Oooooh! Ooh ooh ooh ooh! Guess what I just did, for the very first time ever? (Dude, no, not that. That’s not legal in this state, I don’t think.) I just did my very first bellydance solo in front of a jury of my peers, jury being everyone in my intermediate class and even some of the people in Beginner II, if you can imagine. I am so excited about this that I may never get to sleep and be ready for Nia tomorrow night. I may sleep with my ten-yard skirt clutched up under my chin like a rag doll tonight.

As you know, I was quite nervous about the whole thing but when I got to class it turned out everyone else was nervous too. During the first hour’s class I mostly just danced and tried to concentrate on my fingers not falling off from poorly elasticized zils and on the elusive “phrasing.” I do not understand phrasing very well. I know it when I see someone else do it, and I know it has to do with counting to eight over and over again, but I’m not very good at it. This turned out to be helpful because I mostly forgot I was going to perform for a whole two minutes and I didn’t spend the first hour dry heaving in the bathroom.

Some people got all awesomely costumed up but I just wore my normal stuff, with the addition of an old red scarf I’ve had forever in my new cute hair, an old cami from Old Navy that I love but can’t find the right venue to wear in public, a beautiful ribbon necklace my mom got me for my birthday, and a last-minute red silk hip scarf Jo lent me when I realized I was crazy for not wearing something, anything on my hips. I was second in the lineup. I was very nervous.

I think I did okay. Technically speaking I know I could have varied my dance much more than I did and could have listened to the music more closely and danced more of what I heard instead of what my brain was screaming at me: “Pestle! Do pestle! Yeah, undulate five or six times, they’ll never see that coming! QUICK TURN IN A CIRCLE TURN IN A CIRCLE!” One of my many dance challenges is dancing with my whole brain, if that makes sense, and my whole body…I think I did all right with it, but certainly there was room for improvement.

I didn’t care too much about that, though, I have to say. I was very happy to get out of the center and sit back down and watch the rest of the dancers. Here’s where I might have to gush a little bit, even though any gushing I might do doesn’t really do those other dancers justice. I am finally learning enough about this dance to appreciate better the gorgeosity of these women, and I almost didn’t know where to look. Should I look at their bodies, doing amazing things that might also be illegal in some states (Mississippi, I am looking in your direction)? Should I look at their costumes and how they complimented the feel of their songs? Should I look at their bellies or hands or shoulders or hips, one at a time, the better to see each flirt and flicker? Should I look at the dancers’ faces and be utterly drawn into the vision each dancer creates somehow, by moving through space, by inhabiting music, by speaking with the body?

It’s something I want to learn how to do myself, something I want to keep learning. I think I write about dance a lot because in my head there’s a connection between sweating and frowning and shimmying and shaking on Monday nights and the overall state of my heart. Maybe I believe that dancing lets me be one of the best parts of myself, a part that’s brave and affectionate and precise. Maybe I like using my whole brain and my whole body. Maybe I’ve gone to dance class when I couldn’t hear anything above the sound of my heart breaking, at various times over the years I’ve been doing it, and maybe dance let me listen to music instead and take a couple of deep breaths. Maybe I just love the other women I see every week and depend on them all together, somehow, to keep me firmly here and now, which is somewhere you have to be pretty familiar, I think, if you’re going to dance.

My solo was only two minutes this evening. I only have two pages in Erin’s book. It’s only in two months that I’ll be moving into a new awesome house with old awesome friends. But I’m learning, slowly but surely, that little tiny things mean a lot in the grand scheme of life, and maybe all these infintesimal changes that are happening all around me, to me, in me, will make their essential contributions to the gradual re-opening of my heart, the eventual return of blood to places in me I’d thought were atrophied from lack of use.

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