If someone had told me a year ago that I would soon be belly dancing on stage in front of hundreds of people, I would probably have not even registered the words. I would have thought they were talking to someone else.
But I did do it, and tapping helped!
Last summer I joined a beginners belly dancing class. I have always loved to dance, but I don’t really have a dancer’s body. I assumed that dancing around the house was about as far as I was going to get, now that I am pretty much out of the party scene at my Advanced Age.
I was experiencing some difficult digestive issues, and I thought that belly dance would energize this part of my body. That did turn out to be true, but really, I had no idea what I was setting myself up for.
Our class was all women (usual for belly dance, but not exclusive) of all sizes, who ranged in ages from mid 30’s to late 60’s (me). Our teacher Sheila (professional dance name Sheikha) is probably around 40. She has been studying and teaching belly dance for many years. She has the startling and endearing habit of dancing seriously along in perfect form, and then suddenly breaking out in some get-down funky hip-hop moves.
I always looked forward to going to belly dance class. It was a good workout, moving to lively classical and modern rap-style music from the Middle East. It didn’t matter what we wore to class, as long as we put on a hip belt with a fringe of jangly coins, the sparklier the better. In fact, who knew how seductive the belly dance costumes would become, let alone the dancing. It can become a whole other wardrobe, for your whole other persona…
Here is Wikipedia on the physical benefits: Belly dance is a non-impact, weight-bearing exercise and is thus suitable for all ages. It is a good exercise for the prevention of osteoporosis in older people. Many of the moves involve isolations, which improves flexibility of the torso. Belly dance moves are beneficial to the spine, as the full-body undulation moves lengthens (decompresses) and strengthens the entire column of spinal and abdominal muscles in a gentle way.
Dancing with a veil can help build strength in the upper body, arm and shoulders. Playing the zills (finger cymbals) trains fingers to work independently and builds strength. The legs and long muscles of the back are strengthened by hip movements.
Everyone in our class shared a love of movement—along with a significant level of self consciousness about our bodies. I had a funny and disconcerting experience in every class. I still have it! I would be dancing away, behind Sheila, following her moves, feeling the music and the movement deeply in my body, having such a good time. At some point I would inadvertently catch sight of myself in the studio’s wall of mirrors… and realize with dismay that I had been unconsciously imagining that I looked like her doing this, but embarrassingly I still looked like me!
Part of me “just knows” that I must have been a veil dancer in my past lives, because I feel it so deeply, but I seem to have forgotten to bring that body along with me into this life. Looking in the mirror, I have ample opportunity to utilize some of my favorite spiritual phrases: “Oh well…” and “So what?”
After a few months of learning the basic moves, Sheila asked us innocently if we would like to learn a choreography. That seemed harmless; we all said yes.
We got to know each other, we practiced our dance, and we got better at moving our hips and chests and head and arms and hands and fingers, with unfamiliar muscles. Sheila started talking casually about the big belly dance show that she puts together every May, featuring all of her students, as well as visiting troops and professionals. We didn’t pay much attention, most of us probably figuring that it might be fun to go to the show but it didn’t really have anything to do with us personally. No way were we showing up on a stage…
As it became clear that she was talking about us being in the show if we wanted to, I just assumed, without thinking much about it, that I wouldn’t participate. But as the weeks passed, I began, to my surprise, to think, “Hey, it might be fun!!” Of course all sorts of fears and anxieties and acute embarrassments began to loom in my mind.
But! I knew I had a secret ally—EFT! I told Sheila about tapping, and offered to share it with our class to help everyone get over their nervousness. She was open to it.
I sent out an email to my classmates:
On March 13, and possibly more times after that before the show, we will be doing this tapping thing together, known as Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT. EFT is a powerful non-invasive transformative tool, it is quick and easy to learn, and we will be doing it together as a group. Among the many ways it has been helpful to people is with performance anxiety.
So now…think about the upcoming show, and being on stage doing our dance, with people watching…
When you do that, kind of go inside and notice what thoughts, feelings and images come up for you, like:
“I am terrified to do this…what will people be thinking of me…last time I did something in front of people I really screwed up…I have never performed on stage before…I am embarrassed about my body…I am too fat/skinny/flat chested/buxom…what if I go blank…”
Or maybe it is more like: “This might be fun…I get to dress up and be sexy…I love these ladies in the class and we get to do this together…Sheila is such a cool teacher… :^)”
Notice what happens in your body when these thoughts go through your head, especially the nervous scared uncertain ones.
Take note of all this.
Together let’s come up with a list of thoughts and feelings like these. Before March 13, SEND ME YOUR DEEPEST FEARS! (I will take good care of them, and I will keep them completely anonymous)
Also include your positive thoughts and wishes about this event for yourself—we will work those in too.
I will use what you send me to design a tapping session for our time together on March 13. It will make a big difference, I promise!!
