Dot writes: should you find yourself holding a Turkish-themed children’s birthday party, and should you realise at the last-minute that you have omitted to arrange for any culturally appropriate entertainment, you have only to call me. With enthusiasm I will perform for you the following exciting dance move: having carefully aligned my feet hip-width apart with knees slightly bent, weight evenly distributed, bottom tucked under, chest lifted and head elegantly poised (and doing all that takes about five minutes) I flop my belly out and then – on the beat – pull it in again. I could also try tracing a circle with my pelvis, but let’s not get too technical after only one lesson.

My problem with dance-classes (on Wednesday I had a belly-dancing class, first of a course of nine) is that I did ballet for some years as a child, and some part of me expects my youthful suppleness and control magically to reappear, which of course they don’t, just like my waist doesn’t. I move confidently to the centre of the class and behave like I know what I’m doing, and then I’m rubbish. But I do think the belly-dancing is going to be fun, though the teacher talks so much I wonder how much dancing we’ll ever manage to do. She’s a real character. A tiny sparkly soft-voiced Irishwoman; completely blind, so she checks our movements by feel (intimidating); face rather old and puffy, and she says she’s been dancing since 1974, but she has the legs of a fourteen-year-old. The other women in the class are a mixed lot, including a couple of quiet young girls, a mother and daughter, and two or three thirty-somethings like me. Maybe I’ll make some new friends. Flopping your belly at someone has to break the ice, hasn’t it?


5 thoughts on “Belly!

  1. Chris

    I used to live with a guy whose Turkish girlfriend was (or claimed to be) something of an expert in the belly-based arts. This resulted in her occasional attempts to induct us into their joys. These usually post prandial occasions consisted in her shaking her bum, our attempting to copy her, and then her telling us we were doing it wrong. Happy days.

    When I lived in St Louis, MO, there was a rather good (and cheap) restaurant around the corner from my apartment named, according to their windows and menu, ‘Saleem’s: Where Garlic is King’). Juliet and I were keen on their babaganoush, and I’d carry tubs of the stuff with me when I went to see her in Princeton, NJ. But we used to avoid actually eating there on account of the off-putting belly dancer who would come and shake herself at you when you were in the middle of otherwise perfectly enjoyable meal, albeit one which was disappointingly lacking in garlic. She often used to do this with a sword balanced on her head, which didn’t make the thing any more erotic. Nor did the fact that she was probably old enough to be my mother.

    In Dublin, on the other hand, I remember once going for a truly remarkable meal at a Lebanese restaurant somewhere in Temple Bar. It may have been called ‘Sinners’. The food was lousy. Garlic was not king. But the belly dancer (who wasn’t old enough to be anybody’s mother) was absolutely amazing. Gave me a whole new perspective on the art, I can tell you.

  2. katimum

    Somewhere I have a Belly Dancing video tape which I used to follow in the over optimistic hope that the location of my waist would eventually be detectible on close inspection. If I remember rightly, it consisted of warm up exercises which seemed to take about half and hour, during which I usually lost the will to live, and then a session in which I tried to follow the moves of a wildly gyrating and turning female – difficult as I do not, like all the best teachers, have eyes in the back of my head – and fell over the furniture. I did make a rather exciting costume for myself for my one and only performance (with Carol in front of N and Peter). I wonder where it is now?

    Then I decided that quivering cellulite was not going to turn anyone on.

  3. Dot

    My teacher is rather a purist and insists belly-dancing should not be sleazy. I’m not sure she would approve of the girl in that Lebanese restaurant (which I think I may have visited too), or of you Mum with your implicit erotic intent. Ken may find this a bit disappointing:-)

  4. Belle Inconnue

    i thought that to be good at belly dancing you actually had to have quite a big plump belly. otherwise there’s no point really. I also thought that it was supposed to erotic – but NOT sleazy. A fine distinction I suppose. I have recently started ballet classes, having never done it as a child. I have zero posture, control, flexibility or coordination, which makes it rather a challenge, but I find that the older I am the less I care abbout being rubbish at stuff. I’m sure it has improved my ‘core strength’ no end, and is more fun than doing sit-ups.

  5. Helen Conrad-O'Briain

    Nothing burns up calories like a good ‘Dashing white Sergeant’ although ‘The Walls of Limerick’ and ‘Virginia Reel’ are pretty good too –
    pity my ankles aren’t up to it anymore.

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