Thanks to Facebook’s lovely/horrifying TimeHop feature, every year around November, I get to revisit my first belly dance performance. I was very proud of it at the time--it earned a whole six pictures in my college photo album! It would be cute, but unlike my first-ever performance pictures (ballet, in 1995), I was an adult, like many belly dancers I know. Now that I’ve been dancing and performing for several years, those first pictures get more difficult to look at without wincing. But I try not to dissect how straight my back arm wasn’t, how out of sync the group looks, or the fact that my pants had an unsightly blingy logo on them (though all of those are true). Instead, it’s nice to look past these perceived mistakes and see a bit of what helped build the dancer I am today.
I started taking belly dance lessons in college at the suggestion of a close friend. Several of my friends and I started together, though most of them stopped attending as the semester went by. Before belly dance, I had spent ten years in ballet off and on. I loved ballet, but it was becoming more difficult for my body to accommodate. I had ventured into other dance styles, include other folkloric dances and Latin ballroom, but belly dance suited me almost immediately. The music was fun and energetic, with lots of variety, but often an easy beat to follow. The movements were soft, flowy, and feminine, eased by my previous dance training.
Close to the end of the semester, we began working on our choreography, set to the song “Inta Lissa Fakir Halli,” by Hoda. It’s a fun song, very repetitive--great for beginners. I had always been pretty comfortable performing, but that feeling was not shared by most of my classmates. We ended up with just five total performers, out of a class of close to 20. My college town had an active, though small, belly dance community, so there was a packed set in a tiny community center auditorium. We barely fit on the stage. We went with yoga pants, tank tops, and hip scarves for our costume. I’m sure we got instructions on makeup and hair, though you can’t tell from the pictures. We made it through the performance unscathed. The audience of mostly fellow college students was very forgiving.
One thing I can clearly tell from my old pictures is that I was having a blast. What was your first belly dance performance like? Embarrassing, empowering, fun, challenging, or something else entirely? Let me know down in the comments!