Monday, February 6, 2012

The Chubby Girl Was Meant To Belly Dance


  • Dear Fellow Belly Dancers

  •                   Let me start out by saying I’ve always love to dance. As far back as I can remember, my mother always had music on inside our house. Whether we were doing house chores, or having a party or just hanging out she put on all kinds of different songs on (full blast), as long as it had kicking beat you can dance to. She yell out to my brother, sister and I to just “Dance, dance, dance” and if I shut my eyes now I can still see her moving her body all around, always with her eyes closed as if she was listening to music and it was telling her what to do. When I was seven she purchased me a Care Bear Record player for my room, along with two small records, Madonna and Gloria Estefan. I would line up all my stuff toys on the bed , then I perform dance routines for them. I would come up with different dance moves for Material Girl and they were ( at least in my mind) seriously impressed by my moves. Like many other little girls out there I took the ballet, jazz and tap dance for six months, and even at my elementary down in the Valley (Padre Island, very heavy Hispanic population) we would learn all kinds of Spanish dances cumbia, salsa, flamenco you name it. But sometimes misfortune will decide to pop her ugly head in. When I was eleven my mother was involved in a hit and run accident, she was in the hospital and rehab center for year, and sadly she was left paralyzed from the waist down. My father transferred us to a small town near Austin, so he can build my mom a wheelchair accessible house and she can be closer to better hospitals. As a family unit we took care of her and as I got older I made the decision to stay with my parents and continued helping. Keep in mind she’s not completely helpless, I only help by taking her shopping, bathing her and I take care of her when she is sick. She can do allot of other things on her own, she is the most energized, outspoken, loving and giving person I know. That accident did not kill her love for life nor her love for music. So dancing just became something I did in the privacy in my home for many years, we lived in a small town that was at least a forty five minute drive from any dance class (there was that small hip hop dance stint that lasted six weeks when I was in high school)
  •                   Now I will make a undeniably true statement about myself, something many people who read this can relate to. I Eat My EMOTIONS!!! If you don’t know what that means I’ll fill you in. Whenever I’m stressed, sad, angry and sometimes even when I’m really happy I eat. So on my small five foot frame I posses a big belly. It started out in junior high, I went from she’s a little chubby to wow she overweight. And on top of that I have big boobs, thanks to my parents genes where big boobs run on both sides of the family. So I have heard every fat and big boob joke you can ever hear, I get the looks, the ugly jokes and the cruel comments even to this day. I’ve done tons of different diets, some have worked, the most I lost was fifty pounds but like that pesky bee it came back. But even with a big belly I still dance around my house. After high school life moved on , I went to school and studied graphic design, even after getting my degree I decided to help my family run a flooring store that I now own. I do like it , I help people pick out colors for their house and it changes their homes for the better. I’m good at it, probably due to all those art classes I took. Now comes the important part. My family and I have been going to Vegas since I was fourteen, why Las Vegas always, because in Vegas people who are handicapped are treated like royalty, there is never anything to worry about when you are in Vegas. Believe me its nice that everything is accessible, cause allot of other places are not 9 even in the Austin area). When I was twenty eight and vacationing in Las Vegas I saw something that changed my life forever. 
  •                     I remember I was with my Father at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. We were both playing on slot machines , passing time before we meet my Mom and sister at the buffet for lunch. All of sudden this music came on and I turned around in my seat to see where it was coming from. There near the bar were three belly dancers in beautiful costumes performing a small number. Sadly it only lasted for five minutes and after a round of applause they left. I looked at my Father and told him “That was the coolest thing I ever seen, I want to do that.” He told me “Go for it Bear” and kept playing his machine. All through out the rest of the trip and the plane ride home I kept thinking about it. I go home and look up videos of belly dancing and the more I watched the more I was hooked. It became this little thought seed planted in my mind, and the more I feed into it the bigger it grew. Well, one day I was at work alone with my Mother, she was updating her accounting books and I was just sitting there with nothing to do. I brought up the idea of buying some dvds to jump start my belly dancing practice that I‘ve been rambling on about for weeks. She looked at me, smiled and said she couldn’t wait to see me shake it. She suggested before I buy a dvd to see if anybody in Austin taught it, and without hesitation I started fumbling through the yellow pages. I found only one with a address pretty close to where I lived, grabbed my phone and dialed the number. Even while I was waiting for someone to answer , I was literally shaking with delight . After what seemed like a lifetime someone finally picked up and I was about to start my very first conversation with a legit belly dancer. I told this woman ( who will remain nameless) that I was interested in taking belly dance classes and what can she tell me about it. She started to explain about the dance and how her classes were structure. The first thing that she said ( which made me feel very uncomfortable) was her clothing requirement for the class. To be her student you had to wear a black body suit and black leggings with a hip scarf, nothing more. Being self conscious about my body already, she wanted me to wear a outfit that exposed every roll I had. Then she talked about the different levels, and