Most people spend Memorial Day weekend travelling to see relatives and friends, entertaining or being entertained by relatives and friends, and shopping. What did I do? I travelled to Silver Spring Maryland to attend the Bellydancers of Color Movement and Wellness Expo (the “Expo”).
I know. The term “bellydancers of color” sounds (as my mother would say) repetitively redundant since most people think of Middle Eastern women doing the dance. But did you know that bellydance originated in Africa? I mean, not just in the Middle East, which is, of course part of the African continent.
The Bellydancers of Color Association (“BOCA”) celebrates bellydancers and dancers of color from all over the world. Dr. Sunyatta Amen – the head of BOCA – was inspired to start it when she attended her first bellydancing class in which she was the only woman of color in the room. Her teacher asked her where were the rest of her people.
The teachers and performers at the Expo are world-class dancers and include well-known African-American bellydancers as well as dancers from Africa, the Middle East, Asia and India. At the Expo, you can take classes in traditional bellydance, tribal bellydance, and bellydance fusion such as bellydance dancehall fusion and hip hop bellydance. In addition, you can take classes in Brazilian Samba, Afro-Cuban Orisha dance, Bollywood, traditional dances of India, burlesque and more. You can also take classes on such interesting topics as astro-numerology, meditation, funk yoga, holistic health, muscle sculpting and deep tissue reflexology.
This was my second time attending the Expo and I had a fabulous time. I paid for a VIP pass which gave me open access to all the classes and VIP seating at the show which was held on Saturday evening.
Being the maniac that I am, I, of course, signed up for way too many classes. I was scheduled to take Bellydance Basics I, Pop Locking & Tick Tocking (tribal bellydance), and Bellydance Dancehall Fusion with Dr. Sunyatta Amen on Friday afternoon; however, my plane was delayed for two hours and, as a result, I only made it to the dancehall fusion class. It was fantastic. We had a whole lot of fun dancing to music from Beenie Man and other dancehall music artists. It was also a serious workout. I knew that I was in trouble when I woke up, already sore, on Saturday morning with several dance and exercise classes ahead of me.
I started out with Soul Yoga at 9a.m. It was a yoga class that focused on flexibility and was set to oldies but goodies music. I learned that I’m not nearly as flexible as I should be. The 61 year old instructor who taught the class is more flexible than I have ever been (and I was a modern dancer in college) or could ever hope to be. I do, however, still hope to grow up to be just like him. I certainly plan to incorporate yoga more fully into my exercise routine in the future.
Next was the “Bellydance Junk in the Trunk!” class. In addition to getting a great workout, we had great fun dancing to hip hop and dancehall music. We also picked up some health and wellness tips from Dr. Amen who is a naturopathic physician.
After a lunch break, I took the Belly Sculpt class with Gigi – a personal trainer – who worked us over from head to toe without using weights or any other exercise equipment. My arms, legs, glutes and stomach were still begging for mercy two days later. I’ve got to say though, that if working out like that will make our bodies as toned and tight as Gigi’s, then it’s almost worth the pain (she would call it a sensation).
Next, I took a Bellydance Basics Level II class. Since, prior to the BOCA Expo, I hadn’t taken bellydancing lessons in a while, I figured that I should brush up on the basics. I was one of eight students in the class, three of whom studied regularly at Dr. Amen’s MamaSita Studios in Washington, D.C. and were mavericks. Needless to say, each beginner student received a lot of attention and encouragement in that class. Unfortunately, I was pretty exhausted by then, having already taken four hours of dance and exercise classes.
After the class, I dragged myself up to my room and rested for a while before heading downstairs to see the show. The dance instructors at the BOCA Expo, some of Dr. Amen’s students and guest dancers appeared in the show which featured traditional bellydancing, hip hop bellydancing, tribal bellydancing, African dance, Brazilian samba, traditional dances from India and so much more. The show was absolutely fabulous and highly entertaining.
During intermission, I grabbed a plate from the food vendor at the Boca Expo who made very delicious vegan delights such as collard greens, macaroni and cheese, fried “chicken” made from a grain (seitan), red beans and dirty rice, some sort of stew that tasted as if it were made with beef, sweet potato pie, carrot cake, etc. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I danced all weekend. I had to do something to burn off all those delicious calories.
The next morning, I woke up even more sore than the day before. I was scheduled to take a tribal bellydance class with Naimah at 8a.m., but I couldn’t quite make it. I did, however, make it to the Hip Hop Bellydance class where we danced to the latest hip hop music and learned a short routine to take home with us. Then I took a class called Transformational Meditation with Yirser Ra Hotep – a master yoga instructor. It was a two-hour class, but the time just seemed to fly by. Even though it was my first meditation class ever, he was able to help me get into a state of relaxation and awareness I have never known before.
After that class, I traded my tribal bellydance pants for jeans and headed to the airport to catch my flight back to Miami.
I had a wonderful time at the Expo and would encourage anyone who has an interest in bellydance to attend. Both the novice and the expert bellydancer would enjoy the classes, the show and the wonderful fellowship that the BOCA Expo has to offer.
Look out for future posts on my experiences with yoga and meditation. Until then,
P.S. If you are shy or self-conscious at all, you might not want to wear a t-shirt with the words “Got Hips? Bellydancers of Color Association” written across the bustline at the airport. I got comments from airport security and flight attendants alike, not to mention the looks from other passers by. One TSA worker thought I was a professional bellydancer and asked me for my card.