Getting Back Into Dancing

Now that much of the chaos of the past year is gone — buying a house, moving, settling in to a new town, meeting people, fixing things that need to be fixed — I’m gradually getting back into exercise. There is still much to do around the house, such as having a garage build and a bit of landscaping done, but on the days when no one is here working, there is certainly no reason for me not to exercise. Except laziness, of course, but that’s not a reason, just an excuse.

Nor is having all the stuff that was once in my garage piled into the back room (aka enclosed porch, aka exercise room) a reason. It finally dawned on me if I removed the folding table and chairs from my dining area, I have a perfectly acceptable workout space. Even better, it’s warmer than the back room.

So, having run out of excuses, I’ve had no other option than to exercise.

It’s appalling how quickly one loses flexibility when one has not been exercising or even stretching. (“One” meaning me, of course.) Yikes. I can still get down on the floor, so it won’t be long before I get some flexibility back. Meantime, I’ve been having fun practicing belly dance steps.

From the first time I took a belly dance class, I thought it would be a perfect way for me to get in shape because it seems more intuitive — more natural — than other dances. (Ballet, for example, is known for going against nature, and it certainly went against my nature, though I did work to the best of my ability.) Although I loved the belly dance class, I became disenchanted because so much of the class time was taken up with performance talk and costume planning. What was left of the hour went to learning and practicing a routine, so there was not much time dedicated to basics.

Since I can now schedule my own “class,” I am focusing on basics. I’m curious to see if a concerted effort at this sort of exercise will have the benefits I hope for, but if not, well . . . dancing. Dancing in itself is a benefit. Every step I take, every move I make is a blessing, and I am grateful to still be ambulatory, still breathing on my own, still fairly active. (I was going to say “spry,” but I’m not old enough yet to be spry.)

I do miss the energy of choreographed dancing with a group — it always seemed I could do more than when I was by myself, but I don’t miss performing.

I did my first belly dance performance with the group only a few months after I starting taking classes, and though I was no slimmer then than I am now, I was okay with it — I had a fabulous costume, a flattering wig, and a great attitude: “This is who I am. Deal with it.” As time went on, I lost that attitude, and so performing became more of a chore and less of a joy, though I did retain the love of dancing for dancing’s sake.

Of all dance forms, belly dance seems to lend itself to solo dancing, to pulling energy from the soul rather than the spirit of a group, to being one with one’s body. It helps that I’m not dancing in front of a mirror — I can feel young and beautiful and graceful without the unpalatable truth glaring at me.

Once the garage is built and my back room available to me once more, I will be able to do some barre work, maybe some tap or jazz, and perhaps even Hawaiian. Until then, there’s me, a veil, an open floor, and belly dance.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

6 Responses to “Getting Back Into Dancing”

  1. Joe Says:

    Yes this is definitely a good thing. I started taking a class in taijiquan (more commonly spelled tai chi ch’uan) just over a year ago and I can say my balance is much improved. I like the flowing movements and the way it requires you to attend to balance, where your weight is distributed, and where you need to reeeeee-laaaax. 🙂 My downfall is tension in the shoulders, as it is for most people nowadays. Last evening, the instructor pointed out that I wasn’t putting all my weight on the correct leg during a certain movement called “Repulse Monkey” even though I had the upper body movement going on well enough. i had built up a bad habit that needed to be corrected. And so it goes. But overall it’s been a good way to get energy moving in the body, which I feel had gotten stuck during the immobilization effects of grief.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It wasn’t until I started taking dance classes that I could feel a real change. It’s interesting to see that you had the same experience. So it seems that some kind of movement — yoga, dance, tai chi — are needed to help move the energy around. Walking helped, but it wasn’t enough, maybe because it didn’t open the body like these other movements do. It’s good that you’re doing something to get unstuck. Wishing you a good year.

      • Joe Says:

        I really do think there’s something to it. Plus I have a sedentary job so this is important.

        Thanks, and apropos of your earlier post on the Chinese Lunar Year, it’s the Year of the Rat, apparently. If it’s to be believed, it will be a good year for me since I was born in the Year of the Rat. 🙂

  2. Coco Ihle Says:

    Oh, Pat, that lavender costume looks so fabulous on you!!! And I’m glad you are getting back into dancing. I always thought belly dancing was so much more fun than calisthenics and one gets to use camouflage to hide stuff one wants to hide. (wink) I lOVE that!!! Then there’s the music that carries one away to the land of Ali Baba and memories of the stories of our youth. I hope you have fun and enjoy the belly dancing exercise as well. It’s a great way to get and remain toned.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thank you, Coco! The one thing I do miss about performing is there is no excuse to wear my gorgeous costume, but maybe someday I will just for fun.

      I was thinking about you yesterday. Well, any thoughts of belly dancing make me think of you since you’re the one who got me started, but I saw the article you shared about belly dancing giving woman a better sense of themselves, and thought it was such an interesting coincidence.

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