Posted by: mew | November 2, 2009

jingle jangle

“Seldom was any knowledge given to keep, but to impart; the grace of this rich jewel is lost in concealment.”

— Bishop Hall

So I bet you’re all just dying to know what creative activity I engaged in for the second day of Art Every Day Month.  Right?

I knew it.


This morning, in a quiet little hollow beneath the tree canopy and with the mournful sound of a train whistle coming faintly over the hill, three women met at my house… to learn,  to laugh, to sweat, to share, to dance.

hip scarf

You see, about a month ago, my neighbors discovered I belly dance, and during this conversation on the front porch, I demonstrated a few moves.  For fun, you know.  And they looked up at me with such wonder on their faces that I thought, I have to share this.

We are in the middle of nowhere, yes.  There is no local belly dance class.  You’d have to drive over an hour to reach a medium-sized city, and I seriously doubt there are classes there — though I have not checked it out because I’m honestly not willing to spend that much gasoline in pursuit of a hobby that I can continue perfectly well in my living room.

Although the truth is, since I moved here, I’d rather fallen off the exercise wagon.  I am a creature of habit, and suddenly I was living with someone who does all-nighters at least twice a week and whose idea of a schedule is “around nighttime” or “when I wake up.”  It was disconcerting, to put it mildly.

Plus, we had a tiny, carpeted living room, which required the removal of a couple of ottomans in order to clear enough space to even think about dancing.  In my old house in Atlanta, the wooden floors were wide open and inviting me to dance at any time of the day, sometimes even sparkling enticingly with golden afternoon sunrays.

But I know these are really just excuses.  If you are passionate enough about anything, your enthusiasm will easily carry you past such small and surmountable barriers.  Perhaps I’d lost my verve for the dance.  All I know is, I’d basically quit by the time I stood on my porch and demonstrated a hip drop and an umi to my wide-eyed neighbors — and seeing their newborn fascination gave me back some of my own joy in the dance.

I began to practice again, and the rest of it came back.  I’ve long been one of those people who believes that dance is a path to the sacred.  There is a reason ecstatic dance figures into so many spiritual rituals and traditions.  (A friend of mine tried to explain it to his wife when she decided she’d had enough of the dance club and wanted to go home.  He said, “I’m communing with God here.  Don’t you get it?”  She didn’t get it, and in fact was mildly scandalized by the idea.  I understood all too well, although I wouldn’t have phrased it that way.)

Anyway, I finally declared myself ready for a first class last week.  Working with three different schedules, Monday was the first session we could all agree upon.  And I was so nervous I could hardly sleep last night.  My ego kept slamming me with really tough questions, like, “What makes you think you can teach this?  You’re not a professional dancer.”

But I somehow knew I could teach this — and that we’d all find it very rewarding.  Raks sharqui, or belly dance as it’s known here in North America, is just made for real women to learn to appreciate their bodies, in every shape and size.  Both my neighbors are in their mid-40s, with average plus-sized figures — and extra curiosity and courage.

All three of us enjoyed a long, yoga-based warm up, about 40 minutes of low-impact aerobics with our hip scarves jingle jangling in rythm, and a gentle stretching session, followed by a little bonus.  At the very end, we watched two performances, one by Ansuya and one by Celeste, and we discussed different dance styles and the costumes for different body types.

Everyone made progress, and we’ve set our next meeting time already.

So now I have to create another “class” from scratch — and make sure to work out plenty, myself, between now and then, to stay ahead of them.


It might be a while before we’re all at the level of doing a sword dance, though.

Here’s Ansuya dancing, if you’re curious.

(Both photos courtesy of morguefile today.  While I do have a magenta hip scarf, it has silver coins and beads, not gold — and you didn’t seriously think I’d be photographing my neighbors for the blog; did you?  Especially while they engaged in a brand new dance form that can make one feel, frankly, a teeny bit exposed.  Nah, I’m not that cruel.  And besides, it was impossible to hold the camera still and shimmy.)



  1. this is so very cool! i love it.

    • Thanks for the love, christina 🙂

  2. I totally, totally agree that dance connects with the divine.

    and girl, my ego asks me what the hell I think I’m doing all the time. Screw it. 🙂

    • Love your attitude, brandi 😉 (As usual, you can make me smile and nearly giggle out loud with just two sentences.)

      I think our egos should just hush up and sit down and watch from the sidelines while we go ahead and live gorgeous, exciting lives. Don’t you?

  3. This post made me smile ear to ear. How fantastic to rediscover your love of belly dance through sharing with others. Yay!

    • Glad to make someone smile! That’s a big Yay in my book 🙂

  4. LOVE this! I’ll tell you a little secret – when the reality show “Coyote Ugly” aired a couple of years ago, I taped it so I could watch (and follow along) after everybody went to sleep. If I do say so myself, I got that figure 8 hip move DOWN! All I can say is I wish you were MY neighbor. Best wishes to you and your lucky students!!

    • That’s awesome! I do love those figure 8s. Maybe those will figure into next lesson… hmmm…

    • I think it’s so great that you can learn from just the visual! I’m envious of that skill — and the figure 8 is a good one to nail. You can use it for so many combinations, and turn bits of it into other moves. You picked a good one 🙂

  5. Love it!!! The music, the movement, the connection with spirit… Woo Hoo!

    • Thank you, gemma… it was — and is — wonderful, I must agree 🙂

  6. i love it! i wish you were my neighbor!

    • Don’t you live in Oregon, elizabeth? F. is dreaming of moving to Oregon, and I must say his fascination has started to rub off… we’ll see. For now, I am your neighbor — in a very broad sense 😉 I look over your shoulder as you share your gorgeous and inspiring photographs of life as you live it to the fullest. You come and listen to me babble about whatever has caught my attention. Sounds neighborly to me!

  7. I wish I was your neighbour too……LOVED the video and I would LOVE one of those jingly hip scarves. I’m impressed, Meredith!

  8. Dear Meredith,
    It’s amazing how we rekindle our love for the divine in us. I too love dancing and feel the thrill and connecting with all things greater inside of me through the world. I have recently started Ectstatic dance meditation as here individuals can freely dance without expectation, restriction and attention hassle.
    I feel your teaching will surprise you and you will learn more about what goes on inside.
    Happy dancing. 🙂

  9. Excellent. I learned to belly dance years ago in college when I got the part of the belly dancer in the musical “Carnival.” I tried out for a singing role. Once they heard me sing they gave me a part with no talking at all. 🙂 Anyway….belly dancing was so much fun. I even had a live python snake as a partner. I enjoy watching the belly dancing workouts now on the Fitness Channel. Dance on!

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