how you were not able to past to the next level without her approval. As the conversation went on, the high expectations I had of belly dancing began to sink lower and lower. She reminded me of General Patton, perhaps she was, of oriental dance that is . But I kept telling myself I need to try. When she was done she asked me if I had any more questions. I told her no, then I explained to her why I was interested in it. I was overweight I wanted to do a fun exercise , I had seen belly dancing in person and it looked fantastic. All she heard was overweight. She then asked me how much I weighed and my height , and when I told her she became very straight forward. She immediately told me that with my weight and height there was no way I could do this dance, I would not be able to perform allot of the move she teaches. Needless to say I was flabbergasted, and my only response was thank you for your time and she hung up. My mom could see the big disappointment on my face and asked what happen. When I told her she wanted to pick up the phone and give that lady a piece of her mind. I told her don’t , because if she felt she could not teach me then that was that. That plant that was growing inside my head went into hibernation for awhile. 
  •                         I was sad and disappointed about it for few months, me being fat had managed to get in the way of what I really wanted to do, again. So I ate and thought to myself it was not meant to be. One night at my house we were having a dinner party and the conversation turned to belly dancing. I don’t remember how or why but my Mother looked at me and said go to the computer right now and find someone else to teach you, I want to see my baby shake it. So I did, and low and behold to my surprise Austin had its own belly dancing website. There were a list of teachers in and around the Austin area, and in beautiful white font on a black background were the words “ Women of all ages, shapes, colors and sizes are embraced as sisters of the dance.” There it was shapes or sizes, so I can dance this dance, my weight didn’t matter, why did I not search the internet before to find a teacher. ARRRGGHHHH! So I looked at the north Austin area teachers and of course that teacher, who I’ve now nick named the Bomb Dropper, was the first one on the list. Ummmmm nope don’t think so, next. Bahaia of Austin was next, and her studio was the closest to were I lived, at least a thirty minute drive. I went to her website, read her bio and then did what I’m pretty sure we all do, switch on over to you tube. I typed in her name and found one video of her teaching a class. As I watched it I saw the women were wearing comfortable clothes and there were happy. Bahaia had started the video recorder, got in place and did a little wave and smile to the camera, then they started to dance a finger cymbal routine. But that little wave and smile sealed the deal, she looked so nice and not the kind of person who would make me feel bad about my weight. I signed up for classes and told myself I’m finally going to learn how to belly dance. When the day came for my first lesson I had to pump myself up into even driving to the studio, I was still so nervous about my weight. I didn’t want to be surrounded by other ladies staring at me thinking “look at that little fat girl trying to dance how sad.” As I parked I could see into the dance studio and it was empty, oh crap I’m an hour early how did I do that. So I waited until there were several ladies inside, then I could slip in and disappear amongst the crowd. Sure enough this woman with long hair and big eyes came up to me asking for my name, I tried to avoid her eyes but she was not letting down, so I looked at her and said “Misty” “Nice to meet you Misty, I’m Jessica” and moved on. The class started with Bahaia explaining what she was going to teach, how she would break down the movements and to not be discourage if you didn’t feel you have it right away, it takes practice. She would also be sending out emails and wanted to make sure she got everybody address correct. But there was one that did not seem to work. “Who is goddess4yu?” Oh shit my plan on not being notice has just failed big time, that stupid domain name I gave myself long time ago was putting me in a place where I did not want to be, noticed. I walked up , quickly gave a different address, and slip back into the crowd. I borrowed a hip scarf and we started to warm up. Bahaia had us get in a circle to do a walking warm up, sure enough once we started she already had to correct my arm positioning. Man I already suck, dang it. We face the mirrors and worked on hip slides, hip circles and hip drops. She broke down the movements and then we started to dance to music. Its hard to explain even now in words, but it was freaking awesome, I felt myself letting go and going with the music. It just felt so natural to me, like this was something I was suppose to be doing a long time ago. This might sound corny but my soul felt at ease. I wanted to thank Bahaia after the first class ,but it wouldn’t be until the session was done that I worked up the nerve to thank her to her face. After my first lesson, I got home and showed everybody what I learned. Doing a simple move like a hip drops really sets me on fire, for me its that one key move that says hey I’m belly dancer. I brought my own hip scarf and I’ve been taking class for a few years now. Belly dance became a big part of my life with ups and downs, I‘ve met many different people and been taking many different workshops, but that’s another story. The lesson for now is never let anyone say you can’t dance this dance because of your weight. There is no need to be nervous and I found that out after that first lesson nobody was trying to single me out because I’m overweight and my teacher help me feel at ease. And I know there are people who want to look down on you, just give them a good old fashion hip piston to the side and do what you love to do . My weight has not stop me in learning everything I can about Belly Dance, and should not stop you. Do your research in your local area, and find a teacher that makes you feel at home. Thank you Mom for making me dance and listen to music all my life. And thanks to Bahaia for showing me a dance I truly love.
  • Misty Waggoner