|Performing with Troupe Sulukule 2006|
It's a long story....Let's start in late elementary - middle school and early high school
I was not comfortable with myself for a very long time as I was growing up. It's not a sob story...my parents are both amazingly supportive and loving individuals, and I had great friends...but rather an unpleasantly common story of growing up as a woman in our culture.
I was slightly chubby. (or, at least I thought I was)
I was painfully shy (still am, actually)...and my mother told me that my shyness made people think I was stuck up (which was probably correct), and this caused me to withdraw even more.
|Triboriginal Pre-performance 2006|
I looked at magazines filled with young women who were impossibly beautiful, and didn't understand why I couldn't look like that, no matter how much I starved myself.
So, clumsy, shy, quiet, and depressed, I continued to grow and try my best to find a place for myself. In high school, I started my first long term relationship...it was not good, and for three years I struggled with self image, depression, self harm, and an emotionally abusive boyfriend.
|Me: Opening for Raquy 2009|
I went to college, and things started to change. I became more comfortable with who I was. I fell in love for the first time, and got engaged. I made friends who would become lifelong companions, and I did well in school...but I was still quietly unhappy whenever I was alone. Though I was by no means overweight or disfigured, I still saw an ugly woman when I looked in the mirror.
In 2002, one year before I graduated college, my fiance and I broke up.....and I broke.
|Solo Performance 2010|
A friend of mine convinced me to try a belly dance class with her.
I went. I had always been curious about belly dance, and I'd never done anything quite like it. I needed to do something that was for me, and it seemed like a good place to start.
|Jaidra and Brandy with Wasted Wine 2011|
My teacher was twice my size...and the control that she had over her body, the way her face lit up when she danced, the impressive movement of her hips...was mesmerizing.
There was a 70 something year old grandmother in the class, wrinkled and white haired, and she was so beautiful, confident, and healthy. Watching her dance made me realize that I could do this.
All ages, all shapes and sizes, all colors of skin...and the moves looked different on everyone, but they were all beautiful.
I found that when I was concentrating on making my hips move up and down in time to the beat, or circling my chest while holding the rest of my body still, that the concerns and the darkness in my mind retreated.
I grew stronger, developed more muscle control, and as I practiced, the moves and isolations that had seemed so difficult began to take shape in my own body.
And, then I moved away...and moved again.
|With my students 2011..It's now my joy to share what I love|
|Me with Evelyn and Brandy 2013|
Belly dance has changed my life.
I have met so many amazing women (and men) through dance...I have seen people overcome so much. Loss, major health problems, chronic diseases, depression, divorce, self image and self esteem issues...my story isn't unique. Belly dance heals. It heals me over and over again, every day.