I had been taking yoga classes at the Healing Arts Center when I saw my first belly dancer. It was high school. My parents had been recently divorced and so my father, brother, and I were taking yoga as a bonding activity. After yoga class was over and we were socializing with the other students, the belly dancers entered the room.

Perhaps its a shallow thing to say or think, but I have heard from many others that they agree with me: it was the costuming that sucked me in.  I had never seen belly dance, not that I could remember. Even before I saw these amazing women of different shapes and sizes begin shimmying and undulating, I was mesmerized by their boldness. Their bellies were out, all of them, and their confident personalities were beaming. Whatever these women were by day, they were belly dancers by night.


And the shiny coins! The bras! The belts! All of them glimmered or jingled and jangled, as if just calling attention to themselves on their own.

My jaw may have dropped. I remember my dad teasing me after wards in the car, saying that now I saw what it was, I was going to go join the group.


How could I know?

I had just made it through my first year of high school; we were still adjusting, all of us, to the new break in our family; I was struggling with a way to express myself and identify who I was as a person. I hated myself. I couldn't stand who I was.

2005 (?)

And then this dance, this sighting; it happened. I don't even remember how I signed up. I showed up one day to the beginner's belly dance class at Canopy. My instructor was Karin. She taught Classic Egyptian. I heard the music and thought it was weird. There was only one other person in the class, and she was a high school counselor at Oconee County High School (by the way, that was Samira, who is currently one of the teachers at the Healing Arts Center, along with Amani and Murjana).

 2005 or 2006

Karin taught me a maya.
Bend your knees, she told us. Straighten one a little. Slide your hip out past your ankle. Bend that knee back. Slide your hip back into basic. Do the same thing on the other side.

I still love the maya. It was my first movement and it is still my favorite.


Since I started belly dancing, I've become a much more confident person. I am not afraid of who I am anymore. Belly dancing even provided a stable place for me to go every week even though joint custody changed every two weeks. It almost became a second home, and the women I bonded with became my first belly dance family. I will always think of Troupe Hameeda fondly and even though I am sad it fell apart, I understand that we are all unique individuals and we all travel down our own paths.

Photographer: Amanda Dookwah

I too am traveling down my own path.
Although I was taught Classical Egyptian cabaret, I have also learned American Tribal Fusion and am part of troupe Sulukule, a Turkish Tribal group located in Athens, GA. This is very exciting for me; I am learning new and wonderful things.

Photographer: Franklin Myrick

I currently teach whenever I can. I have taught teen belly dance classes at the Athens-Clark County Library and am now teaching at Floorspace Studio.

ACC Library's Teen Bellydance
ACC Library's Teen Bellydance

Troupe Sulukule in Asheville

Photographer: Nai Tseng Chang