Dancing was the one thing that came naturally to me. I enjoyed letting the music dictate what moves my body would make. I didn't think about counting steps or paying attention to what my arms and feet were doing. It was an incredible feeling of freedom. I wasn't performing for anyone. I danced for myself. Growing up, I went to school parties. I knew the different line dances that everyone did, but I found them boring after a while. Eventually, I would find a corner and dance the way I wanted to. I would get asked how do I make my hips continuously move from the rhythm to the melody. I didn't have an answer because I never thought about it while spinning around.
When I was in college, a friend told me that my dance moves remind her of a belly dancer. That evening as I was walking across campus, I spotted an ad for Middle Eastern dance classes posted on a bulletin board. Destiny is a funny thing. Of course, I had to check it out. I walked into my first class with a sense of fun and excitement, but that changed quickly. All of sudden, I felt as awkward as a duck. I'm watching the beautiful instructor glide through the various motions, and I feel like I'm moving through quicksand. I felt like everyone was watching and judging me as I tried to count and turn with them.
I never had any structure to my dancing before or told how and when to move. I suddenly had to be mindful of what my body was doing. I tried to mimic exactly what the teacher was doing and found it frustrating. When I looked in the mirror to practice, it was disheartening. As hard as I tried, I couldn't replicate the same movements.
Looking back, I'm glad I continued taking lessons. The discipline and focus helped me become a professional belly dancer and did wonders for my confidence. It made me realize the importance of pushing forward when learning something new. I needed the foundation, skill, and principles of Middle Eastern dance first. When I stopped trying to compare myself with my instructor, I found my own style. The best thing about belly dancing is that all the moves look distinctive on each dancer. It makes sense; we're all built differently.
When I taught dancing, my students would tell me how uncoordinated they felt. I explained that we all feel that way in the beginning. The more we practice, the more we'll start to see everything fall into place. Dancing shouldn't be stressful. It should only be joyful. The best part for me was to see women transform from being self-conscious to being self-assured. The greatest reward for me was watching these women walk with their shoulders back and their heads held high. Dancing is a way to remind us of our strength and belief in ourselves.
I take my advice and apply it to the challenges I've set out for myself. I know that my journey isn't going to look like anyone else's. I stay open to good advice and constructive criticism to continue to make my presentations fun and informative. I know to turn down the volume on self-doubt's negative voice, and that is to be mindful of how I'm holding myself. Once I change my stance to one where I'm smiling, and my posture is strong, everything falls into place.
If you're finding yourself feeling anxious or fearful, put on some music, sing and dance. It's the quickest way to connect your mind and body and bring you into the present. It gives your mind a mini-vacation that will help you feel more relaxed and energized. Dance in the privacy of your home unless you feel the need to put your show on TikTok. Either way, you'll feel a lot better.