This wonderfully written article by Jennifer Hemphill Tatroe is from her journal describing her first Tribal Belly Dance Class.
Jenn dances in our Adult Student Tribal Belly Dance Troupe Tapestry. Her webiste is
Wednesday Night
The building where the dance classes are held is nondescript, plain 
red  brick. Oddly, there are no windows on the front, just a worn 
white sign  with black lettering, "Empire Grange." In the back corner 
on the far  side from the street. stands a small cement staircase 
with a wood  railing. "Don't use the railing, though," someone told 
me. "It's of tonight." That's the only entrance.
It is the coldest night of the year so far, but I still make my way 
to  this building, on the far side of town from where I live. My 
stomach  spends the drive twirling itself into seventeen elaborate 
Inside, it could be a one-room schoolhouse, the type my father 
attended  45 years ago in central Illinois farm country. Wooden desks 
line the  walls, but the center of the hardwood floor is clear for 
dancing. We  watch the class before us perform an frenetic, energetic 
routine. They  repeat it once, twice, three times before they are 
satisfied. When they  finally finish, our instructor lowers the 
lights and we gather into a  circle around the huge, square heat vent 
on the floor, as if we are  worshipping it. Within minutes, I toss my 
sweater to the side of the  room. Outside, it is twelve degrees.
The class starts with a meditation of sorts. "For the space that we 
dance in, the ground we dance on, for our teachers and ancestors, for 
the women we dance with..." It strikes me that this could be terribly 
hokey but it's not. It feels right to focus ourselves on the lesson 
ahead, to use these words to make a transition away from the everyday 
world. For the next hour, I am aware of nothing but the women around 
We learn some basic steps and then divide into groups of three to 
dance. Everyone leads sometimes in this exercise. Everyone follows. 
Everyone is aware of everyone else's movements. For the first time in 
a  long time, I feel like I am a part of something larger than myself 
and  it feels good. It's a feeling I have missed since my days of 
church  choir and high school band.
I am dreading the moment of leading two other women with my meagre 
skills, but when it happens, I find it's not as hard as I had 
thought.  Sometimes I lead. Sometimes I follow. The transitions are 
smooth and  natural. I am sorry when the exercise ends. I could 
continue for hours  because none of my fears have come true. The 
movement feels comfortable  and organic.
Afterwards, a member of the troupe comes up to me. "You looked really 
good out there for someone in her first class," she says. She could 
say  that to everyone, I think. I don't care. I glow.
The next day, I am sore. My legs buckle under me as I walk. I revel 
in  the ache. It means I accomplished something. Next week, I will do 
it  again. I am no longer afraid.
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