a Little Something Extra to Shake
by Najia Marlyz and Salima
day at the start of a coaching session that I had scheduled with
flamboyant and petite Betty who had become Salima onstage,
she said, “Najia, I have remembered to bring my proofs of the
dance photo layouts you requested!” We looked through them discussing
the relative merits of each one and when we came to the end of
the group, I did not put the little book down but kept on thumbing
the pages. Faster and faster flew my fingers through the pages.
was astonished at the muscled woman I saw posed in each photo
and blurted, “Is that you?”
insisted on taking the little photos to my computer to scan
in for a closer look. How incredible! I had never before
met anyone who had taken on the unusual process of female bodybuilding
and my mind was simply dazzled! Many odd questions whirled
in my head. How had she transformed from this incredible statue
to Salima, the softly feminine dancer I knew (or thought I
have taught and coached thousands of dance students over the
past forty years but this was a “first” in my clientele. It
did not take long to start thinking that if I was that astonished
and curious about Betty’s transformation from Betty the Builder
to Salima the polished Belly Dancer, she should share her story. After
about a year’s delay and dance contests entered and won, I
finally convinced her that she represents in an extreme example
of how powerful and unique each person’s adventure in to Oriental
Dance performance can be.
is Salima’s humorous and inspiring story of transformation:
you? That’s… you!
surprised exclamation some visitors to my home make when they
get a glimpse of the pictures from my days of bodybuilding. Then,
within only nano seconds, I see a familiar glazed look in their
eyes that tells me their brain is shifting gears to form the
next big question, (which seems too embarrassing to ask): “Why
don’t you look like that now?” Other than the fact that
bodybuilding is all consuming, freakin’ hard work there is another
been one to give things that make me curious the “old college
try” and that inclination has lead to some pretty fun (and
funny) adventures; i.e. bungee jumping off of an Interstate
bridge (illegally), flying in a crop duster plane, cheerleading
for the NFL, acting, gnarly white-water rafting, appearing
on a goofy television show, etc. Eventually, though, because
I was already involved in health and fitness, I decided to
take-up female bodybuilding.
Some of my
friends that were in bodybuilding for years, while I had turned
my nose up at what I considered an “overly muscular look for
women.” However, slowly, the look eventually began to grow
on me. I started to appreciate the look of the hard bodies
in the gym and decided to kick my workouts into gear. My
real changes came about after I met my husband who was a competitive
bodybuilder. He was my physical sculptor; however, with
that said, no, my knees are not feeling
any love for that dear man right now. (Sorry honey!) There
is always a price to pay for the things we most enjoy, it seems.
you who have flipped through any fitness magazines are probably
aware of the fact that the contestants must stand on stage
(under very bright lights) in a very small suit,
and do a variety of competitive poses.
allowed to jiggle!
for someone who never before felt comfortable wearing shorts
in public, this was going to be a significant adjustment and
undertaking, mentally as well as physically. Typical
audiences at the shows are large, everyone present is
judging you, and not just quietly. (Did I mention that
they are audibly ripping contestants’ efforts to shreds?) I
know we are all familiar with fears of being judged and many
dancers feel it unfair or even immoral to judge the efforts
I know a
lot of you probably think, “Ewww! Ick! Why would any woman
want to look like that?” However, whenever you are deeply
involved with something for a very long time, (take Belly dancing
for example) things that may seem strange to outsiders start
to seem very normal to you. When attending festivals,
I welcome the colorful tattoos, so-called gypsy attire, and
all that goes with our current-day Belly dance appearance and
atmosphere. People on the outside would probably think
they had just walked into some sort of freak show, --especially
at a Tribal Fest. Oh! No need for taking offence; you Tribal
dancers know you enjoy what you have created!
to my story: after having been surrounded by bodybuilders for
many years, eventually that look had become the norm to me
and “other people” were the outsiders who were out of step.
found myself feeling sorry for the magazine models that sported
skinny arms and legs but, apparently, had no muscles.
I had even contemplated becoming excessively big, but luckily,
I decided against that goal. At the time, even though
I liked the look, I decided that I didn’t want to:
- gain 50
pounds and then diet it back off again at contest time,
- get a
permanent voice like a Victor Stallone,
a jaw-line like Lurch,
- deal with
acne, and the overall charming attitude.
the old song: “…Walk like a man…Talk like a man!”
just about describes what, most probably, would have happened
to me, and those attributes don’t of their own accord return
to normal, either!
After a few
years of very hard training with heavy, heavy weights, and
missing my first contest because I became pregnant, (I delivered
our son.) I was ready to compete. My first contest felt great! I
won in my class, and the event was enjoyable. Unfortunately,
at that point, I was naive about the “ruling powers” in the
my second contest, in which I had to stand next to “She-rilla,”
I decided to back away from the activity slowly and be content
with what I had accomplished to that point.
get too serious and cease to be fun, you can count me out. Life
is too short! However, I learned a valuable life-lesson
about getting too deeply involved in any activity. For
me, it is much better to be ignorant of “Who’s who.” It is
best to remain outside of the inner circle. That is me: standing
outside, singing, “La, la, la, lahhhhhh!” with my fingers stuck
in my ears.
