There are a number of good things about getting older. The first thing that comes to mind is getting to a point at which you really don’t care much (at least not compared to how much you cared decades ago) about what other people think about you. Once you comprehend, in a visceral way, your own mortality, it becomes much easier, even necessary, to express yourself as you see fit with little regard to what others may think.
And so, a few years ago, I got the courage to start practicing Middle Eastern dance, often unfairly called belly-dance. It is challenging, beautiful (when done well), and my favorite part – it has lots of sparkly bits!
There is a worldwide community of belly-dancers, and several styles – “cabaret” (the stereotypical belly-dance style that most Americans probably think of when they hear the word belly-dance), tribal (in its purest form a group improvisation in which a ‘leader’ uses subtle cues of hand and arm movements that the other dancers ‘follow’), and fusions of traditional Middle Eastern dance movements with multiple dance styles, including flamenco, samba, tango, Polynesian, ballet, modern dance, and others.
I admire a large number of well-known (in the belly-dance community) dancers – Heather Stants, Tamalyn Dallal, Amar Gamal, Sharon Kihara are a few – but if I’m asked to pick a favorite, my choice is easy. Her name is Mira Betz and her style is her own. Her dancing is stunningly beautiful, except for when it’s charmingly humorous. More importantly, she is an excellent teacher and feels her most important duty as a teacher is to encourage students to develop their own unique style, as she has done, not just in dance but throughout life.
Mira Betz will be teaching at a week-long retreat near a beach in Mexico in November 2010. I would love to go, but our family’s financial situation will need to improve somewhat before that’s possible. I also need to get serious again about belly-dance to justify it. (There’s time; it could happen.) In promoting that event, the organizers put together this mashup of Mira’s dancing. This is what inspires me: