Belly-Dancing Baby (or, The Crying Game)

Queen Mother Belly-Dancer, Barb Donahue
For most of my life dance was part of my personal therapy. It was something I had to do- with live music. So, it was the combination of the music and rhythm. I have always loved free-form dance, which was basically either modern, when I was a teenager or just dancing to rock n' roll. In the last fifteen years my dancing has been less and less frequent. Up until then I had always gone out dancing a minimum of once a week, but typically 2-3 times at least.

The funny thing is, when I met my ex- boyfriend Henry in 1998, who I lived with for 14 years, I rejoiced that I had finally found my dance partner! I loved dancing with him. When we lived in Sarasota we would go out and dance as often as possible, but when we moved to St. Pete in 1999 we never really seemed to find the good music. Also, he was highly sensitive to cigarette smoke so he didn't want to go dancing in bars where smoking was allowed- and I no longer wanted to go dancing by myself because I had someone I loved to dance with. It just felt weird to go out by myself. So, over the years, instead of my joyful dancing increasing, it just gradually fell away (and, needless to say, my weight went the opposite direction).

I split up with Henry three years ago, relocated, and up til now have not gone out by myself to find the music. At sixty, and single, it just feels a little weird. So, in desperation, this past week I went to my first belly-dancing class! Oy... I went because I want to get back in my body, I want to get my body back in shape and because I love to dance. The catch is- there are steps. There are moves! Oh my, how challenging this was for me. It brought up all my old stuff of feeling stupid in front of other people, one of my biggest emotional triggers. I started crying the second the class ended and cried my eyes out on the way home! Of course I told Barbara, my friend and teacher and the other women who were there (since I clearly wasn't going to be able to contain my tears until I left) and they were so sweet and understanding. Barb told me that she has had other women who came to her class, started crying and left and never came back so she was pleased and congratulated me for staying!  Nonetheless, it opened up a deep dark well of old stuff for me.

The thing that became clear to me from this process was that I don't know how to laugh at myself. I never have. My early years were filled with people picking on me, laughing at me,  and making fun of me- to some extent within my family but particularly throughout elementary school. I was tiny, I was painfully shy, I had few friends, and I was very vulnerable- an easy target. I came home from school in tears almost every day for many years. So now, if I am going to do this (yes, I will go back next week) I am either going to have to cry my way through it til all my crying is done- or- I'm going to have to learn to laugh at myself! You'd think at sixty I'd be over this!

(And of course there is all the stuff around all the emotions and trauma we store in our gut, in our belly, not to mention having four kids in five years. That has not escaped me.)

So, my dance therapy turned out to be therapeutic in a far different way than I imagined! My challenge now is to dance my way through the all the emotional stuff to find the joy that is underneath it. I know it's there waiting!