Late last night, I performed at an annual event called Muncie Gras. Yep, it’s Muncie’s version of Mardi Gras. For those of you who don’t know or are new to this particular blog, I have an alias: Vaskha. I began belly dancing in 2007 and I took the performance name when I joined Carenza Bint Asya’s student troupe, Mashallah, later that year.
The first time I belly danced at Muncie Gras was 2008. It was 30 degrees or lower outside, the snow from earlier in the week had melted off but there was still mud and muck about. Our stage was an open, rug-covered, raised platform in the middle of Walnut Street, which was transformed into Bourbon Street for this one night. It was cold, but it was fun, out there with all of my girls. I was there all night and it was a great time.
For several years, belly dance was my primary hobby. I was in classes/practices five hours a week, daily practices and conditioning at home (I had a chart with stickers/stamps and everything), and performances or workshops several weekends a month. As the years have gone by, my life has changed and I am no longer as deep into belly dance as I was. I’ve had a daughter and gotten involved in other hobbies, which, as a result, has seen my presence and involvement in the belly dance community wane. I don’t perform with a troupe any more. I still take classes when my schedule permits and perform with those classes when I can, but that amounts to maybe one or two performances a year. And now I am taking classes from my former class- and troupe-mates. Yallah to them, by the way, for achieving their dance goals!
So, last night, I returned to Muncie Gras for the…fourth time, I think. Carenza is one of the kindest souls and asked if I would perform at her stage this year. I have to admit that I was flattered, extremely so. To say that I think of myself as rusty after two years of less-than-regular practice and learning would be putting it politely. Right after Christmas, I started working out again and I have come to enjoy skipping out to Planet Fitness to run on the elliptical, either with my friend or on my own. But I digress.
While I still enjoy performing…something has changed. I can always feel it and it’s there like a weight in my chest. I am not part of the community anymore. Because of life and money responsibilities, I don’t get to attend the workshops, conventions, or galas with any frequency any longer. Therefore, I do not spend any substantial time with the ladies with whom I practiced this beautiful art. So when I do attend or perform now, I often feel like an outsider. Total honesty here. I am far more comfortable performing on my own at a larp game or when just dancing with my friends than I am at a hafla or show. I feel freer then. It’s a little difficult to explain. I know that the women that I dance with are kind, beautiful, loving souls, but the truth is that I haven’t heartily enjoyed any performances over the past few years because I do feel so displaced. The belly dance community is one of the most beautiful and accepting ones that I have ever been a part of and I am truly glad that I was able to be a part of it for a few years and that I can still take classes to practice this art of beauty and grace and power.
As a friend put it when we discussed this, it is hard growing up sometimes and growing into new things and new places. I still enjoy dancing, it still makes me feel beautiful and graceful, and the classes still challenge and condition me. But I know that some aspects of it just aren’t as fun for me anymore, and that’s OK. We all grow, we all move on, we find new hobbies and new joys, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy what was once a huge part of our lives.
So thank you, Carenza, Zhenna, Ja’Niesa, Liz von Moxie, and Ariellah, for being my inspirations as well as my teachers. Thank you to all of my belly dance sisters. Thank you for all that you have taught me and continue to teach me about accepting myself and others, challenging my body and my mind, and revelling in my own beauty. Thank you for always reminding me that I am beautiful and that, if nothing else works, I can just shimmy it out.
PS. To clarify, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up belly dancing. Far from it. I am just being honest about how I have changed and feel eight years down the road. I still enjoy belly dance, love to take classes, and have a great time dancing with my friends. That has not changed and I don’t think it ever will.