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Dubai was a beautiful land nestled along the rim of the Persian Gulf lined with sand & palm trees. Although there was a strict dress code to be adhered to when I lived there, many long & flowing silk-skirted women were seen walking to and from the souks.
I was not one of them. Having just moved there from NYC as a singer/songwriter/actress, wearing modest clothing was not my strong suit. That hidden reserve from Catholic School days was brought back into my wardrobe.
I did, however acquire a beautiful silk sari & choli top, the traditional clothing of India. The only time I’ve had the opportunity to wear it was at a halloween party!
Similar to the Indian sari is the Arabic costume of the belly dancer. The bedia is a fitted top and belt both decorated in beads or sequins with a flowing skirt or harem pants. The fabric is often made of mesh or sheer material in every color of the rainbow.
Belly Dance (Oriental Dance or Raqs Sharqi) or is an appreciated art form that visitors can admire at the many 5 star hotels and restaurants in Dubai.
But wait! You don’t have to travel across the continent to experience the exotic beauty of not only the flowing garments but of the classic moves of the dance, and of course, the bellydancer herself. You can find it right here whether that’s Upstate NY or Upstate Nevada.
Meet MARY MONROE, Queen Goddess of Belly Dance
You may know Mary as the Multi-talented musician, strumming her harp or singing sweet vocals with her partner and band on stage. Or you may have studied any of the following instruments with her: harp, guitar, piano, ukulele, voice, violin.
Or you just may have learned how to bellydance from her.
Mary admits that bellydancing is a new form of art for her but one that the Universe has clearly guided her to lead.
“During the pandemic I began to study bellydance online. I immersed myself in it. I loved the way it made me feel.”
Once the world began to open up, Mary added a combination of salsa and bellydance to her musical stage performances with Nate & Mary’s World Music Quartet. Opportunities to teach began to show up effortlessly.
“People in the audience would light up! Women were inspired to dance themselves. Three women approached me and asked if I would teach them.”
That’s how it began. But her love for dance started much earlier in life.
Mary’s first passion in life was not music but dance. She started ballet at the age of seven with the dream of becoming a ballerina some day. Eventually she shifted her focus to modern dance, then ballroom and latin dance, salsa being her favorite.
“There are a few myths about bellydance. One is that it is a sexual dance. This myth needs to be debunked.”
Admittedly it appears sexual with strong and deliberate movements of the hips and torso. But sensual is a more accurate description.
“It is a kind of dance that tells a story between the drummer and the dancer. Often, you improv according to the rhythm.”
“It’s such a spiritual form of dance. It’s freeing, not restrictive as compared to ballet.”
She sometimes feels like she’s having an out of body experience, similar to a runner’s high or the effect one has during trance dance.
“It made me feel much better about my body.”
Like many of us, Mary has faced eating issues. Bellydance has improved her health and wellness and overall body image.
“It makes me feel beautiful! Even having extra weight is desirable. I used to think my arms were big. Now I love them and show them off.”
Mary especially appreciates her hips, and knows how to move them!
“This dance form is moving to the audience, not just the beauty of the movement but joy in the dancer’s expression.”
Mary admits that she’s not a master belly dancer.
“Several people tried to put me down. Told me I was a musician not a dancer.”
She just let it go and followed her bliss. She wasn’t going to let that stop her from bringing joy to others.
“The joy is what’s most important. People feel it. Its’ contagious. That’s how you connect to others. When you’re aligned with the energy of joy.”
I started dancing with Mary this summer. Magically a dance troupe was formed! You can enjoy the mystique and beauty of performances online and throughout NY.
“Now we have a dance troupe! The Glowing Goddesses. We have gigs statewide and are now dancing with Buddahood.”
On a final note:
“You’re doing it because you like it. It makes you happy. Not to get approval or attention. When you’re doing it for the pure joy of it, I think that’s when it opens up.”
Thanks Mary. See you soon ~
Mary Monroe & The Glowing Goddesses
Aug 21 G Lodge. Hannibal, NY w/Buddhahood
Aug 22 Keertana Music Video Online Release Party
Sept 3 Estival Festival. Caneadea, NY w/Buddhahood
Oct 16 75 Stutson Street Venue. Rochester, NY w/Nate and Mary's World Music Quartet & Special guest Bakithi Kumalo and friends (bassist for Paul Simon)
Nate & Mary’s World Music Quartet performs statewide combining the sounds of World, Ambient, Pop, and Americana. More familiar names in the music scene join her with Nate Coffee on guitar, Tommy Gravino on flute and Steve Imburgia on percussion.
Alana Cahoon is the Amazon #1 Best Selling Author of Mindfulness, Mantras & Meditations: 55 Inspirational practices to Soothe the Body, Mind & Soul. www.AlanaCahoon.com.
Read the article on page _ of the August 2021 issue of RochesterWomanOnline
Alana writes her monthly column 'Mind, Body, Spirt' for RochesterWomanOnline focusing on the balance of all 3 in a creative manner, filled with inspiration.