The bellydancer in my life, part 1

When I was a young girl in the 70s, my mom started taking bellydance classes at Tacoma Community College.  I remember being fascinated by my mom’s dancing, by the costumes and especially by the music.  She had wonderful albums with tantalizing pictures on the fronts of them…George Abdo’s “The Art of Bellydance” and “Strictly Belly Dancing” by Eddie (The Sheik) Kochak. Bejeweled dancers in satin & chiffon, with green eye shadow shown lounging around tuxedo-clad dumbek players. The 1970s was they hey-day of what we now call “American style” or “Cabaret style” bellydance. Routines were commonly 5- or 7-parts and any dancer worth her salt always included finger cymbals, veil and floorwork into her routine. Costumes were largely homemade, and I remember my mother patiently sewing hundreds of gold coins onto a bra and belt that she had constructed herself. She bought yards and yards of chiffon and sewed harem pants, a circle skirt & veil – one outfit in pink and another in seafoam green. She had a long curly wig, and when she wore her dancing outfit and played her finger cymbals and came twirling into the room, I could hardly recognize her. She wasn’t my mom anymore – she was the bellydancer!

Here is a picture of my beautiful mother, dancing in July 1975 when I was an impressionable 14 years old. If you (reader) are one of my students, you will recognize this black veil from the “loaner bag” of veils that I bring to class. Yes – this is the very same black burned velvet veil that many of you have also danced with. See how things are a circle? Turn, turn, turn…a time for every purpose under heaven.

I loved to imitate my mom as she practiced in the living room, and I remember taking those veils and record albums up into my room where I would dance and dance. Mom gave me my own set of finger cymbals, and my thumb & middle finger still sometimes catch me unawares as I unconsciously tap out the RRRLRRRLR pattern of the beledi rhythm that became an ingrained part of me. 

When I was turning 16 and my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I asked them to take me to George’s Restaurant in Seattle, where a bellydancer performed regularly. I will never forget that night. We were seated in a special part of the restaurant that had been roped off (because I was a minor and in those days minors were not allowed on licenced premesis) just for us. I don’t remember what I ate, but I do remember having a Shirley Temple to drink. I don’t remember what I wore, and I barely remember my parents being there at all. What I do remember vividly and in full colour was the dance floor. And the bellydancer. I don’t remember what moves she did, just that she danced and danced and danced and I was completely and uterly and magically transported. Away. Later in the evening, men from the tables got up and danced Greek line dances and that was fascinating, too. But it was the bellydancer that I was there to see, and I wasn’t disappointed.

I wanted to take bellydance lessons so badly! Lucky for me, my grandmother also wanted to take them and she enrolled the two of us together. I don’t remember how old I was. My teacher was Diane Edrington – Kedijah was her dance name.  Here are a couple of photo of her.

My grandmother and I went for a semester, and then Grammy didn’t want to go anymore, and I didn’t have anyone to drive me, so I didn’t go anymore either.  And then I grew up and graduated from high school and went off to university and got married and only danced around the house. Until I met my friend Donna  who introduced me to Lana – and that is a whole other story for another day.

Dance in joy!

Haley’s Quilt

Last night most of the dancers in my troupe got together to send one of our members off to school. This was very special for me, because Haley started dancing with me at the ripe young age of eleven! She came to dance classes with her mom, and then because her mom was a troupe member, Haley started hanging out with us, doing her homework on the side of the studio while we rehearsed, and eventually I started putting her into dances, and eventually she started performing with us. Haley has many aunties in the dance troupe and we all feel as though we’ve had a part in raising her up. She is 18 now and heading off to university, and I am so proud of her and the beautiful, talented, funny, smart, self-confident young woman that she has grown up to be.  Traditionally, dance (like cooking, sewing & all the female arts) passes from one generation to the next within the household. I learned to dance because my mother did it. Haley learned to dance because her mother did it.  I feel a heart-connection with her because of it. In honour of Haley’s moving into the next phase of her life, I decided that I wanted to sew her a quilt. Here’s a picture of me working on it – with a little help from my friend Samson. Every time I took the quilt out, Samson had to “help” by making sure it was suitable for sleeping on!

Apparently this is a Very Important Job for dogs, because as soon as Haley opened it up, look what happened! There is her little dog Diesel also giving his seal of approval!

It’s a very special quilt, because all the members of the dance troupe signed it with wishes, quotes, and thoughts  – something she can wrap herself up in – something tangible that will keep her connected to all of us.

