Illy burst into the dance studio at 7:05. A group of women, as still and poised as music box ballerinas, were sitting cross-legged in a circle with their eyes closed. A few looked up at Illy with annoyance, as though she had just interrupted their moment of achieving nirvana.
“Sorry,” she whispered. “Couldn’t find a parking spot.” More glares. Illy pretended not to notice, spotted June, and walked to the circle, remembering to suck in her belly and sway her hips with subtle seduction.
“Why are you limping? Are you hurt?” June whispered as Illy sat down beside her with what she hoped sounded like a contemplative sigh.
“Uh, just a little cramp in my leg,” she lied. She’d have to work on the seductive sway.
A curvaceous woman with long black hair smiled at Illy. “Welcome. I’m Soraiya. We’re just warming up by concentrating on our breathing. ” Illy smiled and nodded as if she knew exactly what they were doing, and began concentrating on her breathing.
Illy knew that focusing on your breath was the most basic of all meditation and stress management techniques. She’d been meaning to try it for months, but didn’t quite understand how focusing on her breath could be any more helpful than just breathing, so had mostly trusted her lungs to take care of her stress management without the extra attention. Now she found that concentrating on her breathing was way harder than any of the meditation gurus ever let on. The added attention appeared to have struck her lungs with stage fright and they had completely forgotten their lines. Illy tried to prompt them from the wings, but realized she was breathing in too deeply and then holding her breath. Her head felt light and wobbly and her lips started to tingle the way they did in grade four when she had hyperventilated on the playground.
She looked at June in panic, but June had her eyes closed, oblivious to the near-emergency occurring beside her. Illy knew that a paper bag was somehow crucial when hyperventilating, so she grabbed her water bottle and held it near her mouth, hoping that the medical theory was mostly based on breathing into any closed container.
“Okay ladies, open your eyes.” Illy was concentrating so hard on her water bottle that it took her a moment to realize that Soraiya and the rest of the women were looking at her. She took a gulp of water, glanced at June, who rolled her eyes, and then smiled at Soraiya.
“The first step in belly dancing is to isolate your hips. Let them move on their own, back and forth, side to side. ” Soraiya stood up to demonstrate. Illy prepared herself for the rather embarrassing prospect of staring at a grown woman’s bottom, and then watched in amazement as Soraiya’s hips took on a will of their own, sliding in every direction to some ancient beat pulsing in her body. Illy was mesmerized. At that moment, she knew that belly dancing was the most beautiful form of dance, no, of all movement, she’d ever seen and made a silent vow to learn to dance like Soraiya. She wondered if she might be able to learn the basics this evening and then just have to come one or two more times to perfect all the moves. Maybe belly dancing would even help her become a better writer. She was pretty sure she’d read somewhere that dancers were good writers, something about the physical movement enhancing your imagination. In fact, sitting cross-legged on the floor of that funky downtown studio, she already felt a little more sophisticated and imaginative. She considered including belly dancing in the author biography on the back cover of her novel. In her spare time, the author enjoys learning new languages and belly dancing. It would definitely add to her mystique.
“Alright, everyone find a spot by the mirror and try to isolate your hips, just moving them slightly from side to side.”
June leaned over to Illy. “This looks a lot harder than I thought it would be. Maybe you were right about ballet,” she whispered.
Illy tried to look reassuring. “You’ll be fine. Remember, all you want is a little body awareness. It’s okay if you’re not an expert.” She felt sorry for June, knowing it would be humiliating to be so uncoordinated in front of other people. She hoped that June wouldn’t be too jealous of how effortless it would be for Illy. Some people were just natural dancers. She’d try to explain that to June later as gently as she could.
Illy found a spot in front of the mirrored wall next to a woman in a yellow lycra body suit. She wished that she could use a woman like that in her novel just for the ease of the description. The woman looked like a long sleek banana. But Illy knew that no believable character would ever be wearing yellow lycra. She forced herself to forget about her novel for a moment and concentrate on her hips.
Eyes closed, belly in, Illy began to slide her hips, first to the left, then to the right. She imagined her hips were water, flowing back and forth like a seductive human wavepool. It was easier than she’d thought. She hoped Soraiya was watching her. She was probably wondering how Illy was able to capture that fluid movement so quickly. Maybe Illy could share the Wavepool image with the class to help them achieve the same sensual smoothness.
“Seriously, he refuses to take any advice. Like he’s the expert and we’re just the lowly typists placed on earth to support his genius.” Banana Woman had been on a tirade about some ego-maniac named Michael ever since the hip exercises had begun, and Illy was getting annoyed. How was she supposed to perfect her Wavepool motion if she couldn’t concentrate?
“I really can’t take it anymore. If he wants us to publish his novel, he’d better lose the cocky attitude and act like a grown up writer.”
Illy froze. Banana Woman published novels. A real life publisher was standing less than three feet away from her. Things like this didn’t happen just by chance. Illy knew that she had come to belly dancing for a reason, and the reason was to meet- no, to be met by– the Banana Woman Publisher. She began to hyperventilate.
Continue Reading: Chapter Five