Love from Rue
I compiled what everyone sent to me, and Sheila set aside about 15 minutes of a class for us to tap. After the tapping session I passed out cards that had the EFT Basic Recipe on it, for people to practice with later. I also sent around an email with the phrases we tapped on, along with some EFT Web sites and links to free EFT manuals.
Here are the phrases people sent to me to work with:
I am nervous about messing up the routine.
I don’t want people to look at my body—will they laugh?
I am afraid of just freezing, going blank from fear, not remembering a thing.
I have gotten nauseous in front of groups—what if I throw up?
I haven’t been onstage since I was four!
My body isn’t sexy enough to do this!
I will look like a complete dork.
I will make the whole group look bad and ruin it for them.
I will be a bitch to people and take my stress out on them.
I can’t do more than one thing at a time: legs, hips, chest, zills.
I am afraid I will fuck up and make everyone else look bad, including Sheila.
My body is too ___________ (fill in the blank…)
Then I started sprinkling in some reframes that people had contributed and that I added to:
Sheila’s intention in all of her work, and in creating the show, is to honor the Divine Feminine in all women. In the weeks before the event, each of us in the class had a few minutes to share about this topic and the women that had inspired us. Some talked about spiritual or religious figures like Mary or Mother Theresa, some talked about goddesses, one woman who often brought her baby to class shared about her baby daughter, and her mother who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. I talked about the spirit of the earth, Gaia.
We selected words, images and concepts that inspired us as women, to be the keynote of that practice session. Then for that class we would dance into “strength,” or “feisty power,” or “gentle flow,” or “creative curiosity.” Each of Sheila’s other classes was doing this too.
Then, during the week of the actual show, our beginners class did another tapping session. (I also did some private work with one woman who had had a closed head injury in an auto accident. She had found that her brain didn’t always work the way she expected it to.) The set-ups that people sent to me were similar to the first lot, but interestingly, peoples’ comments focussed more on the actual show and the performance, rather than what our bodies looked like. Maybe the first tapping session had had an effect!
In this second tapping session, we focussed on tapping for:
I am nervous that something will go wrong with the music, lights, my costume, etc.
I am scared that I won’t relax on stage.
I am afraid of losing my cool because I will be stressed out.
I am worried about being late and not having a moment to relax and breathe before the show starts.
I worry that I will just “freeze” from fear and totally forget the choreography.
I’ll be so nervous that if I do remember the moves, I’ll become an automaton and not express any joy and spirit in my dancing!
I am scared that I will be the one doing the routine wrong.
I will look stupid in front of my friends.
I’m afraid my anxiety will impede my ability to be present in my body.
I will be unable to feel the dance move through me.
When I am onstage and I see all those people out there, I will start thinking about whether I know anyone and what they are thinking—yikes, it all goes out of my head!
What if we all do great, have a wonderful time and just ROCK it?!
And my joy is that I will have practiced so much that I will be able to do the dance in my sleep, and I will be able to bring my full, joyful presence to the dance and have a wonderful time dancing.
I am so excited to open my heart and body and really be present to the beauty, strength, and grace of the Divine Feminine.
And we added these thoughts:
The night of the show finally arrived. Everyone was nervous, but excited. To my surprise, I found that I didn’t feel nervous at all.
I had decided that even though this was one of the most out of character things I could imagine doing (in this life anyway!), I knew I wanted to share, through the dancing, the sense of powerful, joyful, playful Presence in being a woman. I wanted the audience to feel a part of our dance, not as if we were dancing for them, but as if they were dancing with us and sharing our delight to find ourselves actually doing this!
The bottom line: we all did well! There were three women from another beginner group who danced with us, none of whom had danced with us beforehand. They told Sheila that when they saw us practicing during the dress rehearsal right before the show, they were intimidated by how well we knew the dance and how confident we seemed. I think that was totally because of the tapping that we did!
We even handled it well when a part of one of our dancer’s costume just fell off, loudly (belly dance costumes are loud!), right on the stage, near the end of the dance. We did lose our rhythm then because we were all laughing so hard, but we carried on!
I think this event was a big deal for all of us. And Sheila herself said later that the tapping had helped her to stay calm and focussed amidst the million details and challenges that arose during the event, and in her own dances.
Afterwards, one of our troop, who had had to miss too many practices to perform but who came to support us, sent out this email:
To all the Arabica Ladies and Sheikha,
You all outdid yourselves! Your dancing was spectacular! Congratulations on having the glory and the guts. You did our Boulder class proud. Admittedly, I’m a bit biased but you danced as well as many of the advanced classes and I’m not the only one who thought that, many husbands agreed as well…
Most importantly, it looked like you were all having fun!
And Sheila, what can I say, you lovely, sassy, sexy lady. Your encouragement, generosity and grace is inspiring – not to mention your hot dancing…
Lots of love,
Sheila says that next we will be learning to dance with veils…maybe we will all even bare our bellies. I am sure we will be tapping!
With my love and blessing to you.
Please forward this article to anyone you know who might be wanting to take on something really different for them, or who is self conscious about her body. (Aren’t we all?)