Secret Belly Rolls

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been taking a solo bellydance class the last six weeks in addition to my regular tribal class. Everyone had to pick out a song and make a dance to it…some of it could be choreographed but mostly it has to be improvised because that’s what we do in tribal bellydance.

For some stupid reason I have almost no dance music in my collection so I had to find another type of song, and what I chose was that Zero 7 song from the Garden State soundtrack, you know the one, it’s sort of slow and trippy and it goes Do you believe in what you see… We talked in class about how to go about modifying the tribal vocabulary to make a solo dance, and how to connect movement and music, how to make it all work together.

Last night I had to present my “anchoring phrase” (at least that’s what I’ve been calling it) to the class. Not the whole dance (which we’ll be performing on Monday) but just a little part, a part in the music where you’ve choreographed just a few counts, so if you get lost or confused when you’re improvising you know that you’ll be able to get to that part and know where you are. I was pretty nervous at the prospect of getting up alone in front of everyone, even though everyone is very sweet and supportive and would probably cheer and zaghareet if I tripped and fell face-first on the floor. It went fine. I got up and did my thing and managed to make some eye contact and sat back down and everyone clapped politely.

Later we talked about the meanings of lyrics in songs and what to do if your song is in a language you don’t understand. And one woman said that she thought about preparing for a sacrifice (she mentioned something from Raiders of the Lost Ark at one point) and of becoming a sacrifice herself. And another girl talked about some words in her song that go “Love is a doing word” and how she hoped that those words would make people think about the war.

What I thought about, and what I mentioned to the class, was this horrible temp job I had when I first started this journal. I had just graduated with my MSW and my loans were going to come due any minute and I used to spend a lot of time copying and collating papers for my crazy boss. I used to practice my belly rolls while I was standing there fussing with the toner and copying page after page of tiny fonted articles, watching the minutes tick by, wondering if I hadn’t made the biggest mistake of my life by deciding to go to grad school. At that time I was wearing this horrid bright pink polar fleece sweater I’d made mostly by myself. It had a kangaroo pocket and huge heavy snaps along the neck and was seriously the ugliest thing ever, and I wore it every day. My hair was real long then too and I’d wear it in a braid down my back usually. Not my most fashionable time.

So there I’d be, in my ugly fuzzy, with my crazy hippie hair, copying article after article, working stealthily on my belly rolls. I think at the time I was just trying not to die of boredom, but when I think about it now, three years later, I see that my belly was somehow being this secret part of me, this bellydancing part of me that’s passionate and creative and sumptuous and which I do not spend much time being, in my day to day life, with its work and bus and regular haircuts.

It’s underneath, though. It was underneath that awful pink fuzzy sweater and it’s underneath my nice undemanding day job and Netflix queue, even right now as I’m writing. Everyone has something like that, don’t you think? Maybe they’re lucky like me and they get to spend a couple hours a week being that secret part, or maybe they are very unlucky and that secret never gets told to anyone. Think about all the people in your elevator at work or stuck in traffic with you on the 5 south at five-thirty on a Thursday afternoon. Think about your mom, or the person you loved who got away, or the barista doing time at your local Starbucks. All those people are doing invisible belly rolls, just like you are writing poems in your head when you are in line at the store, or diving off the cliff into the moonlit lake when you’re at your mother-in-law’s for Sunday dinner, or seeing the world as framed by a camera lens as you sit and sigh at your desk. It’s all there, it’s all secret, and who knows what the world would be like if those parts of us were the parts we spent the most time being.

So my secret is that I’m a dancer. Some of my other secrets are: I’m a liar, sometimes, and also I remember almost everything, whether it really happened or not.

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