One Ad Changed
It was July
1965, and I had just had a baby. I felt old and out of shape.
I was the mother of three kids aged 3 days, 1year and 2 years.
I was 23 and I had just left the hospital wearing baggy clothes. After my
other two children were born, I left the hospital wearing
normal clothes - pre-pregnancy clothes - and could zip them up.
This time, although I had only gained 24 pounds, I could not zip
was very desperate and determined to get back to my old self.
"It is gym
time", I thought. "But I don't like the gym - I like to dance."
It didn't matter; I was determined to lose weight. I was already
on a severe diet, and the baby was only three days old. I
looked in the classified section of the newspaper and God had
sent me a message! There was a listing advertising "Lose
your Belly - Take Belly Dance Lessons. Call Harems Unlimited."
Belly Dance lessons? I didn't know what belly dance was, but I
sure did want to lose my belly! So I made the call. The
woman who answered told me I could take classes or private lessons.
I couldn't afford the private lessons, so I asked about the class
schedule. She said she had none yet, but if I could get together five
people, we could make a class. I called friends and relatives,
and finally got my mother, my aunt, a friend of my mother's and
a neighbor to agree to go with me.
name was Bettina Robbi and she lived in a flat
near Chinatown. She was trying to start a center for belly dance
- a dance school and a rooming house for travelling belly dancers.
My family and I were her first, and, I think, her only students,
and she had one tenant - a dancer named Salima.
We met once a week in her empty dining room. It adjoined her living
room with large sliding pocket doors. We didn't dance much in
the living room because she reserved that for the "audience".
Occasionally in class she would serve wine and invite her Greek
boyfriends over to be the audience. We came to class in leotards
and she lent us veils to use on our hips.
did not learn how to dance with a veil, but sometimes she
would paste wax the hardwood floors and she would tell us
to put the veils under us and buff the floors with our butts
and our bodies. We learned to slither like snakes and her
boyfriends got free shows.
She also taught
us step hip, how to roll our stomachs (Moroccan style), to do
karsilama (Turkish and Greek style), and how to play the finger
cymbals. She wanted us to practice, and told us where to go to
get supplies. There was one record store in the Tenderloin that
carried folk dance music. If you rang a bell, the owner (a very
old man) would check you out, and if you looked OK he would let
you in. I went and bought the only Middle Eastern record he had.
It was very old style Turkish with lots of chifte telli and karsilama
rhythms. Then I went to a Greek import store, also in the Tenderloin,
and bought a set of finger cymbals from Syria. I was set!
We studied weekly with Bettina for about 6 months and then she
left us. She went on the road, dancing in a succession of different
a flamenco dancer who had gone to Spain to study more flamenco
and eventually landed a job dancing in Morocco. It was there that
she learned to belly dance.)
this new dance style was the most exciting thing in my life.
I think I obsessed. It gave me a new reason for living. I
loved my family but I needed more in life.
I wanted to
do something creative. Every day I looked forward to the three
ones' nap times so I could practice. I especially enjoyed practicing
to a dance program on TV that featured singers like James
Brown. (I could not relate to the Turkish record - it was too
weird. I also had a record that I had bought previous
to my last pregnancy. It was "The African Arab" by Mohamed
El Bakkar. At the time I bought it, I thought it
was an African dance record - I had taken many years of African
dance lessons pre-children - I remember being disappointed that
it didn't have African drumming on it, so I didn't like it either.)
I really liked practicing to James Brown and even Paul Revere
and the Raiders was better than that Turkish stuff. On weekends
we would go to North Beach and go to the clubs on upper Grant
Ave. I bragged to my friends that I was learning this new type
of dance. At some of the clubs they would dare me to jump up on
stage and "belly dance" with the bands.
kids in a rented two bedroom home, we felt it was time to move.
We had some savings and bought a larger home, but we were a family
with one income, and it wasn't enough. How could we make our payments?
I said I would go back to work on the condition that I work at night
when the kids were asleep. I really wanted to be with them in the
usually would do the dare. And I usually would get 86ed.
I really didn't
even know what a belly dance looked like. I had only taken lessons
to lose weight and tone up. We had never done a dance routine in
class. I'd never even seen my teacher, Bettina, dance and now she
was gone - on the road! What was I to do? Well, I decided to be
brave and I put my leotard and a scarf in my purse and went to the
(the only club in town) to ask for an audition. Just like in the
husband told me to get a job belly dancing in North Beach.
Amina contiunues- "I'd
Rather Stay Home with my Kids" Chapter 2
a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
More by Amina-
Giza Club Lecture,
Wacky Woman Traveler- Leyla Lanty
and familiarity pays off.
Make a Giza Club!
to become our first Wacky Woman Traveler...
Understanding Middle Eastern
Rhythm by Frank Lazzaro
rhythms of the tabla inspire the dance, so to understand these
rhythms is to fully blossom as a dancer.
Luna Gitana 2003
and layout by Susie Poulelis
and Shoshanna Presented by Vashti, A Bellydance Odyssey Production,
Santa Cruz, CA November 15, 2003
Khairiyya Mazin Struggles
to Preserve Authentic Ghawazi Dance Tradition by Edwina Nearing
when Khairiyya Mazin retires, one of the most distinctive traditions
of Ghawazi dance may come to an end.
The 11th Annual North Valley
Belly Dance Competition photos
and layout by Susie Poulelis
Falls Casino Orovile, CA, November 8, 2003