exhausting, is very satisfying to a dancer. You wrap yourself tightly in the music and it’s a very heavy trip. But it is outwardly different than bellydancing. But many things still apply.

    Ballet is worlds apart from both flamenco and belly dance. All are tough disciplines.

    Last year I had a great experience dancing with Moroccan and Spanish guitarists and drummers…and they asked me why is it that belly dancers seem to be drawn to flamenco? We reasoned that it was just the excitement of the music, beat, something that was uber to dance in general.


  3. Stefano Says:

    Maybe get can gt Mala to perform for us in our festival next spring. We can talk about that. Might be interesting…


  4. ladynyo Says:

    Well, Stefano…..

    I’ll tell her the masses are demanding a performance, and perhaps she will work hard at it. That’s much of what it takes….

    Thanks for reading the blog and leaving a comment!

    Lady Nyo


  5. Mala aka "Bad Girl" Says:

    Stefano, mi amor…lo mejor posible…mas tarde, por favor. Necesito practicar mucho. Abrazos y besos a ti, Stefano.


  6. Kathreen Says:

    It is wonderful to hear you express these things LadyNyo…
    I love your Blog..very insightful!
    Thank You for your comment over at my ‘Cyber House’…it was powerfully put!! Love it!

    It is so exciting to me, after 35 years, Joyfully dancing this Oriental Art
    to hear the understanding and beauty of this dance come forth after 5 years!
    Your students are blessed!


  7. ladynyo Says:

    Hello, Kathreen!

    Oh, what a lovely comment! Thank you.

    But my 5 to your 35 is little. We do grow with each year put into it, neh?

    I, too…loved your blog, and in fact made me think of doing more bellydance writing on this blog in a more constant way.

    I am the one truly blessed to have ANY students after only 5 years! LOL!

    Thank you, again…and I’ll link your blog for my readers.

    Lady Nyo, who is also Teela dancing


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