One has to
keep things in perspective, and entering contests for purposes
of the ego can cause too much heartache. “Here today, gone
tomorrow!” the old folks often say, and with good reason. One
cannot stay on that one pinnacle forever. For me, entering
a contest creates my motivation to get the job done, to force
my issues and give them a deadline. To this day, as much
as I love dancing, I get very nervous about performing, so
I feel it is best to have my set goals.
My New Avenue
So, after my years on the bodybuilding scene, I decided to find
a new avenue of enjoyment. (Next! Snap! Snap! Sound of the fingers
I was skimming
our local newspaper and spied an advertisement about a Belly
dancing class being taught at our city’s adult education center. I
told my husband about it, and he looked at me as if I had lost
teenage son felt mortified, (God forbid that his friends
would ever find out!) but off I went, in search of a shiny,
jingly dance belt. Woo, who! Let the fun begin!
I know that I was entering into yet another new chapter of
my life full of fun, sisterhood, and here and there, a little
I was worried that what was once my stomach-of-steel wasn’t
going to be good enough to be “exposed.” One could still
see my abdominal muscles, but they were not in competition
shape. My teachers kept trying to tell me that I needed
to soften up, but that condition was against everything
I had believed in and worked for during most of my adult life.
It was after
I attended my first Belly dance competition (“Belly Dancer
of The Year, in Danville, California) that something hit me
in the face… or perhaps, I should say the stomach. Who
was it that drew my eye? Whose persona jumped off the
stage with the sensuality one would expect from a Belly dancer? The
women who had the soft curves and the little something extra
to jiggle were much more sensuous than the one
or two who had nailed down their six-packs. It was a
total eye-opener, an epiphany!
who were excessively athletic looking, did not pull my eye
nearly as much as those who were shaped like women! I
also noticed that the older women, (a.k.a.--my age), simply
looked even older if they were too lean. I remember
seeing a television documentary that studied the appeal of
the opposite sex. Men are typically drawn to women that
are softer and rounder. The softer look of a female subliminally
represents youth, health, reproduction and sex to both genders;
it said. (Even if we forget about the reproduction part, I’m
just pointing out the facts mentioned in the study.) Let’s
compare Sophia Lauren to Demi Moore. Both are beautiful
women, but I bet Sophia Lauren would pull more attention walking
down the street (or say Marilyn Monroe vs. Nicole Kidman).
with the little extra something bring out the best feminine
about it: how many of us women like super-skinny men? I’m
sorry, but that is not a good visual image for me!
dig myself any deeper into that pit...
I am sure
that there are numerous of you sexy dance Goddesses out there
who are just shaking your heads in disbelief because, for years,
you have been aware of the dynamic. However, that is
my reason why I have decided to soften up and give up my hard
It was a
little difficult for me to embrace the plan at first, but I
must admit that eating has become enjoyable again. Additionally,
I have to acknowledge that I was shocked at the response I
received during my first summer as a “softie.” The attention
of total strangers seems bizarre to me in a flattering way
that feels unsettling, and as a result, I find myself covering
up a little more when I dress to leave my home now.
power of being a woman is an amazing thing! It is too
bad so many of us don’t realize and come to terms with it until
later in our lives. However, for me, it is always better late
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
12-8-06 It Wasn’t
About the Trophy: The North Valley Belly Dance Competition in
Oroville, Ca. 2006 by Salima
I have done many things in my life and by forcing myself
to have other performers judge my performance, I have motivated
myself to step up to the plate and accomplish what I had set
in my mind to do.
Strength? Buffing up for Bellydance by Aruna
Muscles are like smart-aleck teenagers. If you ask them to do something,
they do just enough to get the job done—and no more.
Dancer of the Year Pageant 2007 Sunday Photos, Photos
by Michael Baxter, Photo Prep by Michelle Joyce, May
27, 2007 Danville, California,
produced by Leea. The competition for the Finalists.
Gala Peformance Part 1 of the International Bellydance
Conference of Canada video and photo report by
include: Lopa Sarkar, Sacred Dance Company of Victoria, Nath Keo,
Roshana Nofret & Maria Zapetis of Bozenka's BD Academy, Ensemble
El Saharat of Germany-
Mayyadah & Amir of Germany, Ferda Bayazit of Turkey, Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra
Cairo: You live a whole lifetime in one week! by
builds bridges, and in today’s world, bridges –between
individuals and between cultures, are becoming more and more
of an imperative.
Ancient Art of Keeping Your Mouth Shut by Neon
one’s casual presence in the forums infested with negative-spirited
discussions can instantly strip a successful artist of her magical
Sermon's Photos from the Hoover Hafla
produced by The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of MECDA on February
10, 2008, at Hoover Theatre in San Jose, CA
Dance Zones of Egypt: Sahra Kent's Journey Through
Egypt Basic 1 Workshop Report and photos by Debbie
not strictly speaking a “dance”workshop, for each
zone we got up to learn some characteristic steps and posture,
and gestures associated with each dance zone/style, a good way
to blend the theoretical with the experiential.