I wonder what would have happened if I had not met my friend Donna? I was in my early/mid 30s and working at the Teen Parent Centre as a childcare provider when Donna came in one day. (Not as a teen parent! Wouldn’t she get a chuckle out of that!) I don’t remember why she was there, but whoever she was with introduced us, and then said, “…and she’s a bellydancer!” (People do that to me too – it is very embarassing because it is usually said out of context – for example: here I am, the administrative assistant at a President’s Committee meeting,wearing a business suit with my hair in a bun, sitting very professionally with my lap top ready to take minutes when the Chair introduces me, “…and this is Nita who will be taking our minutes – and she’s a bellydancer!” aaaak (thinks me) as though I am a circus performer or something that the rest of the world would like to gawk at, lol! I wonder, would they add that little tag if we had a different hobby? “This is our administrative assistant Nita – she’s a stamp collector!) Anyway, Donna started to give the usual response when being introduced to a total stranger with that interesting bit of aside tacked on (blushing, embarassed laugh, etc) when I raised my hand above my head, circled my wrist & undulated my hand & arm down my torso, and said “I do that!” I do that! I was so excited! This was the first clue I had that there was bellydancing in Whitehorse. At that point, I had not done any formal dancing in a class since high school, although I was still tapping out zill patterns on the steering wheel of the car or the handle of the shopping cart (some habits just never die), and whenever we were out for a drink and I had the opportunity to get up on the dance floor, my movements were more Eastern than Western and I still bellydanced around the house to whatever was on the radio. And Donna, she just about fell over when I did my little hand & arm undulation. “oh my god!” she said, “you have to come to my bellydance class with me!”
Who was teaching bellydance in the mid 1990s, you might wonder…Lana Dowie! Lucky Lana had her own dance studio down the Carcross Road and I phoned her up and arranged to come to a class. She was reluctant at first to accept a new student into the only class she had running at the time, which was the advanced class. She wanted me to wait until the next year when she would be offering a beginner class again. But I pleaded on hands and knees (well, maybe not on hands and knees) and told her that I had danced before, and she relented and said I could come to ONE CLASS and she’d see how I did. No promises that I could stay (which I understand completely now that I am a teacher myself.) I agreed. I attended. I showed her what I could do and I got to stay in the advanced class.
When I was dancing with Lana’s class and her Jewels of the Yukon dance troupe, things were very different than they are today. We were pretty isolated from the rest of the bellydancing world. I remember getting our first PC around that time, but not browsing internet until a couple of years (years!!!) later because I was …scared of it. lol! Anyway, Lana’s class felt very comfortable because she was using the very same LPs that I had been stealing from my mom (George Abdo & Eddie the Sheik) all those years ago. So I fit right in and felt at home. I remember my excitment and enthusiasm and how I always wanted to know more. It was never enough. Lana saw that and spent extra time with me, lending me her videos etc. I was in awe of her – she was “The Teacher” and I had (have) a great respect for her as such. I will always be grateful to Lana for recognizing a special passion in me and encouraging me on my path. And I will always be grateful to Donna for leading me to her.
You’ve come a long way, baby! Here I am, Spring 1996. Home made costume of course! They all were!