I should probably say in full disclosure I am not a natural at any sport or hobby. I am one of those lucky individuals that must put in a ton of effort to keep up with others that don’t practice or train.
3 years ago, my sister-in-law and I were chatting in my kitchen about our husband’s activities. Her husband plays water polo and mine plays basketball. At the time, I was not exercising at all, but most importantly we were probably trying to figure out a way to get out of the house and away from the kids for a few minutes per week.
We decided we needed a hobby. We took the obvious next step and promptly googled hobbies for women. We weren’t crafty so candle making was out. We didn’t have horses so horseback riding was out. We wanted to exercise but aren’t sporty. It came down to pole dancing or belly dancing. We settled on belly dancing. The Google reviews about a belly dancing studio were that it was friendly, accepting of all abilities and nonjudgmental.
The only problem now is that I was terrified to attend the first class. Thankfully I had my-sister-in-law as my moral support (I should add that she was also nervous). While I was at the grocery store that week, I passed a barrel of miniature liquor bottles on sale super cheap. I think it was 5 for $6. I ended up grabbing 5 miniature bottles of Fireball to use as liquid courage for the first class. I mean, what was I thinking? I am 5 feet 7 inches and my measurements are 35-30-34. Not exactly the picture of a belly dancer. Also, I have no rhythm. A few minutes before class we attempted a fireball shot. Turns out waiting until you are 40 to try fireball wasn’t the best idea I have had. The shot ended up being a ball of fire where my esophagus meets my stomach for the rest of the night. And, I wasn’t feeling any more courageous than before.
We went to our first class on MLK day, Belly Dance Fundamentals, and we were terrible. I was tall and stiff and trying to squeeze my glutes while walking 8 steps forward and 8 steps backward. The glute squeeze is the first move we were taught. It makes your hips look like they are wiggling. I even had a coin skirt on, but it was silent. No shimming here. I was awful but had a blast laughing at myself. This class was repeated throughout the week. So, we attended the Wednesday night class, and we were still terrible. We went twice a week for many weeks. I learned to squeeze my glutes double time while sitting (still can’t do it standing). My proudest moment was when one of the teachers told me I was getting so much better. It was the first day of a new session and I had taken this class for 2 sessions, but I was still pretty jazzed that I was finally not the worst belly dancer in the class. I was better than at least some of the new students.
Belly dancing and this studio taught me to enjoy life a little more and not be afraid to look ridiculous while trying something new. The owner of the studio always said, “Flailing is encouraged.” (I hope she said that before I started.) Over the years, my neighbor asked me to do a triathlon with her. For a long time, I told her no way. I wasn’t a runner, biker or swimmer. I read a few books on triathlons and how friendly and nonjudgmental most triathletes are to newbies. So, I started running, attending spin classes and starting a swim class. I would have never had the courage to try if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone with belly dancing.
If you are in the Madison area – Dance Life is a great studio for all skill levels and body types. I still attend classes there, mostly now the fitness class – WERQ.
by Katie Winsor, Siren Luminary
Follow Katie on Instagram @kate_winsor