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!