Saying I was a shy child is a gross understatement. My teachers thought I was mute. They had never heard me talk so they assumed I couldn’t. I was full of thoughts and ideas, as most kids are, I just didn’t like talking. I liked to play it safe - under the table, in the corner, where no one would talk to me. I suppose that’s why I was always drawn to dance. It was my outlet, my way to express myself without saying a word. It was the physical expression of my soul, the parts of me I wished to communicate, that wished to be seen and heard, but didn’t otherwise know how. And I suppose that’s why it hurt so deeply to be told I couldn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t just the physical activity and creative expression that I was losing – it was my means of connection.
Since I was four years old I grew up taking ballet, tap, and jazz at a local dance studio in St. Louis. However, it was the strength and grace of ballet that attracted me most to dance and kept me coming back year after year. As my body grew and changed, I began to experience pain and swelling in my knees. I went to orthopedic doctors, physical therapy, and again more doctors. But, with no luck the pain continued. I was told I would have to stop dancing, but I didn’t listen. So months later when I went back to the doctor I was again told I would have to stop dancing. I asked the doctor what I could do to stay in shape that wouldn’t hurt my body. I will never forget his response: “Some things aren’t meant for everyone, and you are just one of those people.”
These words, coming from the mouth of a well-educated professional whom I had entrusted with my care, fell on receptive ears. After all, I had been defiant and not listened before, and had only continued to be in pain. So, that was it. No more dance. I believed this time I had to listen; I spent the next few weeks crying, perhaps even mourning the loss of dance. After all, he was the professional. He knew best.
So, for years I walked around believing I was just “one of those people.” When I had to stop and take a break walking from one class to another, because my whole leg was cramping - I was just one of those people. When I had to stop midway up a flight of stairs, because the pain was so intense - I was just one of those people. I would have to learn to deal with it. Through surgery, physical therapy, and absolutely no dancing, I dealt with it.
In 2006, about four years after I stopped dancing and a year after I had surgery, I saw Kandice Grossman in a solo performance at the Blue Note. Sitting in that chair, my bones ached. This time it wasn’t because I was sitting with bent knees for too long. My bones ached with longing, because for the first time in years I thought “I can do that!” Watching Kandi perform I believed I could do that type of dance without hurting my body. The strength and grace in that performance enlightened the dancer in me. I would dance. I knew I could, and would dance again.
I soon enrolled in belly dance classes. In December 2007, I performed with Moon Belly Ensemble for the first time. I found a health care professional that was willing to look at and care for my whole body, and help me take care of myself. Since then, I have continued to study and perform with Moon Belly as part of the ensemble/dance company and as part of the Dragonfly Dance Company. I continue to love training and performing, and most recently have found new passion in teaching beginning classes.
My knees will never be perfect. There are limitations. I imagine knee braces, ice packs, and regular chiropractic care will always be a part of my dance routine. After all, I’ll always be one of those people. You know, the ones who refuse to sit out just because they can’t keep up. One of those people who knows her body, owns her body, and loves her body – “faults” and all. Not only has belly dance provided me a safe way to dance - I’ve found that Moon Belly is full of “those people”, of women, just like me.
This blog is designed to provide information about Moon Belly and MOON dance company happenings. At times, it becomes an open journal of our various theatrical explorations. At other times, it serves as a source of education on belly dance culture and history.