Life meets belly dance

written by Melissa on June 30, 2014 in Healthy for life with no comments
Make up before and after show

Make up before and after show: I wanted to take a photo to see how well the make up stayed on during stressful nights (left). Surprisingly, through the tears, sweat, and hugs, the eye make up stayed. The lipstick was a different story (right).

Originally, this was meant to be related to the 90 Day Dance challenge. When Andalee first mentioned it, I was all over it. In fact, I started early! I was just about to start teaching my first real classes through my town’s Recreation Department and I wanted to really motivate myself to set up a lesson plan, work on warm ups, and possibly work on a few things for myself. I started journaling and I even kept up with it.

When the actual first week started, I somehow managed to get a double ear infection. I am almost 30 years old and I got a double ear infection. Because of this, there was no dancing at all, for about a week. For the challenge, I would focus on watching Youtube videos critically and analyzing movements. I became utterly obsessed with baladi cane, specifically one of Fifi Abdou’s video. I watched the videos and took notes about what I liked versus what I didn’t like. I was excited about not feeling dizzy while standing up, so when I was finally better, I got back to dancing.

Now that, unfortunately, did not last long. Life had other plans for me. Some point in mid-April my mom messaged me on Facebook saying my dad was not doing too well. He has been sick since 2001 so it’s been a very long time coming. The Veteran’s Affairs Hospital (VA) finally deemed that he was catastrophically disabled and he needed hospice care. The VA thinks he has until about August. This, by itself, is enough to cause added stress in someone’s life. My mom at this time was acting funny. A family friend and I assumed that she was just depressed due to the situation. She had asked me to come home and I stayed from that Sunday to Wednesday. I felt terrible when I left because she seemed really sick. On Thursday during my lunch break, I called to check on her and an EMT answered her cell phone. My dad had tried talking to my mom and she was not making sense so he called for them. Work let me leave early that day and I got down to the hospital I sent her to. Her blood sugars were through the roof (1700s, yes, really. No, I am not making that up – she was in rough shape) and she had a UTI. Sunday, we found out she had perforated and necrotic small intestine and it needed to be removed. She had her surgery while I was in my teacher’s Student Show.

Melissa with her sword class

Some of the best ladies I’ve had the pleasure of dancing with.

If there is one thing that I learned that night at the Student Show is just how amazing my dance community is. My instructor moved our class to the last slot just in case I didn’t make it in time which allowed me to relax a little while driving and getting myself ready. I still managed to have issues though, wrong color bra (we had “nude” colored costumes and I had a black bra on) and then my necklace broke during the run through. Thankfully my make up stayed on and my troupe mate who is also in that class had a spare necklace. All the women in my class were incredibly supportive and I had a wonderful night, despite constantly checking my phone for updates. My mom’s surgery was supposed to be only a few hours and it took much longer than anticipated. All the while, I had my classmates giving me hugs and just overall being amazing. Those 5 minutes on the stage helped me concentrate on something other than my parents’ ailing healths. The choreography alone required so much concentration that I had to for everyone’s safety – it was a 15 person sword choreography.

Since that weekend, I have been spending half my time at my house in Western MA and the other half down in Eastern MA at my parents’ house. I have been keeping up with my schedule of dance: Wednesday class, Thursday Troupe, Friday friend class, Saturday Rec Dept class. These 4.5 hours of scheduled dance class have been one of the things getting me through this time. My Saturday students absolutely make my day. Not only do they teach me how to break movements down but they teach me how exciting it is to learn and to grow. Each week they come in with giant smiles and fabulous personalities and such a willingness to learn. I leave that class with smiling for the rest of the day because of those girls.

These ladies have been with me through all of this.

These ladies have been with me through all of this.

My “homework” of working on choreographies helped me to focus on my own life rather than worrying all the time about my parents. My troupe had a performance 2 weeks after the student show and we debuted new costumes that we made and 2 new dances that I brought to the troupe (a lovely veil piece to Jimmy Makulis’ Misirlou and a cute, short drum). Nothing helps to distract someone more than focusing on a show with new choreography and new costumes. The show was a public showcase of the dancers around the area and each performer(s) had a 10 minute slot, except for the featured performer who got 20 minutes. This event, for me, was pretty amazing because I started connecting with dancers from the eastern half of the state.

One of the weekends I was down at my parents’ house, I needed a break from all the painting I had been doing (20 years of nicotine stains takes a lot of Kilz to cover up). I hit up the ol’ Facebook  see if there were any dance classes nearby and managed to find a gorgeous studio 20 minutes away. I am grateful for the dancers at the New Englad Bellydance Association on Facebook. I jumped in the advanced class and had an hour and half of a good old fashioned sweaty shimmy-filled dance class. I am still forever grateful of how accepting these ladies were (I even got invited to a home-spa party!). It felt so comfortable stepping into their community. For me, being at my parents’ house invokes a lot of anxiety and stress and then to have had that experience in that studio so close to my parents’ house makes going home not seem so stressful.

As of this writing, my mom is out of the hospital, but still not out of the woods. I’m still working my butt off to find her extra support in the community. There is talk about sending my dad home from the VA hospital, though I am still unsure how I feel about him leaving the hospital. It’s going to be a long road, but I will always have my dance as a constant companion to help me relax.

Post script- my mother is back in the hospital after getting sick for a week. I had to play “mama bear” and drag her to the hospital. My dad is actually getting out of the hospital on a trial run at the house with his daughter from his first marriage. The hospice care actually lengthened his time frame to 6 months from now, giving us until probably December. 


About Melissa

Melissa began belly dancing seriously in 2010. In January of 2013, she joined the Crescent Dancers, a professional dance troupe located in western Massachusetts. Around that time, she started reading about Health at Every Size through Ragen Chastain’s website "Dances with Fat." Through this philosophy, she has learned to accept her body as it is, a fat body that can do some pretty awesome things. She also hopes that she is able to spread some of the love to random women she meets at her job, working at a major clothing company.