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Excerpts: Elena Harrison

From A Year in the Sky (my first belly dancing class) A Year in the Sky (All Colors of the Rainbow): Mikado, Lena, Harrison, Christopher, Jayde, Fiona: 9781095174890: Books

Belly dancing.

Awkward at first, but the most expressive form of femininity, subtle sexuality, and powerful confidence I had ever experienced.

I watched my hips move in mysterious undulations, as if in supernatural sync with the

mesmerizing Oriental music, feeling so natural, so free, so unleashed!

My friend Kate R., however, did not share my newly found passion. She kept battering me

with mortifying stares in the mirror, and even managed to hiss at me once, ignoring the oh-how-could-you-be-so-rude looks cast at her from around the studio by the other participants of the dance class.

“I’ll never forgive you for dragging me here… This is so embarrassing!” she whispered while

trying—to no avail—to shake her boobs and walk at the same time.

“What are you talking about? This is fascinating!” I exclaimed, and I meant every word of it.

“It’s so much fun, brought my spirits right back up!” I added in excitement as we quickly span around with our backs to the mirror and shimmied across the floor to the wall.

“I didn’t know your spirits were down,” Kate muttered and cast me a sideways glance of


I attempted a hair toss, almost hitting my forehead on the wall, messy tangled hair covering

my entire face. Kate giggled.

“Chris wants to bring Farrah along on Christmas Day, to open presents with his family.”

“Oh.” That was all Kate could say.

“Right. Oh. This is what I said. Even though—not really. I ICQ-hung-up on him,” my hip

swings and leg kicks got a tad too aggressive, causing a few astonished heads to turn into my direction.

“Ladies, ladies,” we heard the strict voice of our belly dance instructor, clad in the swirling

cloud of black and golden organza, “this is not soccer. This is belly dance. Be subtle, be flirty,

embrace your goddesses.”

I frowned. I could not find any goddesses inside of me. Only a pathetic, whining creature who felt very small and confused. Like a little mouse with wet fur who somehow got caught in the rain of uncertainty.

“If Jim did that to me, I would have killed him,” Kate whispered, her eyes full of fury, as if it

had already happened to her. She then extended her right arm following the movements of the instructor, but did it so fast, undoubtedly imagining herself in the same scenario as yours truly, that she almost whacked the unsuspecting girl next to her in the face.

Jim was Kate’s Swiss boyfriend she had met three years prior to that while on a summer

exchange program in Oxford. They had a whirlwind romance in England and were now also

trudging through deep and unpredictable waters of the long-distance relationship, seeing each other in person only once a year.

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “Sometimes I think that I made a mistake… When I imagine months

and months of uncertainty with the green card, while Farrah and Alex are doing their best to

break us up, I just can’t believe that we will ever manage to stay together,” I whimpered, and my treacherous lower lip started to tremble.

Kate, looking a little lost and confused herself, was just about to say something when our

belly dance instructor suddenly came up to me and gently touched my shoulder.

“You are doing very good, but you lack confidence. Chin up, roll your shoulders to the back,

gaze straight forward. And most importantly, quit always thinking about the next step in the

dance. I can see that’s what you are doing, and this is exactly why you are messing up the

move you are on at the moment. Got it?”

She looked straight at me, her brown eyes kind and full of fire.

“Got it,” I slowly nodded.

And I did. I focused on following her moves in the mirror, I forgot everything else, and I

realized that I could find joy in every movement. When I messed up, I laughed and went on

dancing. But when I got it right, I could sense the dance vibrate in my bones, in the very

essence of me. I could feel the energy of the universe pulsate in the tips of my fingers. I had no idea where it came from, how I learned it, but I was already good at it, and doing it made every cell of my body sing with a beautiful purpose.

I was in love.

When you find someone or something that makes you feel this way, seize it, grasp it and

don’t you dare to let it go. Because this is you. No matter whether you can find a sensible

explanation to why you should stick to it, whether you can make money with it or advance in

your career or social status—if someone or something makes you feel like that, you have

already found your purpose, and you, with no doubt, are on the path to the best possible life you could have ever imagined.

The life of your dreams.

Excerpt from It’s All About Love (Belly dancing or a “serious” career choice) It's All About Love (All Colors of the Rainbow): Mikado, Lena, Harrison, Christopher: 9798832762524: Books

I jumped into my newly purchased, hot-pink Pontiac Sunfire and turned the key in the

ignition. It was a glorious April day, with the sunshine infusing everything around me with bright and vivid colors, birds chirping happily, and a perfect little breeze with just a bit of coolness and the ever-present aroma of ocean salt blowing through the warm air. I rolled both windows down, anticipating a beautiful ride to St. Simons Island.

As you have probably already guessed, my darling readers, I had managed to get my driver’s

license after all and was now free to go about as I wished. It turned out that I was a rather good driver once I finally got the hang of it and that I actually enjoyed driving quite a bit. As I turned off Highway 17 onto the Torras Causeway that would take me to the island over multiple bridges, I realized that I could not chase my nervousness away. I tried to focus on the splendid vistas that opened in front of my eyes as I accelerated to climb the first bridge—sparkling blue water, golden marsh dotted with white egrets, and the one-and-only Atlantic Ocean glittering majestically in the distance—but I simply couldn’t concentrate.

