How Cancer Made Me A Killer Belly Dancer

Find out why funerals give me the giggles.

Funerals give me the giggles ... The last one I attended found me tightly clutching the hand of a terribly handsome young man I barely knew who just happened to be seated next to me. We were both unsuccessfully suppressing the mad giggles and the tighter I squeezed his hand the worse it got.

The funeral was that of a talent agent, a wonderfully witty man who had succumbed to AIDS. His friends had pleaded with the Catholic cemetery for permission to bury him there, something about him being gay. Go figure. His very elderly parents never even knew he was gay.

I can still picture the funerary atmosphere, so solemn that you can hear a pin drop. Everybody clad in black. Tears are welling in my eyes and my deepest fear is that I’ll lose my stiff upper lip and break down during the priest’s speech. To my horror I start to heave with giggles instead and you know once you start, you can’t stop.

So when I see the invitation to a gathering in honor of my recently departed fabulously feisty belly dance instructor, Farouche, I hesitate.

Farouche, my dance instructor, was a remarkable woman, 74 years old, going on 30 and still performing. With two flaming swords on her head. After a fatal bout of lung cancer, this fireball lady slipped away quietly during the very hour the troupe was practicing. It was said we danced her into heaven.

It was as if she and cancer had carefully timed her departure from this realm. I imagine her released spirit wisping among us shimmying gals, giggling and laughing all the way.

Have you ever seen a belly dancing performance? Once, while dining at a Moroccan restaurant, I joined the resident belly dancer at her bequest in a dance and that instant I knew I was hooked. Okay, the wine helped.

The hypnotic undulatious slinkiness of this dance has got to be one of the most sensual visuals in the world. The jingly belts and pretty veils only make it more delicious. It’s a fabulous waist-whittler of a workout and your man will go crazy watching you. Also, you don’t need a partner or a pole.

I’m pretty much a beginner but before she passed of cancer, Farouche had me promise I’d join her dance troupe. Consequently, when I see the invitation to celebrate her life I realize there is no escaping it. I know Farouche is watching me. She could catch you screwing up a shimmy from a hundred yards away.

Surprisingly I allow myself to shed tears in public during the gathering, maybe because I am hiding safely waaaay in the back row. Maybe because I have let go of the need to keep a stiff upper lip. It has been over twenty-five years since my last funeral and this one feels so very different.

While you can still hear a pin drop, no one is wearing black. In fact, people are quite colorfully dressed, myself included.

A few days before our new dance teacher instructs us to pack our zils (finger cymbals) in our purses for the ceremony so now the whole troupe is ‘packing’! Horrors, will we be expected to perform in front of everybody... at a funeral!

Another greatest fear show its ugly little head, so far my belly dancing has been confined to the classroom and the comfort of my own bedroom for practice. What if I screw up?! They’re all going to laugh at me.

I am cornered and when the ‘performance’ moment comes around on the gittar, there I am, dancing shyly, in front of everybody. Noticing my hesitation, a smiling gentleman approaches me and discreetly says, “Keep dancing, sweetheart, always remember, there are no wrong moves.”

With renewed vigor I decide to crank it up a notch, my zils are ringing loudly as I shake it faster and before long, there I am, giggling again... at a funeral. And you know what, people are loving it!  So relieved are they to see us rejoicing freely, they are inspired to clap, laugh and join in.

As I am swirling about on the dance floor an epiphanous realization encompasses me like a warm hug from Farouche. Never hide your love. For cheating yourself out of experiencing pure joy is far worse a crime than losing face.

If you deny yourself even a second of it there will come a day when you wished you had seized that moment and danced through life like no one was watching. Only you no longer can and the moment is forever lost.

This was the greatest lesson I learned from cancer and dear Farouche, that and I can now do a mean shimmy. Oh, and I’ll gladly do it in public.

Carpe Diem!

Esmée Saint James

P.S. This is in memory of Farouche, who passed last year, Jan. 18, 2012. She continues to inspire me.


The author of this guest post is Esmée St James, founder of Hotwire Your Life™ - Mojo For Boomer Chicks™, a blogsite on health, fitness and beauty for women baby boomers. Esmée also shares some riotous personal life experiences ... For more see www.HotwireYourLife.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Esmée St James January 10, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Sometimes showing love can make one feel so vulnerable, yet that is where the strength is, not in the hiding of love. Thank you for joining in, McKenna!
Levonne Moise January 14, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Thank you Esmee, that was such w wonderful tribute to my mom I am sure she would of loved it..
Esmée St James January 15, 2013 at 12:28 AM
That means the world to me, Levonne, thank you. Am practicing this very moment for our next belly dance performance! I just know Farouche is with me, she was one amazing lady...


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