Gilded Serpent presents...
NOTES FROM A MIDDLE AGED BELLY DANCER
by Karen Andes
asked me how old I was and I answered, “Oh my God, I’m
almost 50”—as if this was news to me. Well, in a way
it is. I just turned 47 but, depending on the day, I feel like
I could be four, fifteen, thirty-five or on a soul level of over
two thousand years old. Sure, there are days when I feel my full
47 years. First thing in the morning without makeup, I certainly
look older. But mostly, I prefer to live in denial about the linear
march of time and see myself as frisky and ageless.
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an (ahem!) “aging” belly
dancer. When it comes to teaching or dancing for my own pleasure,
I enjoy my maturity. But
sometimes, dancing near a gorgeous young dancer, I wonder how long
I’ll feel comfortable performing. Into
my 60’s, 70’s, 80’s? (I’d love to hear
other dancers’ thoughts on this subject).
are a few role models out there—modern dancer Anna
Halprin, for one.
saw her 80th birthday dance concert, in which, for one number,
she wore a mask of a young courtesan and revealed her fabulous
legs under a short skirt. (You could almost hear the collective
Later she announced
she was planning a 100th birthday dance concert—when she’d “finally
understand something about dance.”
even close to having Anna Halprin’s insights about dance,
but I do know that time has deepened my love of dancing. I seem
to have grown a new appreciation for the subtle internal realm
of the dance—and I’m just as excited about polishing
relieved that I no longer feel compelled to impress an audience
with flashy moves like I once did in ballet, modern and jazz.
No more splits or high kicks; my knees rebel when I do floor
work. So, arms, hands, heart and facial expression have taken
on a deeper significance.
It seems that
foundations of all kinds have become important, too.
muscles create a foundation of strength in a dancer’s
body. In my classes I emphasize the importance of connecting
all moves to the core and anchoring the shoulders, so the arms
seem to lift from deep in the back. Whatever dynamic control
we don’t get from dance, we can supplement with Pilates,
yoga and strength training.
As for the foundation I
put on my face, I’ve recently switched to ground-up mineral
pigments made by Bare Essentials or Amazing Base by Jane Iredale—because
the old fashioned kind of foundation creates deep crevices of my
wrinkles! The pigments supply great coverage, look youthful and
they’re good for skin!
Middle age seems
to be the age when eyebrows decide to grow inwards
and grow out of the chin! So I must etch them on, but it’s
a constant battle not to look like Joan Crawford or Groucho Marx.
And, when I dance, the makeup sweats off anyway. I’ve found
a nice and flattering alternative—wearing those colorful
stick-on face jewels in arcs above the brows. Perhaps one day I’ll
have the resources to get them tattooed on – plus a nip,
tuck and laser here and there but it ain’t happening now….
The mature body is less forgiving of “being bad.” I
seem to dance best on high alkaline, low acidic foods--salads,
green drinks, low glycemic-index fruits like apples, bananas, papaya,
some carbs and clean animal protein (especially fish). (And of
course I stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and too much
sugar and caffeine). But I always leave room for an excellent piece
I’ve been doing an overhaul on my beliefs,
thought patterns, assumptions and mental habits. Learning new skills
trains the brain to keep creating new neurological pathways—the
opposite of “hardening of the attitude.”
I need more rest.
I can’t work or play into a frazzle anymore. Oh, how I love
those empty white spaces on my calendar!
to come into one’s own as a dancer and we’re blessed
that Middle Eastern dance celebrates women of stature. But I realize
that if I were to perform without handling these vanity issues,
people wouldn’t be able to focus on my dancing. One thing
I’ve learned with time and experience is that I’ll
do all kinds of things to keep experiencing the joy that is this
a comment? Send
us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
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