I went to my first belly-dancing class last night and I have never felt like a more awkward idiot. At first. The place, The Dance Complex, is in Central Square in Cambridge and it's this rickety old building made up of various rooms where every imaginable kind of dance has a class. From hip-hop to Bollywood to tap. It was so loud when I walked in. Just booming music and slamming feet. Yeah, I felt like I was in Fame. If I'm to be completely honest, it was kind of thrilling. Every girl secretly has some dance aspirations and it was such a new feeling being in that environment. I was a little early so I just sat in the stairwell listening to all the various beats while I read my book. A man walked by in clomping heels.
When it came time for the class, I was a little apprehensive. You see, I have this thing about classes. I hate them. For as long as I can remember, I've had an aversion to taking a class with a group of people. I don't mean like school and college, I mean extracurricular. From my math tutor in middle school to SAT classes in high school (which, I eventually really loved because we had a hilarious teacher and it was with friends from school that I normally wouldn't hang out with outside of school), to this, belly-dancing, I've always balked. I signed up twice in grad school for belly-dancing on-campus and never went. I didn't go last week to the first class either. It was mostly because I was sick and every one of my face orifices (orifi?) were either blocked or dripping, but a tiny bit because I sort of, maybe, chickened out.
So I walked in and there are about ten other girl all stretching and doing various dancer things. Yup, they were all dancers. They could do the weird bendy things I'm always envious of, like splits, and were all doing them right smack in front of me. Oh, whatever. I have no one here I want to impress.
The instructor, now she was kind of amazing. Carolisa is an older woman anywhere between the ages of 60 and 180 and she had just finished teaching a Zumba class (I have no idea, we'll look it up later). I introduced myself and she acknowledged me and then announced she had to go change her shirt. No, not because the event of meeting me caused her to soil herself upwards, she was just sweaty from the previous class. Water was basically dripping off her. Unfortunately, yesterday had to be one of the hottest, muggiest days ever. And this is an old Boston building so no air conditioning, just a fan valiantly attempting to stir the air.
We started out with a warm-up of moves she apparently taught the previous class but they were fairly easy so I caught on pretty quickly. It was just basically twirling your hands in circles in time with your hips. I'm a Turk. And an Iranian. We dance with our hips to begin with anyway so I already can do the figure eights with my hips. Which sound more impossible than they actually are. It's basically going from side to side gyrating. Okay, here's the thing with belly-dancing, or any other dancing for that matter, when it comes to describing them, they're gonna sound ridiculous. Well, they pretty much look ridiculous too but we'll get to that.
As the class progressed, we had to do various movements thrusting our hips and hands and bobbing our heads. This is the part where I felt like a moron. I am not very graceful. When it comes to mimicking someone's motions in movement, I am even less so. Especially when we have to undulate back and forth and do the "camel walk." Or gallop around the room in a circle whilst popping our hips out. You could really dislocate something doing this.
I think at one point I gave up trying to do what Carolisa was doing, too many fast steps and twirls. But when I did it to my own speed, it made more sense. Plus, I was doing the moves anyway so it just worked. But oh God, the shimmy. You have to keep shimmying your hips, not your chest, not your butt, your hips, while you do the various steps and thrusts and it is goddamn tiring. Plus you look like an oriental retard.
It was only an hour, but a sweaty one. We had the oh-so-hilarious dingle-dingle music (as I like to call it) playing, and at one point the song switched to a Turkish one and I had to stifle giggles because I could understand the words. They weren't dirty but just silly. Something about mountains and looking past them? We also danced to a Bollywood number which I, personally, enjoyed most. Carolisa said it was from her Zumba class- all right, pause to look it up:
Zumba is a dance fitness program created by dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez in Colombia during the 1990s. The program combines Latin and international music with dance in an effort to make exercise fun.
She said she liked more traditional music for belly-dance though. Boo, I like Bollywood.
Anyway, I have another 5 classes left and I will be sticking to it. Next week, we dance with veils. Hooo boy. Who knows, maybe I'll be a belly-dancing savant that needs two classes to really shine and then I'll move on to Bollywood. Screw writing, I'll have a new career!
I also had quite a poignant moment when I was riding the train back home. Just as it emerged from the tunnel to cross the bridge over to the Boston side, flickering lights highlighting the Charles River in the dark, Berlin's, "Take My Breath Away," started playing while on shuffle on my iPod. It was a very romantic moment for me and all the other weirdos on the red line at 10 pm.