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Passion for Belly Dance

How I learned to dance

By Jean SumrallPublished 4 years ago 4 min read
Desert Dance Festival

I saw my first belly dancer at a Christmas party in 1980. I was four months pregnant at the time. The dancer, whose name was Sadia, was the most beautiful dancer I had ever seen. I thought to myself, someday I want to learn to do that. Four years later, I began to take lessons from her. Little did I know at the time where these lessons would take me.

Classes were once a week. It was an advanced class and I was the only beginner in it. I had no dance class experience at all, but I did love to dance. I was sure that I could learn it no problem.

I was so wrong! My body wouldn’t do what I saw everyone else doing. I was often on the wrong foot and my arm movements were a disaster. It was the most frustrating thing I had ever tried to do. Each night after class as I was driving home, I cried. I didn’t think I would ever get it right.

In spite of all my difficulties in learning, I was back in class each week. I really wanted to learn how to belly dance. Slowly, so slowly, I learned to move my feet. My muscles toned up as I practiced the isolations. I began to remember the choreography. I watched the instructor in the mirror, memorizing how her body looked as she taught the movements. At home in my bedroom, I watched myself in the mirror, working hard to mimic the movements I had stored in my mind.

I learned how to make my own costumes and to do intricate beadwork. The fringe that hung off the bra and belt was designed for ultimate movement. My first costume was gold as it would go with many colors of skirts and veils. As I worked on the costume, I listened to Middle Eastern belly dance music. I was completely immersed in my new passion.

I began to hang around after class. Sadia was working on a contest choreography and I watched her create movements that fit the rhythms of the music she had chosen. I learned much about what looked good and what didn’t. I asked questions about the instruments in the songs and learned what types of movements looked best with them. I watched her tuck her veil into her costume so that it would stay until she wanted to use it. I was a sponge and soaked up everything I could.

We eventually became friends. Sometimes she would invite me to come with her when she had a dance performance. Watching her perform in public showed me how to act before and after she danced. I began to understand what it meant to be a professional performer. She always kept the mystery of the beautiful dancer who came in and danced and then left after she was done. She always wore a cover-up when she wasn’t dancing to retain some of the mystique.

My only goal at the time was to be good enough to perform with her and not embarrass either one of us. There were various community events that she was invited to perform at and she usually had her students perform also as part of the show. I was so proud when she finally asked me to dance at one of these events. I practiced every day until I knew the choreographies perfectly. My costume was beautiful and I could play my finger cymbals as I danced.

The day of the event came. We all met at the Veteran’s Hall. I was excited and nervous as hell! When we walked out on stage, my heart was beating so hard I thought it would burst out of my chest. My mouth was dry. I felt a little light-headed. Then the music started and everything faded away but the performance.

It was the most incredible experience! The audience loved us and I felt so beautiful in my costume. My finger cymbals rang out the joy I felt in my heart of hearts. I felt so alive in that moment. I discovered I loved performing!

I was so proud that I had continued with the lessons in spite of all the frustrations I had felt at first. I learned that I could conquer my fears and dance in public. Over-coming the negative mind thoughts that had said I would never perform, I had gained self-confidence by doing what had seemed impossible in the beginning.

“When you discover a passion for something, you will do anything and everything for that passion, even moving beyond the fear, insecurities and self-doubt. Your passion will carry you through the rough times all the way to the good experiences of what you desire. It is a lesson that once you learn it, it is yours to use again and again, no matter what you want to do.”

I went on to have many adventures with Sadia in the world of belly dancing. I will share some of them in more stories to come. May your passions bring you joy.


About the Creator

Jean Sumrall

I have led an amazing life with many varied interests including loving road trips, being a professional belly dancer, hand carving selenite, providing wise woman advice and intuitive readings for current problems. I love my life. Do you?

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