|Baby kitty Carmen, my little "street tiger"|
I'm home from my 2014 travels, and mistakenly made the assumption that things would quiet down a bit... WRONG! Aside from finally unpacking my on-the-road suitcases, my house was a wreck cause I'd been away about four weekends a month for the past three months. And, unexpectedly, after my two beloved senior citizen kitties Smudgie ( age 21) and Ni-Ni, (age 14) passed away within a month of each other, I was blessed with two tiny baby kittens! They are little feral "street tigers", a brother and a sister, who have been rescued, tamed and are now living in the lap of luxury in the Royal Palace. Beeper and Carmen are a handful, but they are amazing! I am so blseed to have them, The Universe brought them to me at the most perfect time ever. And now that I'm home for a while, we can bond even more and I can watch them grow.
On one of their crazy "let's chase each other around the house" moments, they knock a diary of mine from off a shelf. I had to page through it, and was kinda amazed at what I found. The diary covered a trip to Egypt from 1991. In addition to Arabic translation of commonly used words and glue-in tickets from Luxor Temple and The Sphinx, there was a gratitude list. I didn't even know I was thinking that way back then, but apparently I was!
Just some of the things included on the list were ( obviously) colored by my trip to Egypt, like "I am thankful I can travel", "I am grateful that I can read" "I have a a healthy, strong body" and, funnily enough, "I am grateful for modern conveniences"... yeah, I'll say!
But there were many, many more. And there was also a list on how to out-flow energy and love to people, things like " Keep a good attitude, try to be optimistic and positive, look on the bright side" , "Be helpful and supportive to other people", and " Communicate as much as possible; if I love someone or something, I will say it. If I am not happy with someone or something, or find anything unsatisfactory, I will say that too but in a kind and positive way".
Seriously, I do not remember being so enlightened... but I guess I was, even back then. For the past fifteen years or so, I've made lists like this at the year's end, or whenever I thought I needed to count my blessings.
Since Thanksgiving is approaching, I made a Dance List of everything I am thankful for.
Dancing literally changed my life. On top of the “usual” benefits, like giving me a strong, toned, flexible body, the emotional and spiritual impact dancing has had upon me is so significant, I can hardly put it into words. In my writing, I am usually a confirmed abuser of the exclamation point, but the amount of punctuation I would need to apply in this case is boundless, so I will spare you.
From the age of three, I wanted to dance, but for many reasons (the foremost being a ballet teacher who rejected me at an early age because my feet were flat ) dancing wasn’t in the cards for me until well after I had already reached adulthood.
Maybe I had a karmic debt to pay, maybe my life just unfolded the way it was supposed to, but I came to belly dancing fairly late in life, after the age of thirty. Though I still sometimes wish I had been able to study dance since childhood, I no longer feel robbed, or the regret I used to experience about not having been a life-long dancer; now I am just thrilled with the way things turned out!
Mere months after I began belly dancing-almost as a lark- my life did a full 360 degree turn-around. Instead of picking my body (and all the individual parts) to pieces by visually and physically comparing myself to unrealistic and “ideal” images in the media, I began to love my body for the way it looked while I was dancing. Soon, that sentiment morphed into simply loving my body. As I developed more skill, I began to be grateful for what my body could do.
Dancing also helped me quit some very self-destructive behaviors I had for decades: substance abuse and an eating disorder. A hardcore bulimic for years, my love of dancing helped me cultivate a healthy relationship with food…and need I tell you that it’s impossible to dance for hours with a hangover or while high? Suddenly, I had a choice to make and I picked dancing over controlled substances and being unhealthy.
Dancing helped me get through-and over- a painful divorce. The feminine energy and sisterhood I felt with other dancers was healing and gave me hope. I see this theme repeated with many other dancers, and I hope I can pass this feeling on to others.
