19 April

“This Is What We Look Like…” Belly Dancing Concert in May (Maria’s Group)

by Jon Katz
Belly Dancing Concert In May. Kathleen McBrian and Jules Irion.

Dance to inspire, dance to freedom, life is about experiences, so dance and let yourself become free.” – Shah Asad Rizvi.

About a year ago, our friend Kitty Farnham invited Maria and I to a Belly Dancing Concert at the Mason Lodge Auditorium in Bennington Vt.  We were both surprisee and delighted. And hooked.

This is not something I ever paid much attention to, I had seen it once, at Disney World, and had no sense of its history or meaning.

The evening changed my understanding of it and both of our lives a bit. This dancing is infectious, it lifts spirits right up out of their chairs. On the way home, we couldn’t stop talking about what we had seen.

Belly Dancing is a dance of the times in a way, it is both intensely political and boisterously mystical at the same time. It reveals the power of women, and also defies their vulnerability.

To me, it celebrates the sometimes the sometimes unseen strength and growing power of women. There is no hidden strength in belly dancing, it’s right out there for us to see. And something about it dances right in the faces of men. An old world celebrates the new.

One poet said of belly dancing that it is the narration of an ancient and magical story, that  recites itself on lips, illuminates imaginations and embraces the most sacred depths of souls.

I felt that in Bennington last year, Maria feels it every week in class.

Belly dancing was one of the first forms of feminist expression in the world, it is thousands of years old.  The dancing has a proud message to the world: “look at us, this is who we are, this is what we look like, we are proud of ourselves and strong and filled with joy.”

Maria felt it deeply, she shocked me by joining the Bennington Beledi  Tribal Belly Dancers a few weeks later. I have never known Maria to join any kind of group, to my surprise, this was her place, she belonged.

She was the last person on earth to show her belly to anyone, she practices every week with the group and comes home happy and affirmed, bumping her hips, snapping her zills. She used to say she could never learn this dance, she doesn’t say that any more.

We are happy to announce that her belly dancing group will be performing once again at the Masonic Lodge on Main Street, Bennington on Saturday, May 19th, at 7 p.m. Tickets, which are $10,  can be purchased at the Bennington Cafe, 124 Pleasant Street, Bennington, info at 802 442-8012.

In addition to the Bennington dancers, Belly Dancing  groups from all over New England will also perform.

Belly dancing is not an exotic amusement for men. It is about a joyous physicality, hard work, community and pride. It’s about putting oneself out there, loving your body, loving yourself. Maria loves her classes and works hard at learning the many parts and moves of belly dancing. It takes years, she says, to be good enough to perform.

Belly dancing fits in beautifully with the rising tide of change affecting women all across America. They are aroused and on the move, they have no intention of turning the clock back or of sitting by while angry old men do it. I would say to these unnerved and threatened men:  get out-of-the-way, women are making history, they are the change.

Come and see them dance.

Maria is not dancing in this year’s program, called “Spice Routes.” The concert will benefit Meals On Wheels, a free food service for the elderly.

I saw Maria’s class for the first time and for a few minutes tonight in their home studio, I went to take some photos of Kathleen McBrien and Julz Irion, two leaders of the group. They will be performing on May 19th. I’ll be there taking photos and Maria will be helping to design and set up the stage backdrop for the dancers.

I’ll put up a short album on Facebook tonight, they are a photographer’s dream.

One of these days, I’ll get to see Maria up on stage, I can feel it coming.

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