Belly dancers of color: Anastasia
Editor’s note: It’s Black History Month and I thought that a great way to celebrate would be to feature belly dancers of color in our community. Our goal is to celebrate our differences and similarities in belly dance and I was curious as to how the belly dance experience is different (or the same) for dancers of color. If you’re interested in joining us for this month-long project, just contact me using the form at the bottom of the page.
The third dancer that we are featuring is Anastasia from New Castle, IN. ~ Andalee
Some people already know the first part of my story, but I am proud to share my experiences thus far with you now.
I have been my mother’s caregiver for over 15 years. During this time, I also helped care for her older sister and my grandmother, both now gone. My mom is now 90 and living in a nursing home. Prior to her leaving our home, I had become overwhelmed by the task and my health was failing. In fact, I was in worse shape than my mother. My weight skyrocketed, and I suffered from high blood pressure and cholesterol issues, asthma, anxiety, depression, and arthritis—you name it. My mom suggested I take a belly dance class (to entertain her).
Well, I’ve studied dance most of my life (ballet, jazz and Caribbean), but had been out of a studio for years. I reluctantly signed up for a class and became hooked immediately. I never dreamed I would love it so much, or that it would love me in return—restoring my health, giving me a sense of purpose, grace and femininity. But, I always felt awkward in my class. First, I was 30 or more years older than many of my classmates. Yes, I was larger than the average girl, but I always owned it, and carried my weight as a gift, rather than a flaw. If there has been an issue with my color, I have not yet FELT it. Of course, there have been moments when I’ve felt like I did not fit in, or was not included in some things. But, I don’t think that was because of color, but the difference in our ages and also, I don’t live near any of my dance sisters.
Being the type of woman I am, I chose to branch out and learn more on my own via workshops, festivals and fairs, etc. I still support my home studio, but I think nothing of traveling far and wide to study from someone I admire (when I can). I’ve been accepted most everywhere I’ve gone. Dance sisters are welcoming, but yes, sometimes, I have felt that “feeling” … The one we cannot describe nor pinpoint, when we just know that someone is uneasy about us, afraid of the unknown.
But I was raised in the Civil Rights Era. I am now 60, in my fourth year of belly dance. I have learned how to recognize the negative and let it bounce off my toe like a leaf in the wind. Through belly dance, I have gained confidence and insight on so much in this world – including things about myself I never knew before. I have learned to deliver a hip drop directed at my most cruel critic that stops them dead in their track—and before my dance is done—hopefully, they’ve forgotten that silly fear within them. Above all, belly dance has taught me to keep smiling—it’s the biggest, strongest, most effective form of defense on earth.
I’ve had some recent health issues that threaten to knock me down, but I don’t intend to let that happen. I plan to keep dancing to my destiny.
Anastasia calls her personal genre Fusion Heat, a blend of Middle Eastern, Romani Gypsy, Ballet and Caribbean. You may contact her at email@example.com.