I was pretty sure I had been born with two left feet and absolutely no sense of rhythm. From the time I was a child I refused to dance or even attempt it…not even in the privacy of my own home when I was by myself. I was terribly self conscious about my lack of ability to dance at all and I was certain that others would judge me as harshly as I judged myself. So I was much surprised when, in my mid 20’s, I saw a dance performance that engaged me so deeply and profoundly that I immediately sought out instructional DVD’s on it and thereafter would find myself devoting every free moment to the devotional study of this dance.
Up until that moment in time, despite avoiding dance, I had always liked music though…quite a lot. I listened to music all the time. When I was busy cleaning, or driving, or working on a story line, or a character development for stories I would start to write and never finish…I liked to listen to alternative, dance, techno, and gothic music for the most part. I could hear the beat but I knew nothing about counting music.
When I was busy doing yoga, working on meditation, or sleeping I liked listening to New Age, World music, Native American flute music, and some of the old classic Indian Instrumental music with the tablas, sitars, veena, sarod, tanpura, and santoor. I had a deep fondness for the sounds of the stringed Indian instruments that had a spiritual transcendent quality to them in my opinion, and I also dearly loved the sound of drums with their earthy and primal sound.
In the early 2000’s I was in my 20’s and I was living in California still and had seen an advertisement for a Pagan Festival going on at a place called “Phoenix Park” in Sacramento. I spent a lot of years studying and practicing earth based and honoring spiritual traditions, to the best of my ability. Social media hadn’t quite hit the scene yet, except for chat rooms, so I often felt very isolated and alone. Upon seeing the flyer for the Pagan Festival at Phoenix Park, I was delighted. I thought this may be an amazing opportunity to hopefully meet and connect with other people that held similar views and beliefs. So my family and I attended the festival, even though I was the only one that maintained these specific spiritual views and practices, specifically.
The festival was interesting and though I enjoyed different aspects of it, I didn’t meet and connect with anyone directly. My youngest child at the time was less than a year old and on that sweltering hot day, he was less than enthusiastic about being out in the blazing sun beneath the canopy of his stroller. So we made our way through the vendors and I took a flyer for the various talks that would be given that I would be missing, and we left. On our way back to the parking lot, I spotted a group of women performing a dance. I was pretty sure it was some style of Belly Dance, but, given their multitude of costuming layers and colors, and the interactions that happened between the dancers, I observed it was more communal and “traditional” appearing in nature. Amongst the colorful draping and full layers of various cottons, the ONLY part of the body I saw exposed on these women were their midriff and their forearms and necklines. They were not dressed in the typical shiny, sparkling, tight fitting, asset revealing costuming that I had seen pictures of Belly Dancers dressed in before. But the music definitely had that Middle Eastern rhythm happening. At the time, I had no idea there were many different styles related to Belly Dance. The only thing I DID know was these women were dancing TOGETHER like a sisterhood, and they were beautiful to watch. And in my soul I knew I wanted to do that too. I wanted that dance… I wanted that sense of sisterhood, connection, and community.
Immediately after leaving the festival, my husband and I drove over to Fry’s, a giant store filled with electronics of all sorts. I went over to the DVD section of the store and found a 3 disc series on Belly Dance Basics by Neena and Veena. On the cover they did not look like they were dressed the way I had just seen the other Belly Dancers at the festival, but they didn’t look like they were trying to exude titillation and sexuality…aspects of Belly Dance I don’t happen to find appealing or of personal interest. My attitude and feeling was clear: I want to do this dance for ME, I want to do this dance to CONNECT with other women…I am NOT interested AT ALL in appealing to men and their desires or interests.
So I bought that DVD series and though I worked with it off and on by myself or with my mom over the next couple of years, in time I came to learn about different styles and that what I had seen in the Phoenix Park that day was in fact a form of Belly Dance, but it was more specifically called Tribal Belly Dance and was originated and refined by a wonderfully talented woman from San Francisco named Carolena Nericcio who birthed the legendary, now world famous, style of Belly Dance called ATS…or more specifically American Tribal Style. But it would be almost another 10 years before I would find myself in a position to be able to study Belly Dance in a more structured and focused way, and so it was then that I learned about ATS and Tribal Style Belly Dance and began my true journey into this dance and have pursued it passionately ever since…but that’s a story for another time.