Shimmy Shimmy Shake Shake

Tonight was my first bellydancing class.

It’s been something that I’ve been meaning to take up for a while, but only recently has the opportunity arisen. Last semester I had dropped in on a belly dancing “class” held at the local unitarian universalist meeting hall, but that experience was light on the instruction (and friendliness). But when I saw Marjan’s advertisement in the window of Forward Foods (the local grocery that is my paycheck’s kryptonite), I felt that this might be a better fit.

The class is taught at Sonder Dance, Music, and Art, which I suppose is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a community space for various classes and experiences. There’s belly dancing, hip hop, Zumba, guitar lessons, clarinet lessons, piano lessons (and those are just the instruments I’ve heard before and after bellydancing). They have drawing classes for adults, and the third Thursday of every month they host a potluck and a ceilidh (you’d better believe I’m hitting that up next month). Sonder is located next to Gray Owl Coffee in downtown Norman, on a little stretch of one-way street near my old apartment (a delightful little slum in a converted opera building that I loved dearly). The storefront features one of those enormous plate glass windows, and from the sidewalk you can see the worn dance floor stretching across the front room. The walls are lined with art photographs of Italy: it’s someone’s art exhibition, the title and purpose of which I can’t recall.

Marjan, our instructor, is strikingly beautiful, from her obsidian fairy-tale locks to her utterly mesmerizing abs. Her skin is the color of coffee with cream, and she jingles when she moves (both from gaiety and from clinky bellydancing jewelry). She overflows with laughter, and she lilts happily in an accent that reminds me of a guy from Kuwait I am fond of. I haven’t yet asked her where she is from: I consider it somewhat impolite to point out someone’s “otherness” Her clothing is as rich and lovely as she is; tonight, her breasts and arms were wrapped in red velvet, and her hips were adorned with a belt of the same fabric, dripping with gold coins and beads.

She is an excellent teacher, and I surprise myself by being good at some of what I am asked to do. Apparently hip-shaking comes naturally to me (though for prolonged shimmies I will have to build some better quadriceps). Shoulder shimmying, however, could take some work. Also that whole distinguishing between right and left on command–that’s something I’ve always had trouble with, much to the chagrin of every harp and aviation teacher to cross my path.

It was a better work-out than I anticipated. I had observed a class the week before, and it didn’t seem so strenuous. I am sure I will feel it tomorrow.

The class seems to be mostly older women, people with husbands and jobs and children. One woman comes with her daughter-in-law: this is their activity for Weight Watchers. A few of the gals might be nearer my age, but I am not great at guessing that. My drill partner this evening was Cheryl, who may be in her fifties. She wore a pink hoodie over yoga pants, and we both kept forgetting which hip we were supposed to be shaking on our floor drills.

After class, we all sifted through Marjan’s magic bag of goodies. We tried on various colors of shimmy belts–gauzy stretches of fabric with beads and coins dangling from them. Cheryl and I debated: the blue belt, or the black? Or maybe the red with the gold coins. We tried them all on, shaking our hips in front of the mirror to see which colors best suited our workout clothes. I finally decided on the black (though I am secretly planning to buy a rainbow of colors).

I wore it while I cooked dinner, shimmying in front of my new stainless steel pan. The tinkly jingle of the tiny silver coins makes me happy; I delight in the sound and the feel of my own movement.

Shimmy Shimmy Shake Shake

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