Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gotta Dance, Gotta Dance, Gotta Really Really Dance!

Hi everyone,

Today's blog post is brought to you by belly dance. I haven't been blogging much lately.  Partly because I've been so busy; partly because I've had issues with my wrist and neck again; but mostly because I have been reconsidering why I blog and what I blog about.  This blog began as something for myself, then sort of transformed into a food and fitness blog.  I feel like what I was missing from the equation was the living part.  Eating happy, moving happy and living happy.  On that note, I bring you my first official living happy post!
I've mentioned that I dance on my blog a few times, but I've never devoted a whole post to one of my most favorite things and one of the most important aspects of my life.  Hopefully after you read this post, you will have a better understanding and appreciation of the dance form.

My own personal story: I started dancing in 2008 with two friends.  We decided to take a dance class and since I had just recently had knee surgery we thought belly dance would be fun and not too hard on the knees.  Like most people, we didn't know much about the dance form.  We knew there were shimmies and belly rolls and that the women wear bright costumes! I'll be honest, that is pretty much all I knew! (Thankfully I now know, understand and appreciate the complexities and varietes of belly dance.)  After one session of belly dance we were hooked.  Partly because it was fun, partly because we got to spend time together, but I think mainly because of how it made us feel. Dance inherently feels good.  Humans can't help  but tap their feet or nod their head with the beat of the music. Belly dance provides an opportunity for women to feel beautiful, authentic, and connected.  It reminds you of the abilities and power of your body.  It brings women together.  How can you say no to that?

Not only that, we had an awesome teacher: Donna Cucheran (Hala).  Donna continues to this day to be my mentor, teacher, and, most importantly, my friend.  Donna did more than just show us the moves; she broke down each movement and asked us what muscles we THOUGHT we were using and then explained which muscles we SHOULD be using. Plus, she always explained the history of the movement and where it was from.  Donna asked if our class would like to perform at the spring halfa (recital) and for some reason the three of us said yes. We danced to this song.

Tarkan will always have a place in my heart!

The rest is history.  I've never looked back, and never stopped dancing.  After taking beginner classical classes, we moved onto Tribal (improvisational group dance) and Folkloric (a variety of different styles of dance, often considered the more "earthy" and "grounded" compared to other styes. Think of it as the "dance of the everyday people.")  Safe to say, explaining in depth the differences between the all the styles of belly dance would consists of MANY blog posts.  The point I am getting at here is that the dance form allowed me to explore and figure out what I liked.  I've also met some of the most amazing women and made lifelong friends.  Currently, I am the newest member of the local dance troupe Nomadic Tapestry.

Sarah, Donna and I (Nomadic Tapestry) in Calgary!

I mainly study the Jamila Salimpour Format (the mother of belly dance in North America) and her daughter Suhaila Salimpour`s format.  The reason for their formats and school of belly dance can best be summarized in this quote from the website:

"Suhaila realized the necessity to create an organized system for teaching and training. Rather than trying to integrate Middle Eastern Dance with Ballet or Jazz, she wanted to create the respect, knowledge, mentorship and training methodology she experienced in her studies to preserve the quality and longevity of the dance form."

If you are super interested, watch this fantastic documentary from the 1970s about Jamila and her troupe Bal Anat.

I'm not writing this blog post in the hopes that you jump on the belly dance wagon (although I think its a great idea).  I'm really writing this to expand on a bigger idea: the importance of passion in life.  My blog focuses on food, exercise and life.  When I joined Nomadic Tapestry, I had a realization of the importance of following your passion. For years I limited myself: diets, exercise regimes, lack of confidence, pre-conceived notions of what I thought I was supposed to do.  Dance has so altered my own understanding of myself, my life, my possibilities and my future.  Thanks to shimmies, back bends and finger cymbals, I have a new perspective and life.  Find your passion.  Or at the very least, do what Ellen has her audience do everyday: DANCE! (right now!) 


  1. Love this post, Leslie! Love your enthusiasm for belly dance! I witnessed a group of women at Cariwest a few summers ago belly dancing and have never seen women so confident and happy and sexy as they were. Please let me know when your dance troupe will be dancing and I'll make the time to attend your performance!

  2. Hi Leslie, great post! We'd love for you to share your story behind dancing and blogging on our website. It would be a really fun feature on you and your site. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon :)

  3. A woman after my own heart! I think Tarkan may be one of my favorite performers... and to think, one of my close friends in Turkey has met him on several occasions. Jealous! Thank you for the great & stereotype-busting post; I'm certainly glad you're loving belly dance.

  4. If you have ever wanted to try Belly Dance, this is a perfect selection. I had been considering to do it for awhile and after some looking, settled on this one two months ago or so. Since then I have been learning and having fun.

    She is really good at showing you how to do things with examples that are easy to understand. The presentation works well as she shows things from all sides when describing what to do, such as how much movement is needed. Very warm personality that is realy enjoying showing me how to Belly Dance.

  5. Since time immemorial the benefits of dancing have been widely recognized as an ideal means of loosing weight. This is primarily because, dance is a physical activity which is enjoyable to most people and this mingled with the fact that it is a great calorie burner adds to the growing popularity of the medium. The best part about dancing is that one can practice it at any time and at any age.