Why, why, why? by Beatrice Walker

Why am I torturing myself? Why am I spending so much time perfecting a technique when it is “just” a hobby? Why? I asked myself this question regularly and often when I hit a roadblock and I can’t figure out to overcome it. But I always end up going back to the basics and remember how I felt when I was not as active in the program: alone … I felt alone and with no purpose.

It was an accident!

My encounter with belly dancing was a total accident. A friend of mine who knew a friend who knew a friend who was teaching, asked me if I would take classes with her. Since I have always took dance classes since a young age and I was missing not taking any, I said sure! Let’s see what it looks like! It was a major challenge as I was used to big spacious movements with jazz and grooving on western “simpler” music. But I loved the difficulty. I eventually met three amazing women, Judy, Vonda and Stacey who had just discovered the Salimpour format and wanted to share it with the Austin community. Vonda always jokes with me saying that on my first class, apparently (I cannot remember this!) I complained that I was sweating (ah!) and also I thought downs and ups were the same (I know … this is vintage terminology!). But I could not resist and fell in love with the format because the learning is endless. It is a format that challenges your body, that challenges your mind, that challenges your approach to difficulties in life. It is a format that inspires you and show you the way to become a better dancer and a better person.

Getting to do something I never thought I could do! That is why I love the Salimpour program! imagine you are trying to move a certain way and your mind/body tells you “No, this is not possible.” Then wake up a few months/a few years later, and realize where you struggled before is a piece of cake now! That really sums up the Salimpour format.

The most memorable moment of achieving something I did not think I could was when Stacey brought Bal Anat to Austin in 2011. It was my first time seeing Bal Anat. We had the opportunity to audition and our piece was the sword dance. For the unfamiliar readers, the sword dance includes balancing a sword on your chin while getting into your split and performing floor work. First time dancing with a sword and split was out of my dance vocabulary! I honestly thought this was something my body could not do. But I put my mind to it and worked really hard to “get it”, even rehearsing over Christmas holidays while my parents were visiting and observing my attempts! We even put foam at the end of the sword in order to not scratch the wood floor if the sword was going to fall! So … many red chins later, I was on my way back from a rolfing session working on releasing my muscles to help with the split, when I got the phone call from Stacey saying I was in! I was so happy including my other fellow dancers who got in. Little note: If we had not been ready, Suhaila had back-up dancers to make sure the sword dance would still happen! We just did not know that which helped us be even more fearless in learning that difficult choreography! Bal Anat was an amazing experience and everyone needs to see the show. So much power and history! Knowing that it was created in the 60’s give me chills and makes me want to continue to do it! Shameless plug here for the Bal Anat 50th anniversary tour next year!

The sword dance is one example but there are so many other ones such as playing left hand dominant finger cymbals (what a comedy when I first started!) or the pot dance (practices videos were very entertaining!) or the L2FCDS (playing cymbals and dancing at the same time?? Who can do this?).

Learning about myself

The school is a teaching vehicle for life. It helped me discover imbalances in my body and how to address them, it helped me take care of my body with strengthening and stretching. It also helped me build my confidence on and off the dance floor, and allowed me to reflect on my approaches to specific situations off the dance floor. The program is a very mature self-reflecting program that builds character and strength. It opened my eyes on some elements of my professional life and how to address them.

The community is what really keeps me engaged.

Certifications are a goal in themselves and yes I am working on my SL3. It is not small task especially with all the projects that have been added last year. But the journey is really what is interesting and engaging. And comes with it the incredible community of women who have checked out their ego at the door and are in for themselves and bettering their lives. We all have fires in our bellies and we all support each other in learning how to ignite it. The international aspect of the school is very in line with who I am (French born living in the US who has lived in Canada with families from Taiwan, Central Africa, Caribbean, Luxembourg and Italy) and I love to be connected with dancers from around the world.

Let’s not forget

I did not highlight the obvious but let’s not forget that the school is meant to educate us on the ancient art form of bellydance. I mostly appreciate that the school is very keen on developing responsible dancers who do not just execute difficult dance movements but learn the context around them and the history behind them. Dancing with intention and knowledge is what the school is about. To build and maintain a legacy is a difficult and long journey and I am forever grateful to Jamila, Suhaila and Isabella for being the force along with their L5 certified dancers and the many more to come 🙂

Beatrice is SL2 and JL2 certified dancer and is working on her SL3 certification. She is a member of the Georgia Salimpour Collective. She was inspired and remains inspired by so many talented dancers in the program, and hope by sharing her struggles and showing how far she has come, she can also be an inspiration to those who are starting this Salimpour journey at www.SalimpourSchool.com