Raqs Sharqi (The Dance of the East). Or, “belly dancing” for the uninformed like me, who just learned the proper term last night in my first raqs sharqi class. In a word….OUCH!!!!
I think this all started for me that night at the Moroccan restaurant (see: February 3, 2006 post entitled, “Now that’s just WRONG!”). I was partly enamored by the beauty and grace of the dancer that night and encouraged by the celebration of feminity, but, really, I was a more than a little determined to make the waiter who prophesied my 100% body fat free cousin’s success in the art over my own eat his words. So with the perfect mixture of passion and motivation, off I went to my first class (with 4 other cousins–power in numbers!).
[Aside: I need anyone who is opposed to being named specifically in any of my future posts to let me know now. These generic references are driving me crazy…my readers will never be able to keep 5 cousins straight, let alone a host of other friends, if I don’t start using names (or at least initials) LOL!]
Fast forward…All signed up and ready to begin a session of raqs sharqi (I like saying that), I attended the dance company’s performance/recital on Saturday afternoon. Wow! This dance form is absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing, especially among the more skilled dancers (Shakira, et al). I was impressed with how well everyone executed their performance. They seemed like they were having a great time and the dancing seemed effortless (my lord, how wrong I was!) And, I was a little surprised by the confidence of a handful of performers. They got to wear flowers in their hair…and that ain’t all they had in common. Let’s just say that the art has worked its magic on them and given them waaaaaaaaaay more confidence than I would have about showing my bare mid-section on stage in front of a room full of people. They say this is about celebrating the body (all kinds of bodies), but I think I’m among the ones who still need convincing. There’s no way in hell you would see me undulating my rolls on stage and to be quite honest I have nothing on a few of the flower donners. And here began, despite tumultuous internal warfare, the victory of my cynicism over optimism with regard to what I have previously referred to as “delusional self-love”. More on that in a moment.
Class began long before classs began. I started taking it all in from the time I hit the door. I recognized a few of the faces I had seen on stage Saturday. Seeing the director in street clothes was astounding. This woman, Rachael (I can name her) has the most amazing silhouette you’ll ever see (never mind how she moves), but last night in her jeans she just looked like anybody else– your average mortal. In a way that gave me a little hope that this could actually turn out to be more than an exercise in entertainment by means of self-depreciation. Maybe she started out 60 lbs. overweight too….naaaah! I doubt it. But there’s always hope.
Then there was this reporter there interviewing my cousins about what one hoped to get out of belly dancing, and about what the unnovice had already learned. The latter cousin and the studio manager went on about confidence, appreciation of the body, “looking forward to class more than seeing the boyfriend”, celebration of feminity, empowerment… I mean it gushed! I was like, “Man! Is there crack on the other side of that door?” They really seemed to believe in the art form and all its benefits to and for women. I’m fighting the cynicism…I’m fighting…fighting hard….and then I changed into the spandex! Case closed. This would be a cynic’s ride from here on out.
So we start class with a pep-talk from the director with the killer silhouette about how this is about celebrating bodies, all bodies, blah, blah, blah. My question: If that’s the case, how come only 4 out of20 of us got the memo? I’m sorry. I need someone with rolls to tell me how much she loves her body, not someone with a 2 inch waist to tell me how I should love my rolls! We got the pep talk and the history and finally, it was time to dance!
OH MY GOD!!! Can somebody please call an ambulance?!!! Who knew a shimmy was so excruciating?!?!! Those women on the stage didn’t look like they were focused on: pelvic tilt, low-v arms with golf ball spacers underneath, rolled back shoulders, chest high, chin low, soft fingers (not scary, rigid, I’m afraid to blink my eyes fingers), feet straight, dropped middle finger and thumb, stretch from the knees, and no hip wiggling to get a shimmy out!! I had muscle fatigue in places I didn’t know I had muscles. And speaking of no muscles…can someone please explain to me how to excute a hip slide without bending my knees? Which muscle DOES that? I just need someone to tell my brain which muscle to tell to, “Go”! I swear I just stood there for a minute thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me, this must be some kind of joke. But, there she was, Ms. Ebony in the front of the room hip sliding away! It can be done apparently…somebody just needs to explain to my brain how to tell my body to do it. In short, it hurt. In truth, it was SO much fun!!!
After a while I forgot about the fat. Hell, pain was a much more significant factor. And, if nothing else, it was motivating. I think I’m going to love this, but I’m not ever going to perform these moves in front of anyone until I fall in love with my lesser body. There’s just no sense in in loving this one…she’s got to go!! I’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s going to require a lot more than raqs, but I’m up for the challenge. I even ordered Billy Blank’s Boot Camp! I think I’ve found my shot in the arm.
The best way I can describe the experience was standing, sadistic pilates at a comedy club. It was the perfect mix of pleasure and pain. It was absolutely hilarious and so much fun to be doing with the fam. I’m hooked. I can’t wait for more. Bring on the torture! Oh, and it was torture for everyone, not just Ms. Fattycakes. That’s makes it that much more fun. Misery loves company.
Oh…I’m country line dancing tomorrow night! Let’s Tush Push!