My Life in Sweats: Belly Dance Shout Out

Obviously you can see that I’m nutty about hip hop dance styles. When I started belly dancing eleven years ago I was the same brand of nutty, I just hadn’t been blogging back then. I owe belly dance, my instructors, and my fellow belly dancers some props.

Dancer: Valeria Lo Lacono. Photo Credit: Valbellydance

I’ve always loved dancing but never really attempted anything formal until well into my adult life. I did go to a month long camp as a teen where I had the opportunity to specialize in dance… which I did… and it nearly destroyed me. Here I thought I was about to learn some cool dance techniques and what happens? I get tossed in with a group of teen girls whose moms have been living vicarious lives through their childrens’ dance careers since they were five years old. Oh, and it was choreography. My favorite. (Totally not my favorite.)

In high school my friend Tara and I managed to get into some dance clubs on the local military base on occasion. I don’t know how we did it but looking back I’m glad we were never preyed upon. Years later while I attended grad school in Seattle I used to go to dance clubs every weekend. I was one of those people who said, “I will always go to dance clubs like this! Even when I’m old!” Yeah. No. Not regularly at least. I still feel a desire to dance in a club now and again but rarely act on it.

Moving my body around makes me happy. I’ve dabbled off and on in martial arts for much of my life. In my pursuit of fitness the idea of pushing things back and forth in a gym has never appealed to me so I have to be tricked into working out by learning a skill. Since 2/3rds of my martial arts instructors have been mentally abusive or bat shit insane I decided I’d give belly dance a chance when my body was telling me it was time to move again.

via GIPHY

I started belly dance classes about a year before I moved to the Dallas area. You might recall my unsuccessful attempt to find hip hop in DFW before I went back to belly dance again. So belly dance it was. The first class I landed in was with Magdelena. Maggie is unlike any other person I know and this is a great thing. She hails from New York and is an amazing fashion designer. Some of my favorite stories from Mags are the ones about her cavorting with Andy Warhol, going to school with the Beastie Boys, and not having to try very hard to offend Madonna. I’ve enjoyed countless years of class with Maggie and treasure all of the memories made with her. Under Maggie’s tutelage I performed my first solo dance that I choreographed to the Flight of the Conchords’ song, Boom. It was short and funny and that’s exactly what I needed to ease my nerves for my first performance. Do you know this song?

You can watch this. There are no recordings that exist of any of my solo performances.

You can check Maggie out at her website: www.magdelenaraks.com. Mags is fun, intelligent, and talented. She does these crazy dances where she balances a sword or a candelabra on her head and she can drop to the floor and roll around all while keeping it balanced. To this day, no Mediterranean restaurants or hooka bars have burned down as a direct or indirect result of Maggie’s candelabra dance. There have been countless fires started because of her scorching shimmies though! If you’re looking for earthy, high-energy dance, talk to Maggie.

While my husband went off to an artist’s residency for a year I stepped up my game and added a second class to my weekly routine and started dancing with Lidia. Dalida (her stage name) is an expat from Russia and brings a different flavor to the dance. I remember the first time I saw her dance in Fort Worth. “Who is THAT? I MUST dance with her!” Her ability to bend in half sideways has always reminded me of a graceful willow tree. Here’s a willow tree during a hurricane.

Hmmm. Not quite sure if that nails it. It’s more violent and shaky than bendy. Let’s try looking at some grass.

Closer…

I watched a lot of trees and grass blowing in the wind just to try to show you what I think Dalida looks like when she bends and I gotta say it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon. The bending grass is a little more accurate but I’m still going to call her a willow tree. It’s a lot more flattering than, “Hay! Hay teacher you look like grass!”

You can find more information about Dalida here: www.dalidabellydance.com. And here is Dalida doing her thing!

Willow tree!

Dalida is flowy and elegant and adds lots of dips, bends, and level changes to her choreographies. She starts her own fires with lots of sultry over-the-shoulder looks. She often runs a groupon deal so that people can get a taste of the dance style. If you’re thinking about it I highly recommend her.

I’ve mentioned many times that belly dance shares several moves with hip hop/popping/etc. and for that I feel grateful as I grow in these new styles. Isolation of movement? Got it. Layering? Always challenging depending on what you’re layering but I understand it. Chest pops? Sure! Would you prefer those on the X, Y, or Z axis? Body waves? Arm waves? Are you kidding me? Though the belly dance arm wave starts at the shoulder and the popping arm wave starts at the fingertips, they gotta meet in the middle somewhere right? Whenever it’s my turn in the cypher my body defaults to belly dance but there are always some pops and hits in there. The leg and foot work is completely different so I struggle but I welcome it. And of course the bounce and rock grooves are not typically seen in belly dance but I am comfortable with those even though there’s a lot of room to improve.

As I shift my focus to urban dance, I owe my survival in my new classes to the background in belly dance and for this I am eternally indebted.

Get out and move,

Love, S

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