bellydance and I: 10 years together.
Date posted: August 12, 2014
Bellydance has been my companion and primary partner for the past 10 years. As we embark on 10 years together, which as long as 10 years has been, with dance by my side, it’s felt like 10 seconds, I’ve decided to take some time to reflect on relationships with our passions (perhaps you’ll find it relevant in sorting through your own relationships with passions or people or otherwise).
Belly dance accidentally entered my life when I was an angsty sixteen-year-old teenager and it kept me focused at a time in life when it was easy for me to fall out of focus. We fell in love quickly and like the very rare true loves in my life, it wasn’t a rational love enabled by our compatibility, but rather one that was fostered by a deep, overwhelming feeling of desire. It was a feeling of being drawn in, but being unsure as to what it was that was drawing me. It’s the difference between feeling completely at ease with someone/something or as a friend once said, a “familiarity,” versus something that’s just strange and doesn’t feel like the matching puzzle piece. It’s a familiarity that you feel deep in your soul and it consumes you in the most magical way. That was my relationship with bellydance. We spent all of our free time together. I went to school, worked my part-time job at the local Staples, and spent almost every dollar earned on dance classes and workshops.
We may have moved too fast too soon and subsequently had to rethink what we were doing. After about a year of dancing intensively, I wanted to dance professionally, but I wasn’t there yet. After some reflecting, we took a change in direction and I began to play with fusion bellydance styles. I played with tribal fusion and Bollywood dance styles and it seemed to work for me…people liked me as this fusion dancer, but like all loves, we had to redefine ourselves once again. I began teaching after a few years. At this point, teaching became my love and my students were my priority. We learned and performed together and I watched them blossom into beautiful dancers. I loved bellydance, but perhaps I also desired a more open relationship, so I began to dabble in other dance styles including ballet, jazz, hip-hop and Brazilian samba. Like all good open relationships, it only enhanced my primary one with bellydance, as I incorporated these new dance practices in my own performance and teaching styles.
Over the past decade, we have moved together from eager dance student to professional performer and dance artist, teacher, and most recently, academic scholar as I interrogate my own dance practices from cultures that are not my own, thinking through the politics of race and gender in our increasingly globalized world. It has been and continues to be a relationship that has pushed my boundaries, challenged me, made me the happiest person in the world, and kept me going in the moments when I didn’t feel like I could keep going. Bellydance has sustained me in such important ways and I am so grateful to have found it and incorporated it into my life.