This was yet another experience that I turned up for roughly 20 years too soon. And another one that I was very happy to enrol some friends for as well.
I found a class in Cirencester, in a church hall. Took 2 friends along, and we loitered cluelessly on the fringes, until our intention to belly dance became apparent. Then the regulars all bustled to make us welcome, introduced themselves, and offered us spare skirts and belts aplenty. (We had, as ever, failed to find the requisite attire, of flowing skirt, and sash/belt bedecked with jangley metal coin-like thingies. (Forgive my lack of correct terminology)).
Once suitably attired, we were politely asked to remove our minging biking trainers, and to dance barefoot if we had no ballet pumps. (We hadn’t.)
Three of the group were of my own party. Then there was the teacher, an administrator, and three other ladies, who reluctantly admitted they were in their second year of tuition. They were clearly anxious that their skill level may not adequately reflect this.
The warm up began. And indeed, it went on for the majority of the lesson. It was far from clear where the warm up ended and the dancing began.
We were asked to move our hips in a figure of eight. Not that hard, you might think, but it was extraordinarily difficult to move just the hips – not feet, not shoulders, just the bit in the middle. Near impossible. I caught sight of myself reflected in the window and I looked like a robot having a seizure.
The class was very gentle, extremely welcoming, light, fun, supportive and encouraging. Everyone took pains to assure us that no one ‘gets it’ straight away, and that the moves are tricky. We must not feel bad about ourselves, for butchering their routines so entirely. But we shimmied, and we shook, and we wiggled our hips, and we stepped and we twirled, and occasionally we fell into time. Here and there we may even have mastered an actual step. I found it rather hard to concentrate on what all the different bits of me were doing, as arms and hands, and hips and feet were all doing unfamiliar things, in different directions, at the same time. I fear the overall effect was anything but flowing.
By the end we were all twirling sticks, while twisting and thrusting and stepping. Hazel made it look beautiful and natural and lovely. I was more of a safety hazard, jerking around erratically with a long wooden pole.
There were too few people to hide in the crowd. We had no choice but to stand proud, be crap, and do our best, but it really wasn’t at all intimidating, everyone was very kind.
The final challenge was to lie on the floor for a cool down. Now there at last we had the edge over our more mature class mates. Everyone creaked and groaned and lowered themselves a fraction gracelessly to the ground. We may not have excelled on the dance front, but the newcomers could at least lie down and get up again without fear of doing ourselves ‘a mischief’.
It was lovely to sample belly dancing, and it is something I’d like to return to. Though maybe not quite yet. But at this rate, I am certainly going to be a step ahead when I do reach retirement!