My Journey to Belly Dance

Hello, my name is Evryn Amar. This is my first time writing anything for a public audience, so if things are a tad awkward, just bear with me! I’ll get the hang of this soon enough.

I guess I’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way. I have mild Cerebral Palsy. This has made my experience with Irish Dance – interesting, to say the least.  My disability is part of the reason why I left to pursue a different dance form, though jigs will always have my heart.

I actually began Irish Dance long ago, around the age of thirteen. My teacher at that time showed very little mercy to the girl with the wonky leg, and because my bones were young, I was actually able to force my feet into position. This was painful, and pressured by my teacher, even though she meant well and was very kind. Every week I sat there, legs as straight out as I could muster, while my feet were pressed down as close to the floor as I could bear. Over time, my training paid off and I went on to actually place in a county Feis, or Irish dance competition. Really, I only stopped because of the crazy commute from my hometown to the studio. I loved it very much, even though I looked very different from the average dancer onstage. It was through the support of my mother that I was able to rise above the self-consciousness so well. I missed it terribly.

Years later, my mother passed away. At twenty-four I got married and moved to Oklahoma, where I found the local Irish Dance Academy. I was so excited, after years and years I would be able to pick up where I left off and dance again! I would honor my mother’s memory by stepping onto the stage once more.

If only it had been that simple.

The perfect Irish Dancer keeps their back straight, arms to the sides, legs and feet working wonders against the floor. When one of your legs naturally turns inward, nailing those steps becomes an incredible challenge mentally, physically and emotionally. My heart was in the dance, but the body I saw dancing in the mirror didn’t match my classmate’s steps. I felt so graceful in my mind, but in the mirror I was all over the place. One can imagine how this messed with my head, being surrounded by classmates that had much more precise form. My teacher was very understanding, and let me fudge movements if absolutely necessary, but honestly, who would want to do that? I hated it. This wasn’t at all like how it had been when I was little. I felt alone, even though I had the full support of my husband. I felt very different. Imperfect. Finally, I had had enough, and stopped going all together, with only one recital under my belt.

Far before and during this time, my best friend Simina had been prodding me about trying out Bellydance. I was intrigued by the idea, but again, the old shadows of my wonky leg reared up. I still attended a few shows, watching, getting an idea of what this new world was all about. I watched my best friend shine on the dance floor, confident through any fear, embodying the music in ways I had never seen before. It was magical. I wanted to try it! During this time I had been struggling mentally for a while, fighting depression and terrible body dysmorphia. This didn’t stop me from attending my first workshop, though.

I was utterly mesmerized by the sheer variety of people at that workshop. People of all shapes, sizes, age and ability were there, dancing in their own skin. Pretty soon I came into contact with Aalim Bellydance Academy, and honestly my life took quite a turn. Suddenly I had the choice to hide my legs or show them off, depending on the costume. Suddenly, I could employ the rest of my body in the dance. I could feel the music again, this time with all of my being. I began to see myself as beautiful, for the first time in a long while. There would be other challenges to come with this new art, but I know that my mother would be proud as punch to see me where I am now. I would love to be able to return to Irish Dance at some point while I continue with Bellydance, but for now, my ghillie shoes sit patiently on the shelf, until the day I’m ready to return. With two showcases with Aalim down, I know that there will be many more to come.

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My well-loved ghillies together with my newest hipscarf.

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