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I called "patting the cat" -- moving the
hand and wrist in a wave motion, with
the thumb tucked in. I got her to pat two
cats attached to her hips, then two cats
sitting in front of her at chest level, then
slowly moving the cats outwards so that
her arms were fully extended.
"I've found another use for that
hand movement," said Chloe, one of my
youngest students at 20. She bent forward
and whispered into Marion's ear. Marion
I pretended I didn't know what Chloe
was saying. Chloe found uses for belly
dance moves that I'd never thought of.
She had an enthusiastic and grateful
boyfriend. He paid for her classes each
We moved on to hip circles. Marion
was game. She held on to the back of the
chair, and I held on to her, gently guiding
her hips around in a tiny circle. I didn't
want her to snap something. Soon, she
was circling on her own, with pauses to sit.
"Oh, I can feel that right into my
innards," she said.
"Does you good, Maz," said Chloe,
smacking her own backside.
Fiela and Toula rolled their eyes at
each other. They were used to Chloe by
now.Marion kept at it, week by week.
Gradually, she stood for longer in each
class. Her arms rose, over the next year,
from shoulder level, up above her head,
as her shoulder blades loosened up and
she gained strength.
I was struck by her tenacity. She did
not push her body at all, but it seemed, by
sheer will, that movement was returning.
Tiny hip circles gave way to figure eights
and gentle hip lifts on her right hip. The
left hip was stubborn.
When Chloe demonstrated a backbend
she'd learned in another class, Marion
simply pursed her lips and said, "Not
today, dear, I've got a bone in my leg."
The Capri pants were exchanged for
a loose Indian skirt in summer, and black
leggings in winter. Chloe gave her an
AC/DC 'Black Ice' tour tshirt, fitted. She
wore it to every class. Her pearl earrings
suddenly disappeared after a group
excursion to a belly dance expo, and she
had a selection of chandelier and drop
earrings that skimmed her shoulders.
Several of Marion's friends tried the
class. Some stayed for a while, then went
on to yoga or the walking group. Some
found it not their cup of tea and retreated
to the retirement village's aerobics class
Toula joined Marion's art group. Fiela
took Marion shopping once a month and
they had a girls' luncheon, complete with
two glasses of wine, and much laughter.
Marion even braved a burlesque night out
with Chloe and her mates, and none of
them complained when she opted out at
10pm and came home to her warm bed.
Then Marion bought The Costume.
A pale baby pink and white Turkish outfit
that consisted of a few sequins and a
couple of bits of chiffon. Those Turkish
girls are not ashamed to show off their
Marion was pale pink and white and
kind of translucent. When she wore the
costume, from a distance, she looked
naked. She was thrilled.
The manager of her retirement village
was turning 60. There was to be a big
party, involving most of the residents.
Marion piped up and said she'd dance,
even if, as she said, "I need a good
And dance she did. Her children were
horrified. Her grandchildren thought her
the coolest grandma ever. Her friends
thought her mad. She was the biggest
surprise the manager had ever experienced.
We were all there to cheer her on. The
music started in the midst of the party.
The manager looked around. Marion, still
tottering, slunk out onto the middle of
the dance floor, trailing a pale pink veil.
She could not swirl it above her head, but
she made some classy swishy moves with
it around her legs and waist.
She patted the cat, made hip circles,
small rib cage circles, and some sharp hip
lifts. Exaggerated shoulder rolls, and even
a shimmy. Four years of awe-inspiring
determination had paid off.
Marion was joined, after a minute or
two, by Toula and Fiela, resplendent in
red and blue respectively, Cathy in gold,
Karen in hot pink, and Chloe gothed out
in black and spiderweb.
"Let's rock this joint," said Chloe.
When they finished, the applause was
deafening. I was thrilled for my girls, and
especially for Marion. She was grinning
like a mad woman. The manager looked
both stunned and delighted.
The true delight was not belly dancers
for his birthday party. It was Marion, body
confident, more supple, more able to
withstand winter colds. Wonder Woman,
© NOVA SEPTEMBER 2010
'Her pearl earrings suddenly disappeared after a group
excursion to a belly dance expo...'
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