Love ya, Haley-bug. Always dance in joy. And I will always be your dance teacher, no matter what. ♥

…so stand up straight, eh?  

That’s our girl!

When Seeing is Believing

I’ve been pretty lucky in my weight loss journey – I’ve  recorded a  loss at nearly every single weight watchers meeting until about 2 months ago when we got back from our trip to Australia. It’s been unbelievably easy until now. Now, I am at the dreaded plateau. And it’s all my own doing.  I’ve picked up some of my old (bad) eating habits again and am struggling with motivation. Partly because I don’t really feel any differently than I did 60 pounds ago.  Odd, I know – what can I say? I recognize that I look different, but the mind is a funny thing because even though I know I look different, I still have a hard time believing it.  In my mind I am still a size 18. When I wake up every morning,  I ask my husband “am I still smaller?” because part of me honestly expects to wake up and still physically be the big girl that I see in my mind.  But then I see these pictures, and they’re shocking to me.  So I am going to try some shock therapy and post them here so that I can log on and look at them anytime I need to.  Really, I’m almost there. I only have 10-15 pounds left to get rid of. Time for some shock therapy and get myself back on that wagon!

Here I am at the start of my journey: Size 18 and dancing at LePage Park, Arts in the Park series in the summer of 2007. This was six months before the life-changing doctors appointment that started me on my journey towards seeking a healthy and balanced life.

Here I am two weeks before I joined Weight Watchers in April, 2009, dancing to Alf Leyla wa Leyla by Saqra & the Mediterranean Raqs Band at the Yukon Arts Centre in Raqs Farrah and wearing my beautiful bra & belt set that I bought in Toronto.  I am wore a size 16 at the time this picture was taken.

Here I am this spring (2010) after loosing 50 pounds. One year after joining Weight Watchers. I’m wearing a size Medium top & size 8 pants for the first time that I can remember. 

And finally, here I am today!  60 pounds lighter from when I first started over 2 years ago. This is where I’ve hit what I’m calling my “white bread and peanut butter plateau.” I’ve been bouncing back and forth over the same 5 pounds since the end of May, and really, all I need to do is get the peanut butter & white bread cravings under control.  Easier said than done, let me tell you! Funny, it didn’t bother me once (well, maybe once or twice) up till now. Anyway, in this picture I’m wearing size 5 Reitman’s stretchy “comfort” pants (which are between 1 & 2 sizes smaller than regular store sizes because they’re so stretchy- so I probably wear a regular store size 8 but I don’t know for sure because I haven’t gone in and tried any on yet!) and a size small shirt & size medium sweater. When this photo was taken I had only just hit a “healthy” BMI and officially no longer in the “overweight” category.  Yay!

My goal is to be smack dab in the middle of the BMI scale’s healthy weight range. I am nearly there!

Letters from Whitehorse

I used to be a very good at writing letters. Since I was a little girl, I wrote letters and kept a diary.  As I’ve gotten older – and lets be truthful – as I’ve gotten used to the internet and email – I don’t write anymore. At all. And I miss it!  I remember being 11 years old and writing letters to my Aunt Doris in Alaska. I had penpals in Australia and Ireland. I had pink diaries with heart-shaped locks on them and GET OUT written on the first page (as if anybody really would be interested in picking the lock and reading my pre-teen musings.)  For years and years I wrote back and forth with my best friend Paula in Seattle. When we got the email, those lovely afternoons spent with a cup of tea and a long letter from my friend just…disappeared. Replaced with the occasional “hi howareya, whatchadoin” cyber note. Very sad.  I still crave letters and letter writing. I crave my old journals and collection of pens with different colours of ink. I crave words written on paper – and what paper! I had an entire drawer devoted to stationary – note cards, velum, letterhead, tablets with flowers and kittens strewn along the sides, matching envelopes! Matching envelopes! Sigh. All gone. I hope this blog will fill some of that hole – that need to speak on paper. And just how does one start their blog, anyway?   “Dear … ?”.  A blog is sort of like a diary or journal, but it feels awkward typing out “Dear Diary” because a diary is private and a blog is anything BUT private!  “Dear Friend” makes me sound evangelical (gag). Dear World. Dear Universe. Oh, dear. Guess I’ll just go for it! (aaaaannnnd … she’s off! Out of the gate with a 100 yard lead! Look at ‘er go!)

Talk again soon!