tribute |noun| an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration
Somewhere stored in the curves and bends of my mind is an image of a woman sitting on a sanded rowboat on the shore of a lake. She is in the second half of her life and has occupied the space allotted to her on this planet quite generously. I see her sitting on a wooden plank in her black Lycra bathing suit that shows off her vast confident rotundness. She is magnificent in all her fleshy Freudian – Lucian, not Sigmund – expansiveness. The female body is truly a thing of beauty.
I wanted to celebrate this sentiment. Pay tribute to it. To explore the space my own body occupies. But as so many things I put my mind to, this wasn’t going to be easy! For those of you that don’t know me, I’m teeny-tiny. Some days, I’m so small I’m barely there.
So after doing my research into what Leicester had to offer, I decided to give belly-dancing a shimmy. Belly-belly, hear I come!
Leicester is a place with a rather unique sense of logic. An example of this is the very curious local habit of putting approximate addresses on advertisements, but with the certainty of a door number, street name and postcode. Often times, you’ll arrive at the given address and find yourself staring at an abandoned office building with bricked-up windows and some form or other of gang art, until a passerby tells you that the place you are looking for is really one street over, on a building with no number, on the second floor above the kebab shop. Of course, because that makes total sense! Oh, Leicester… je t’aime! This was going to take some serious resourcefulness and perhaps even some James Bond gadgets. Basically, I cross-referenced info from the dance studio’s website, Google maps, my TomTom GPS and topped it off by tapping into local knowledge. Thank God I left the house two hours earlier, huh?! Anyway after several attempts, I was able to ascertain that the dance studio was loosely located somewhere in the Bermuda triangle. So on Day 1, there I was in my leggings and coin belt ready to get down and jingle-jangle.
I’ve been doing this for a month now and, much to Luís’ disappointment, I am no closer to being the next Shakira. Let me demystify this right now – belly-dancing is hard work (and I’m utterly convinced that you can’t do it unless you have an extra layer of belly fat, which I’ve been working on). It’s not a coincidence all those belly-belly moves sound like a mixture of medieval torture techniques and something Hulk Hogan might do in the ring. “Mister, I’m going to hip drop, belly roll, snake arm and hip twist your ass out of here!” It’s really serious business.
If it weren’t for my wonderful teacher Karen, I would have turned in my coins long ago (aka, 3 weeks ago). The belly-belly Bermuda triangle is way out of my comfort zone. It’s uncomfortable and discomforting. As the roof menaces to cave in over our heads from the Bollywood dance class going on upstairs, Karen smiles, encourages and shimmies away, as the rest of us – those that are too thin, those that are too uncoordinated, those that have welded joints – try to keep up as the gripping music of the darbuka drum gallops on. “Shoulders back, belly button in, knees soft, back straight, chest up, bum in… and don’t forget to smile while you do your vertical figure of eight!” Uh-huh. Surely, there’s a secret camera here somewhere filming this for some Youtube joke. A smile breaks open across my face as I begin imagining possible titles for such a delectable snippet. I at least got that part of Karen’s instructions right!
“Pelvis in, ladies – this isn’t pole-dancing!” Besides being a wonderful dancer, Karen speaks beautifully of the art of belly-dancing. It’s all about controlled movements, the magic of the music, the art of subtle suggestion. It’s all very convincing. And yet, I’m afraid that my tribute to the female form is doomed to fail utterly. Sorry, all ye bountiful women! I’m giving it my best. At least I can console myself with the fact that this new task is helping me develop new neurological pathways. They say that this is good for warding off dementia later in life. So maybe I am a sad excuse for a tribute to the rotundness of the female form, but at least I have my entire lucid life to think about it!
Enjoy this while you’re at it: