Sunday, January 23, 2011

Why I Love Belly Dance

Whether you love it or hate it, Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Our national day of love filled with flowers, chocolates, sentimental cards. and candle-light dinners. But as we all know, love is certainly broader than just the romantic type. Which made me think about what else I love in my life; my family and friends, Menchie's frozen yogurt, sleeping in, picnics, international travel, sequin high heels, creativity, living in Queen Anne, popsicles, sitting by the water, and of course, belly dance. Let me share with you the reasons why I love belly dance so much.

Belly dance rescued me. When I signed up for my first belly dancing class, I was going through a very hard time personally. I had been hurt very deeply by someone close to me: my heart was broken and I felt like everything I'd believed about that person had been a lie. I was so physically and emotionally drained in fact that I couldn't even get myself off the couch to go to the first class. However, the instructor called me the next day, said there were still spots open and encouraged me to come the following week. Despite having worried myself literally sick before class, I managed to pull it together and go. And I will never regret that decision. Being in class gave me the time and space to turn my thoughts off and just focus on my movements. I came to look forward to class each week as my time to tune everything out and just be present. It was my time to heal. To this day, I can't imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't made it to that second week of class.

Belly dance comes with costumes! I as the type of little girl who ran around in tutus and princess costumes, my love of dress-up has certainly not faded with age. I don't know what other job or hobby allows a grown woman to dress up in sequins, crystals, and chiffon on days that aren't Halloween without been seen as completely loony. My wallet may feel differently, but I will forever remain a complete sucker for a beautiful outfit.

Belly dance is a good workout. I cringe at the thought of getting on the treadmill. I watch each second slowly tick by and hope to just fast forward to the end. But dancing is different. I can lose myself for hours in a belly dance workout, as I hone my technique and create my art. I get my workout in without even knowing it.

Belly dance has boosted my confidence. It takes guts to stand in front of a group of people, in what is at times nothing more than a glorified swimsuit, and perform. Especially for an introvert like myself. But challenging myself to do so, to push myself even my palms are sweating and my stomach is in my throat has empowered me. That empowerment and confidence has seeped over into other areas of my life and has helped me be brave in countless other settings.

Belly dance has given me purpose. A few years out of college I hit my quarterlife crisis: I graduated from college magna cum laude, scored a professional job, passed the CPA exam (yup, that's my day job), bought a car, got a boyfriend, and was living my grown-up life. But all I could think is what now? I'm here, following the traditional steps of the American dream, but all my passion for life has died. As I was learning belly dance, my passion reignited. I had technique to perfect, cultures to learn, choreography to memorize, costumes to buy, performances to watch, workshops to attend, and a new community to meet. It brought joy to my life. And now as a teacher, I get the wonderful privilege of being able to share that joy with others. I get to see women's faces lite up with smiles as they challenge themselves in new ways. I get to hear students laugh and say that was the funnest thing they've done in a long time. And I'm deeply honored to be sharing this experience with them.

What do you love? What makes you smile and laugh out loud? What gives you the happy wiggles and makes you want to shout from the rooftops? February is the month to embrace it. Share your love below.

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