Thursday, February 9, 2017

Something's Coming

Anyway, I do not want this to be a negative or stressful thing in your life AT ALL. I would prefer to just go with easy. And, if it's not easy, I'd like to make it easy somehow if I can.

Given the weather, it was a day for easy.

For a change, Mac suggested we start our walk on this 73-degree February day at her house overlooking a sparkling blue-green lake near Maymont and while it's only a couple of miles from me, it's worlds away.

I'm a little bit urban and she's a little bit park.

First clue was the car driving by with "Free Bird" blasting full volume. Can't say that I've ever heard any Lynyrd Skynyrd in J-Ward.

Just in the first five minutes, I heard scores of geese unleashing a near-constant cacophony ("After a while, you don't even hear it," she assures me), a handful of squirrels chasing each other noisily non-stop in the trees above and a couple of massive chunks of tree dropping to the ground unexpectedly as we passed.

But it wasn't Nature that seduced me, it was the route, which began with her announcing that we'd start with a modern house tour which took us past a new take on modern architecture, Richmond's first house in the International style, a mid-century home we'd toured as part of a Modern Richmond open house and several other houses that would have been right at home on the high hills in Los Angeles.

We traipsed over to the Pump House, imagining the people who used to dance on the second floor and marveling at how high the water was, then made our way illegally across railroad tracks toward Texas Beach, crossing wooden walkways over rocks that were new to me, pausing to enjoy the natural air conditioning of waterfalls and climbing our way down steep drop-offs.

We saw a turtle sunning itself on a rock and climbed up into an 18th century stone canal guard house to admire how plumb the intersection of walls still was despite its crumbling state.

Our reward was a rock out in the river where we took off our shoes to give hot feet a cold bath while a girl wearing all pink blasted AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" as she flipped through magazines on a nearby rock.

Everyone has their own way of doing the river and I'm not here to judge hers.

Nor was I one to opt out when Mac later messaged me suggesting apropos of nothing a beginner belly dancing class at Saadia's Juicebox, a new woman-owned place in the Ward I'd been wanting to try anyway, albeit not for dancing.

Light, bright and clean-lined, the space seemed to subliminally suggest you make a good choices. Sometimes, sure. Always, unlikely.

After ordering the Minty Swiss, I checked out the place as kale, pineapple, mint, orange and chard were sliced and diced to be juiced, resulting in a cup o' green that tasted fresh and healthy but still eminently drinkable. Mac went for the raspberry Tumeric (lamenting the mud brown color) before we took deep breaths and headed to the screened-off studio in the back to see about this belly dancing business.

The studio's wall of floor-to-ceiling mirrors ensured we could watch the graceful and seductive moves of a pro while we awkwardly tried to follow suit as music of varying types  ("Do you mind bad language?") provided rhythm for our attempts at a West Cost version of fusion belly dancing.

Got that?

Chatting with us about our knowledge of and interest in belly dancing, teacher Sarah enthusiastically explained that she was giving a technique class first and a choreography class afterward. I was equally enthused about explaining that it would be a miracle if we nailed technique tonight, making choreography out of the question.

I can do a lot in an hour, but I'm realistic, too.

Turns out belly dancing is all about isolating muscles and teaching your brain how to make them work independently of each other and while it took me a while to get the hang of working just hip or chest, I was a pro at isolating and pulsing my glutes once we got down on the floor.

Sitting behind her and watching her backside, Mac and I were dazzled when Sarah demonstrated irregular glute pumping patterns (1,2,1,2,2) that get worked into choreography, further proof that we have a long way to go before anyone's going to want to watch us belly dance.

Including ourselves. Or maybe not, depending on the standards of the viewer and how big a fan of hip thrusts and pulsing glutes they might be.

Once knees had been bent, feet planted, pelvises tucked and limbs stretched, Sarah demonstrated a full body ripple, saying encouragingly, "Everybody's done this at some point." I hated to be the one to point out that actually, I hadn't. Not once.

She said she'd strike that from her teaching patter, but I could be the only person on earth who hasn't done it, so the adjustment may be unnecessary.

Admiring the studio's bathroom for its white oval mirror facing a wall covered in faux boxwood, Sarah said it could become a prime selfie destination, perhaps even better than Gallery 5's bathroom, which her friends consider the top spot in the city.

I live four blocks from a bathroom for a decade and I'm just now learning what a fine place it is for this purpose, not that it's relevant for me anyway.

Sarah had greeted me by admiring the color of my lipstick and now she was in awe after learning I live without a cell phone, but deep down, I'm guessing none of it makes up for my lack of ripple skills.

Once properly schooled in belly dancing, we left for the Byrd to see that most relevant of Hollywood musicals, "West Side Story," at Cinema for Cinephiles night.

Manager Todd opened the show by reminding us that the film was dated, so rather politically incorrect - we no longer mock the disabled, unless of course we're running for President -  but also supplying a fun fact: it took so long to write the treatment for the Broadway version that the name was changed from "East Side Story" because by the time it was finished, the gangs had moved.

But I have to say that a story about immigrant assimilation seemed to resonate especially strongly - "In America, everything is possible" - in these trying Trump times with lines like, "Once an immigrant, always an immigrant." Some people seem to forget that pertinent fact.

Life is alright in America
If you're a white in America

But, truth be told, I wasn't there for that as much as I was for Stephen Sondheim's lyrics ("I feel charming, oh so charming, it's alarming how charming I feel") and Jerome Robbins' phenomenal choreography, fine male backsides and actors who did every movement full out, unlike, say, "La La Land," where sloppy modern-day dance standards meant less commitment and fewer sharp movements.

Closer to home, the fluid hips and glutes of the Jets' girlfriends as they danced focused on familiar body parts, reminding me of the isolation exercises we'd just attempted in our beginners' class. I've got to assume they'd have been prime candidates for belly dancing in a way I could never hope to be.

Which doesn't mean I won't try. Even if it's not easy, apparently I am. Take me for a good enough walk and anything is possible.

Even alarming attempts at charming belly dancing.


  1. Karen! :D
    You were such a good sport and a wonderful student! You'll be doing body waves like a pro in no time. A real treat to meet you! Hope to see you soon. xoxo

  2. Sarah,
    Thanks for your patience with a beginner! I'll be back to embarrass myself further, you can be sure!