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Dance of Summer

by Adrienne Warber

One summer morning, Clara looked in the mirror and saw more than her reflection. The glass revealed an attractive woman with just a hint of a birthday approaching forty around the eyes and in the few silver strands threading the dark hair, and a voluptuous figure rounded from two children with the shoulders slightly slumped by the weight of a loving mom and wife's busy daily routine. Yet the glass also reflected a spark in those bright eyes that revealed restless energy and a desire. A breeze stirred her sensible pink nightgown, and brought to her the scent of fresh summer roses from the garden. Just yesterday, she noticed that many of the tight rose buds had begun to ripen and open to the sun. Her fingers moved through her hair to smooth out the tangles of sleep, while the rose-scented summer breeze lightly danced through her curls. One strand knotted itself so tightly around her finger that it stung like a thorn prick. She noticed the faint lines of first aging almost looked like the footprints of tiny dancers twirling around her eyes and mouth. Wide-awake, Clara decided it was time to do something for herself, while her body was still relatively agile and strong. It was finally time to fulfill that one secret desire. She will dance.

She was fearful and excited to enter the dance studio. As a child, she had halfheartedly danced through the ballet steps, never mastering a pirouette or arabesque. The studios were always spare, elegant, and correct like a polished prima ballerina, and filled with dream-like music that spun the students in pretty patterns like the little ballerinas in music boxes. But this was not ballet. This was new and unexplored territory - belly dance.

Clara stepped nervously into the dance studio, and her senses were suddenly filled with vibrant color, scents, and sound. Music of the Middle East beckoned her into a comfortable lobby with large plush pillows on the floor in place of chairs, and little tables with jeweled lamps, lit spicy-scented candles, and framed artistic photos of belly dancers in lush costumes. Eastern art was scattered throughout the studio - music instruments, figurines, and tapestries. A girl smiled warmly at the reception desk welcoming her. A small room to the left was filled belly dance supplies - colorful veils, hip scarves, costumes, and swords. The windows were curtained with gem-colored silks throughout the studio. The lobby led to a large studio class room, with sprung floors, ballet barres, a wall mirror, and colorful jewel-toned lanterns hanging from the ceiling.

Clara found herself in a room with dancers of various ages and sizes - the thin 25 year-old girl to the rubenesque 65 year-old grandma, who all greeted her like an old friend. They were all so beautiful in their hip scarves of scarlet, gold, fuchsia, onyx and turquoise, fanned out like peacock feathers. The teacher, a professional belly dancer, moved with a feline grace and demonstrated the ancient dance of womanhood. A woman's belly holds the womb that sparks life, it is centered by the hips, and this dance channels each unique part of a woman's body to flow together in a dance that can be peaceful, sensual, or passionate.

The dance began. Clara learned to shimmy, a way of shaking the body in dance that can both relax or energize the body depending on technique. She found her belly had a song of its own as she rotated her hips to the music in figure eights and jewel patterns. Her hips drew patterns that helped her discover how each part of her body was connected and could move fluidly together from each hip roll to ribcage undulation. She discovered the song of her arms as they rippled in snake patterns.

When the teacher and students danced together, moving as one, Clara felt like a rose in her garden dancing, opening up to the summer sun. This dance of summer was a dance of the heart.

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