I've always wanted to try it. But up to now, since my options for dance classes were limited, and since I had to choose between ballet, which really does keep you in shape, and belly dancing, I took the ballet, which I could only do twice a week anyway 'cause that's all the local dance school offered. But then my life changed. First, I encountered a dancer in the local Lidl. He was standing on line ahead of me and I almost changed lines, thinking "here's a lunatic." He seemed to be jogging in place but his face suggested that he might be on drugs, so I'm-in-another-world were the eyes and the slack-jawed concentration. Then he did a plié to the side and it hit me like the proverbial bolt of lightning: "The young man is rehearsing a dance he's going to perform while he's waiting to buy his cream cheese and potatoes!" I've been seeking--for a very long time--a decent dance school--the kind that offers ballet classes lasting an hour and a half at the least, and follows the traditional exercises, including grands pliés. Now or never! I thought to myself. And I asked the young man, in my terribly accented German, if he were a professional dancer. He answered in another accent--clearly not German, and we got talking, and it developed that I could probably attend the school he's attending which is technically closed to outsiders. Thanks to him I can go there, and take the best ballet classes I've found anywhere in this godforsaken region. And yes, he was rehearsing a dance but no I did not get to see it, since my daughter had a performance that day too. But now that I get to go to these very good ballet classes I'm not stuck with the ones at the other place, where they make you spend ten minutes doing aerobics before starting the barrework and don't do grand pliés.
So now was the time to try belly dancing, which also fit with my New Year's Resolution of doing core-strengthening exercises in order to regain the abdominal strength that I lost after three C-sections. And I'm doing the core strength exercises at the University gym, and NOW I'm doing belly dancing. Which is a lot more than strengthening your core muscles. I always knew it would be fun--and that I'd get to wear colorful scarves and sequin-covered outfits and shimmy around the dance floor. But I somehow hadn't grasped (not having seen enough YouTube videos) how very sensual, indeed just plain sexy, it is. Wow. But what gives? How is it that Egypt, a country that practices female genital mutilation on more than 97% of its women--the Unicef statistics from the summer of 2014 say the practice is "nearly universal"--at the same time creates a culture in which women dance in a style that, if you've still got your clitoris and also have really good technique, which I can see takes years to develop, must be orgasmic? Where do Egyptian styles of "purity" (the most frequently offered rationale for the cutting) coincide with belly dancing? Is my teacher, who is in her fifties like me and who was raised in Egypt, among the women who were cut? Another question I can't ask, like most of the questions I want answered. Are belly dancers women who are shimmying toward a lost sexuality? Trying to gyrate into something that's been cut out? And looking very beautiful while they do so, too. Well, belly dancing is a technique-- I had not realized how much it is really a technique, as demanding as ballet--and one I sure can't wait to develop.