I'm Katrina, and I dance American Tribal Style belly dance, as begun by Carolena Nericcio and FatChanceBellyDance. My home studio is Eastern Fire Belly Dance, my teacher is Grace Tucker, and I've been dancing, zilling, and enjoying almost every minute of this style for about seven months now.
I started with a little Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance, and by a little, I mean three weeks. And by three weeks, I mean three classes. It didn't really connect with me, to be honest... the shoulder shimmy felt wrong, the head slide didn't really make any sense to me... the bit of veil work I learned was cool, but I wasn't about to be all "you ladies shake it up front, I'm gonna play with my fabric over here!" So, I decided to poke around a bit, and I figured I'd try some other classes, see what happened, and what happened was I found Grace, and EFBD, and went, "This... this is more doable."
I love the moves, I love how they look when performed properly. I love the costuming, I love the group improvisation, I love sharing the leadership of the circle, and I love the fact that we can have a frank and open conversation about bodies and frustrations and what if I can't, what if it won't, and feel heard and acknowledged, but encouraged to keep on. The three-quarter shimmy was damn hard for me. I have issues with the lower half of me (hip flexors that disagree with me, plantar fasciitis, flat feet, among other things), and it took me two or three months of drilling, of trying, of not quite being able to get there in class but sometimes starting up a shimmy at home, until I'm much more reliable. My hips aren't perfect, of course, but they're getting better all the time. Zilling was a bit scary, but as I drill at home (I use folk music to get my fingers moving, Daft Punk and the Sex Pistols when I'm feeling like a masochist, and songs from the South Park movie's soundtrack when I'm frustrated and need a laugh), I'm getting more comfortable. I'm at the point where I'm no longer a terrified newbie (I don't think, Grace might disagree). I no longer feel like the mirror at the studio will eat me if I'm leading, and I feel comfortable enough in the vocabulary I've learned so far to tell when I think something is weird. I'm also relatively close to a dance debut.
I'm also a lot more comfortable in my own skin, with my own body, and out in the wild as well. When I first started, I was a Non-Dancer. Dancing would happen, and I'd be all, "Cool. I'm going to chill out over here, you guys shake your booties." Now, I found myself dancing wildly at a New Years' party, though I might have been a bit on the inebriated side. Before, I wore the baggiest effing thing I could to dance class. Now, I buy cheap crop tops so I can see what I'm doing. My belly used to be gross and flabby and undesirable... I used to have hideous backfat, and my hips were bulgy, and my ass was big. Now I know that most people get backfat in certain clothes, because that's how they sit, and they push things down. My belly can do some cool stuff, my shimmies fly even when I'm halfassing (derp!), and my ass is still big, but I'm much less likely to fall into a toilet.
I haven't conquered every bit of negative body image, of course... you couldn't pay me to put on a bikini (well, you never could. Even when I was fourteen and a tiny little thing, no dice). And I'm sorry, but I couldn't wear a traditional Egyptian Cabaret outfit either... I'm cool with a spangly bra, a sequined panel skirt and a belt, but put a bigass floofy tiered skirt under those panels, and can I get a Turkish vest so I can hide a real bra, please? Oh, and my eczema is flaring on my legs, so on go the pantaloons! w00t!
(For reference, I'm an hourglass, big butt and plenty of boobs on broad shoulders, narrow in the waist. Buying jeans is a nightmare. Buying costumes is ridiculously easy.)
I'm nervous about a debut. I'm nervous about putting myself out there, in front of friends, family, and strangers, and maybe doing something awkward or embarrassing. (Ex. "Oh, shit, our portion is only two minutes long. I'm leading and we've been doing the taksim for, like, a minute thirty... um... you can turn the taksim, right?? RIGHT???) You live and you learn, though, as long as you have fun doing it.