Name: Megan Romano
Profession: Epidemiologist/PhD student (I study the determinants of disease)
Hobbies: Knitting, baking, reading, hiking, swing dancing
How long have you been studying bellydance? About 4 years total – 1 1/2 years of cabaret, about 6 months of Egyptian, and the rest ATS with Shay
When did you first see bellydance? What were your first impressions?
I remember being completely mesmerized by a woman doing bellydance during a talent show in college. At the time I wasn’t able to identify it as bellydance specifically, but I was fascinated by the contrast of fluid and percussive movements she used in her performance. I distinctly remember the first time that I saw improv tribal style bellydance. I had been dancing for about a year with the Goddess Dancing in Boston and was participating in their student showcase with the rest of my cabaret class. I had never seen tribal bellydance before, so I watched Tassellations dress rehearsal and was in total awe of how powerful and graceful their movements were and how much fun they seemed to be having dancing together. I must have asked Zia about a million questions afterwards — “You make it up? Seriously, every time it is different? You use cues to choreograph as you go? Does that really work?” It pretty well blew my mind, and I knew I’d have to try it for myself.
What motivated you to finally take your first bellydance class?
My roommate practically dragged me to my first class, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
What was your first class like?
I started out in a cabaret class, and it was simultaneously fun and really frustrating. I had studied ballet for years, and it took me quite awhile just to let my rib cage and hips move independently. I remember hanging out toward the back of the studio and keeping pretty quiet during that first class. I felt very encouraged by the other women though, and by the end of class I was having a blast even if I wasn’t getting the movements yet.
In what ways do you think you have changed or benefited as a result of taking bellydance classes?
First and foremost, I think that bellydance has given me a real sense of community. I feel very lucky to know the women (and men) in my classes. Second, I gain a lot from the opportunity to just check my stress and anxiety at the door and get out of my head for a few hours every week. Beyond the obvious physical benefits of dancing, I feel energized and mentally refreshed after class. Finally, bellydance has made me more patient with and accepting of myself. I have perfectionist tendencies, and dancing has really highlighted how small progress from week to week can lead to major growth over time if you don’t allow yourself to become dispirited by every little mistake you make along the way. My confidence level outside of the studio has also improved.
What is your favorite move or concept you have learned so far and why?
Flock of birds is my favorite concept because it so nicely illustrates the way in which a group of dancers must work together to execute the moves successfully.
Any advice for other students who are just starting out?
The best thing you can do for yourself is simply to show up and be mentally present in class. Shay knows what she is doing, so soak up as much info as you can every week and keep at it. Also, I promise that there will come a day when your zills will feel like an extension of your dance instead of a total hindrance. That day will make up for all of the times that you wanted to chuck them across the room but didn’t.
Any other thoughts to share?
This is super random, but stick with my musings for a moment here. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how bellydance is like ragtime music in terms of layering syncopation over holding down the beat (probably because of all the zilling we’ve been doing in Old School). My friend Martin explains it much better than I can (in reference to ragtime) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU7SFLqkHHM, but seriously – doesn’t this sound just like how we play with rhythms in bellydance?
Thanks Megan! Simply love your observations. We are so blessed to have you in our dance family!