Saturday, October 2, 2010

La danse du ventre

You know, I despise the gym.  Really and truly despise it.  Obviously, I've never been the sporty type--no track athlete is going to title her blog "observations of an opera child"--but I've never seen the sense of shutting myself up in a room with a whole lot of machines to torture myself for an hour when I could take a ballet or modern dance class instead.  I like to think of myself as slim and flexible rather than an energetic, muscular powerhouse.  (Of course, I say this with an open bar of German nougat beside me.  So you see where my priorities lie!)  However, I'm the youngest girl in our graduate class, the slenderest, and the one who looooves classical and stylistic theatre.  So I was Eurydice in Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl, in an authentic peach-colored 1950s bathing suit last year, had a kind of awkward post-sex scene in The Shape of Things, by Neil LaBute, as Evelyn, and this fall I'm Scheherezade in Mary Zimmerman's Arabian Nights.  And, since I'm a dancer as well as tiny (oh, that really terrible joke was so not on purpose, I swear), the first thought in everyone's heads was apparently "OMG SHE COULD BELLYDANCE!"

My first reaction, to be totally honest, was "Hot diggety!"  Haven't used that phrase since reading a childhood favorite about a girl dragged out west called California Morning Whipple.  My second was "holy mess, I feel like I am in trouble."

Now, I am not averse to bellydancing.  However, I don't have the faintest idea how.  Or I think I should say didn't have the faintest idea how.  For the past three weeks, I've been practicing belly rolls, undulations, different arm postures, head movements, isolations, hip rolls, floor work, shawl work, and y'all, my abs hurt like crazy.  But it is sexy.  I have never exercised in such a sexy way before.  I'm lucky in that it's fairly similar to ballet, but all you have to do is to watch a San Francisco tribal dancer to realize that this takes years and years of dedicated practice.  For inspiration, because I have to choreograph my own dance, I've been watching Bellydance Superstars Live in Paris at the Folies Bergère and On Fire! which are two stunning presentations, except for the Marilyn Monroe impersonator.  (Intrigued?  You should be!)

And I'm in love with Ansuya, a professional bellydance star from Miami.  Yes, she's the one in the picture on the right.  Both pictures, actually.  I am feeling crazy tugs at my psyche to go move to Miami and rob Cuban restaurants for money to take her classes.

The other truly amazing thing about bellydance is that any woman of any age can do this as long as she can stand upright.  Ten years old or ninety; you can do this beautifully; large or small, this is a gorgeous hobby or profession.  Imagine!  A profession in dance that doesn't require you to give up when you're thirty!  (Much as I love ballet, this is why I'm not a ballet dancer.)  And, y'all, the costumes.  Bedazzlement and fluttery silk!  And the muscle isolations in the stomach!  It is way, waaaay harder than it looks.

I've got to say, it's one of the best ways to exercise that I've ever found.  According to my crazy darling brilliant Polish friend, it also helps to massage your internal organs and ready your hips for childbirth.  I am not touting this as medical fact, but it sounds cool.  And I'm sure it helps you have better sex.  ;)  Show me the treadmill that can do that!