Postscript dances up a sensual storm

Searching for the elusive inner goddess—with belly dancing

Who knew finding your inner goddess could be so hard?
Who knew finding your inner goddess could be so hard?
Credit: 
Photo courtesy of joyofbellydancing.com
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They say university is all about branching out.

So, on Monday, I decided to branch out big time and immerse myself in a new learning experience. Only this time, my intentions weren’t so academic: I signed myself up for a trial belly dancing class.

Neil Armstrong quipped as he landed on the moon that it was a small step for him, but a giant step for mankind. In my case, it was the reverse: humanity probably didn’t give two cents about whether I belly danced or not, but it was a pretty giant step for me.

As everyone who knows me will attest, I am one of the most awkward and klutzy people you will ever meet. Hand-eye coordination is but a mythic dream I envy in other people, and my muscles are about as flexible as Joan Rivers’ face.

I had my doubts before going in. Maybe my inner belly dancing goddess was sleeping after not being summoned for 19 years—then again, maybe she was on a permanent holiday.

But as I walked into the studio to meet Karen Phillips, my instructor, I was relieved. She was warm, full of smiles and encouragement, always willing to help out the new awkward girl in class. I stood behind a mirror with 10 other students, feigning confidence.

At first, the moves were easy to follow. As Karen moved her hands in a circular motion, I, too, followed and got the hang of it pretty quickly. A friend of mine—who also came as a first-timer with me—whispered “you’re good at this!” and I started thinking, maybe this isn’t too hard after all.

Turns out I thought too soon. Just as I started feeling comfortable with the hand motions, more body parts started getting involved. Soon enough, I had to shake my hips in 360-degree rotations, in a three-beat rhythm, while maintaining stability on my feet.

However, my hips turned out to be rather geriatric, and my feet rather wobbly—I ended up looking like something out of a fish tank, not the sensual dancing queen I pictured in my head.

Not only did my hips refuse to cooperate, the rest of my body decided it was tired of getting in touch with my inner goddess. Shimmying my shoulders proved to be an immense challenge, and Karen had to hold my elbows down to keep them from flailing. As I was recovering from my shoulder mania, she threw an even bigger challenge my way: making “happy faces” with my chest muscles.

I have chest muscles? Why did nobody tell me this? And why did I sign up for this class anyway—did I actually think I’d be good at this?

Before my cynical side got the better of me, I caught sight of Karen, looking carefree with her rainbow skirt twirling in the air and her coin belt jingling seductively to her hip movements. Then it dawned on me: sensuality may be played to death in today’s culture, but I’d never seen so much effortless grace and beauty radiating so much pure energy.

As the class wrapped up (with my inner goddess still lost somewhere in my cramping body), Karen got all of us together in a circle to show us a sequence of a “birthing dance” that women would perform together to ease the process of one woman’s labour.

As awkward as I was up to that point, the communal dance showed me how something so simple could make all of us feel so connected to each other, as we held hands, strutting together like nobody’s business.

Then I finally felt proud—for gathering enough courage to come to this place and actually trying something new, instead of brushing it off as something I “can’t do.” You’ll find me at Karen’s dance studio every Monday from now on—and one day, my hips will move in a 360-degree rotation, with my inner goddess pouring out from every corner.

Caption if you can ...

“ ... can’t touch this!”
—Moneeka Keesari, Sci ’06

Editor’s note: the mysterious cheese man is actually Jon Scieszka, author of hilarious children’s books such as The Stinky Cheese Man.

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