Belly dancing also lead me to other forms of dance, and for that, I am eternally grateful. It’s what directly lead to my career in burlesque, not to mention studying and performing other types of dance as well, like jazz, ballet, Bollywood, samba, contemporary, hip-hop and many other genres. Whenever my schedule ( or my creaky ole body) allows, I take dance classes.
Dancing has also allowed me to meet thousands of incredible, beautiful, intelligent and talented women the world over… that I may never have met normally during the course of my everyday life. Through dancing, I have made life-long friends with many strong women of all ages, shapes and sizes who are veritable super-heroines; they are giving, driven, talented, and usually very witty to boot.
I’ve met dancers who are emergency room nurses, teachers, criminal attorneys, children’s advocates, speech therapists, accountants, trauma counselors, ranchers, authors, film festival curators, architects, coal miners, political activists, rock stars, explosives technicians, police women, sitcom actors, college professors with PhD’s… not to mention mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers…and all of them are serious dancers!
I am thankful that I live in a country where women are free to dress as they please, to dance for joy-or professionally if they choose- and where dancing is considered an art-form.
Every day I give thanks that dancing, something I have always done only for love is also what I do for work, and how I make a living. I never take this for granted, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure my life is real. When I walked into my first belly dancing class, if anyone would have told me that within a fairly short time I was going to turn professional-not to mention have a career over twenty years later- I would’ve laughed so uproariously, the walls of the studio would’ve blown apart!
My dance career – my performing and teaching- has taken me all over the globe and I have loved every moment of it. It was a far-fetched wish, and that wish came true. The only thing I might add here (and believe me, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek!) is the old adage about “being careful what you wish for”. Had I known that my wish was actually going to come true, I probably would’ve added in a clause allowing me to have a luggage valet and a personal massage therapist travel with me!
I am so thankful for all the wonderful women who have sponsored me to teach and perform. Sponsors are super-human, and in addition to paying for my travel, feeding me, housing me, fulfilling my backstage requests, and staying up til the wee hours talking shop, many of them have also gone wa-a-a-ay above and beyond the call of duty. They have taken me sight-seeing, brought me to amazing shows, given me gorgeous gifts, taken me hot-tubbing, booked me massages- even brought me to the emergency room, or dealt with my tearful grief when I was thousands of miles away from home and my beloved kitten disappeared. You ladies know who you are, thank you so very much! In general, my sponsors have gone so far out of their out of their way to make me feel comfortable when I am on the road, I cannot thank them enough; most of them have become life-long friends.
I am very grateful for my teachers and dance-mentors, women ( and men!) who were dancing professionally long before I even thought of starting to dance…all of whom were very generous with sharing their knowledge of not only technique, but also practical application, not to mention costuming ideas, crowd-control skills and career- building know-how.
My students, whether on-going pupils or one-time workshop attendees, make me feel such gratitude, I can’t even verbalize it. I learn something new from them every day! The drummers and musicians I’ve worked with are amazing and love what they do… and aside from learning a lot from them, I love them for caring, cause our shows have always been fabulous!
I would like to thank The Audience too- where would any dancer be without you? There is almost nothing more fulfilling than hearing an appreciative audience and seeing smiling faces in a darkened theater, just ask any performer! And of course, all the behind-the-scenes people, those who never get enough thanks, like the artful lighting and sound technicians, all the harried- but unbelievably competent stage managers ( many of whom are volunteers) the talented photographers and graphic artists I’ve worked with….and of course, my long-suffering friends and my boyfriend; all patiently waiting for me to:
a) get off stage b) get my bag packed up c) stop talking about dancing!
Last but not least, I also gotta say that I am so very grateful for having a job that has the best, most amazing “uniform” EVER- what could be better than a blinged-out costume?
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and yours!
In honor of the Holidays, and to say thanks to you, I’m having a Thanksgiving-through-Monday, Dec 1 sale… my books "The Belly Dance Handbook" and "Showgirl Confidential", and the new BaLAdi Tour CD by Issam Houshan will be on sale for big discounts here: