I haven’t told you guys this yet, but I recently took some belly dancing lessons. It was a fun summertime diversion which I really enjoyed. But now it’s over (the dancing, not summertime, not by a long shot), and I want to share the story with you. If you’re embarrassed to be friends with me after this, that’s cool. I get it.
It started off nice and easy. The lessons were weekly for a month, that’s it. And I paid for them on Living Social where I already had a nice credit balance, so the lessons were practically free. I have always wanted to learn how to dance a “real dance” and this particular discipline has always held a certain allure for me. This can probably be traced back to my childhood fascination with I Dream of Jeannie. Anyway, I showed up for class. I paid close attention. I gave it all I had and even managed to wear a gauzy scarf around my hips. Still, my success was painfully limited.
The class consisted of about a dozen women of varying ages and styles. We all faced an expansive mirrored wall and followed our fearless leader and she guided us through different steps and exercises. The music was rhythmic and peppered with desert magic and mystery, everything I hoped belly dancing music would be. But the magic had limits.
Whenever the class was working toward the right, I was invariably wandering to the left. I was physically incapable of doing pretty things with my hands while managing my feet. And apparently all the beat-box style pulse dancing one does at home while cooking does not necessarily translate to controlled, choreographed sequences. Not the same. Who knew?
And you guys… Shimmying is a lot harder than it looks! When the instructor tried teaching it to us, I could only either stand very still, stuck in the necessary muscular contraction, or shivver like I was imitating a full body freeze. Shivvering is not shimmying, and I was lost.
When the instructor walked hip-circle loops around her right foot in a sultry, fluid motion then invited us to the same, all I could do was sort of skip on one foot, more or less in a circle but really more of a square. Had I added in a little curved-back loopy action like I was trying to gain momentum on a playground swing, it would have been the boot-scootin boogie for sure.
When we did just plain hip circles, standing still and rotating first clockwise then back around, the circles were supposed to be even and precise. The instructor watched me sideways for a while then walked over to gently correct me, saying I was putting just a little too much in the back half of my circle. My knees were straight; that was a nice, clean, non-stripper move. But the hip circles were supposed to be even and symmetrical. Mine were… leaning. Yep, message received ma’am. I have a big butt.
So you get the idea that I was struggling. And that the instructor noticed. Okay.
Remember how I told you this was a Living Social purchase? The deal offered four consecutive lessons to sample then encourages you to commit to three months of progressive lessons as a beginner. You know, get you hooked. Well, I have been to time-share sales pitches before, folks, so this weren’t my first rodeo. As my final class approached I knew a sales pitch was coming and was prepared to gently but firmly decline all offers because of so many reasons. Mostly, shimmying. I actually practiced my decline speech in my head on the way to that last class, while listening to Shakira.
Shakira is excellent belly dancing music, and it mixed up my feelings.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the class ended and our instructor did not approach me with any literature or coin-trimmed scarves or other luring tactics. Nothing. In fact, when I approached her and mentioned saucily that it was my final class (sub-text: don’t you want to convince me to stay?) this is what happened:
She said, “Oh, huh. Is that so.”
“Yep. Last one. All I paid for was four.” I might have even held up four fingers to drive the point home.
“Oh. Well, what did you think? Did you enjoy it?” She was complete elegance in yoga capris and a shredded tank top.
“Oh I did! It was so much fun, I absolutely loved it and I practice at home and everything. Just can’t believe the month went by so fast!” I am hopeless. Never play poker with me.
“Yes, the month is over.” Nodding and smiling politely, “I’m glad you tried it and had fun. We enjoyed having you! Now I guess you can go back to doing…” and at this point she glanced up and down my body, “whatever it is you do.” Just a trace of pity. But elegant pity, you know?
I was nonplussed. This was not even close to how I imagined things going down between us. I mean my speech declining the up-sell! What follows is something I am not proud of.
“What… what… whatever it is I do? I’M A RUNNER, BITCHES!” Then I balled up my fists, thrust my skinny, sunburned arms into the air and let out a whooping, high-pitched scream like what you might hear on Xena Princess Warrior. “AAIII YAI YAI YAI YAAAIII!!!” And I ran out of the studio, a feral cat released. I just abandoned my purse, my phone, my Jeep keys, everything, and ran barefoot (because belly dancing is a barefoot endeavor) all of the seven and a half miles home to the farm.
By the time I reached our front gate, the sun was setting and I regretted leaving my phone there, because now how could I log my miles? Runner problems.
I should impress on you that the woman teaching our classes was not only elegant; she was also very sweet and a consummate professional. I am totally kidding about how we parted ways. But part ways we did, as there are other adventures on my horizon.
In the mean time, back to running.