I took ballet and tap when I was 3 or 4, ice skating at 8, jazz at 11, ballet at 12, did colorguard in high school, and tore up the dance floor at every school dance while my peers stood self-consciously to the side.
In the summer of 2005, after my freshman year of college, I saw my first belly dancer at a campfire in New Mexico. The people all around me whispered disparagements regarding her weight and body, but I was enthralled by her skill and presence and made a point of complimenting her when she finished. I thought to myself, "I wanna do that!"
About six months later, I heard about belly dance classes available across the street from campus. Immediately I signed up. I was reeling from a breakup, and this class gave me back a sense of happiness and confidence in myself and my desirability. Cathy Barton taught the class and was a delight to learn from. She taught all her classes choreography, (the amazing Shakira in mine) and even we beginners got to perform at the end of semester hafla!
After that, a tight class schedule and limited income kept me from lessons for four years, but I performed at every campfire I could find a drummer and a few arts competitions hosted by the local medieval recreation group, Amtgard.
In November 2009, I packed up my life to move to South Korea to teach English and put my costumes and scarves into storage, figuring I'd have to wait a year to belly dance. But I was so wrong! On a lark, I Googled "belly dance korea" and found a thriving belly dance community and multitude of teachers in and near Seoul.
My first lesson was with Belynda Azhaar, a darling redhead with an incredible gift for teaching. I learned more about different belly dance styles in my one hour class with her than I ever could have imagined. This was the first class that ever challenged me (Holy crap, zills are hard!) and made my body sore after (because I simply lack any veil experience and arm muscles). And finally, a teacher who would correct me and help me become a better dancer!
I later took an oriental belly dance class at The Well Being Studio in Itaewon but didn't care much for the choreography. I saw the tail end of the tribal class, though, and am dying to go back and give it a shot.
For now, I'm just waiting to sign a contract with a new school and get my first paycheck before I commit to regularly attending lessons. I can't wait!