The week prior to that, Chris’ band was performing at a local hangout, Gnats Landing. During the band’s break, as I was casually sipping on my rum drink, Chris introduced me to Nadine, an acquaintance of his who had just opened the very first yoga studio on the island. Nadine politely inquired as to how I was doing getting used to living in the States, and, fueled by one rum runner too many, I told her how everything was going just great, except for one thing. While waiting for my green card back in Russia, I had picked up a hobby that made my heart sing—belly dancing. I was very saddened to find out that no one was teaching this ancient art form in the Golden Isles, since I really—really—missed it. To my utter astonishment, Nadine, who exuded the air of almost regal confidence, suggested that I should come by her studio and show her some moves. If she liked my dancing style, I could teach belly dance at her studio.

At first, I was rather reluctant to accept Nadine’s invitation. After all, I had just been a humble

student until then. However, Chris convinced me otherwise, saying that I was the belly dancing queen if there ever was one and that one could never succeed without trying.

So here I was, sitting quietly in my car, twirling my fingers anxiously and staring absent-

mindedly at the off-white sign with the elegant cursive that read, “Elysian Fields Yoga Studio”.

The dilemma was grueling. To come in or not to come in. Of course, I wanted to teach belly

dancing. I would be doing something I loved with all my heart and soul, and I would be getting paid for it! But… wasn’t it too good to be true? Wasn’t it usually the case in life? Just when you are about to take off and fly, something really nasty happens and makes you crash, shamefully, like a bag of you-know-what onto the hard and unforgiving surface of your own self-pity? I was supposed to be focusing on my career at Ocean Isle. I had gotten so lucky with my concierge job, an early foot in the door so to speak, and here I was, wasting my time on what? Belly dancing? I could probably jeopardize my job at the reputable company if they found out I was shaking my butt and shimmying until I dropped in my spare time.

Just as I was about to listen to the “reasonable” arguments of my mind, a tiny little voice

hidden somewhere deep down squeaked, “Did rationality ever bring anything good into your life, Elena?” I pondered. It didn’t. As a matter of fact, had I listened to the sensible reasoning a year prior to that and hadn’t married Chris, I wouldn’t have been sitting in my car on St. Simons Island, in front of a new yoga studio, and I wouldn’t have even learned how to belly-dance in the first place! Suddenly, the hollow space of fear and insecurity became filled with fervent determination. I turned the ignition off and walked out, welcoming the velvety spring breeze brushing against my skin.

Excerpt from It’s All About Love (about gaining confidence as a belly dancing instructor)

“I waited for the stream of cars to pass and hurried across the pedestrian walkway, enjoying

the feeling of the cool wind playing with my hair. It was late November, but in Raleigh, the trees were still donning their fabulous multicolored foliage, shimmering in all shades of red, orange, and yellow. On Friday evenings like that one, the city came alive with people returning from work and school, getting ready to go out for dinner and hit the bars and nightclubs after. That was one thing I was definitely digging about our move. The heartbeat of the young crowd, energizing the air with their laughter and daring outfits. Such a contrast to the sleepy Golden Isles that we had left behind. That’s exactly why we moved here! I reminded myself with a triumphant smile, click-clacking on the asphalt on the way to my belly dance studio.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? Chris and I managed to find a cool studio where I was now teaching

belly dancing. In the trendiest part of downtown Raleigh! Well, it wasn’t exactly a studio, but

rather the back of a coffee shop that for some reason looked like a studio—but it served the

purpose, and that was all that mattered. Plus, now I didn’t just work for the Omstead, I also

worked for myself. I was an independent entrepreneur. At this thought, I almost squealed in

delight as I opened the nouveau chic glass door of the studio with my own key and stepped into the airy space, drenched in translucent afternoon sunshine. Casting a quick glance at a large clock on the wall, I realized that I only had ten minutes to get ready before my students started arriving to class. I swiftly slid the CD with my playlist into an oversized stereo that was sitting on the floor and hurried to the restroom to change.

In a few minutes, I was all dressed up in my newest belly-dancing outfit of light turquoise with golden accents, my hair casually spilling over my shoulders. Staring at my reflection in the mirror, I self-critically noticed that I was in desperate need of hairdresser services and that my eyes were full of barely hidden insecurity. My lack of confidence glimmered in them as brightly as ever, and my hairdo had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The thing was, my darling readers, that ever since I started my own little side business, I

couldn’t shake off the feeling of impending doom. I just couldn’t believe it was possible for

me—me! —to succeed so easily. This lack of confidence in myself somehow morphed into ever- present fear, which in its turn materialized as a hard lump in my throat and an excruciatingly long routine that involved yours truly, all nerves and one hundred percent on edge, waiting to see how many people would show up for my class. I already got used to it—me standing in front of the bathroom mirror, distant Baladi motives playing in the background as I was listening in anguish to any sound outside the door which would indicate that a new student had just walked in. What if I will once again have just five people like two weeks ago? What if there will be even fewer people? What if no one will show up at all??!

The fact that I was losing money—or breaking even in the best-case scenario—wasn’t what

was scaring me the most. After all, Chris was incredibly supportive in this endeavor of mine, and he kept constantly reminding me that Rome wasn’t built in a day. No, the problem was ingrained deep inside of me. Deeper than I could fathom at that point in time. Deeper than where I wanted to go to try and fix it, so I covered it up. I would sneak out right before each class, through the back door, to smoke a cigarette that would somehow, magically, give me courage to face the music or whatever was waiting for me in the studio. Little did I know that the cigarette, or any other crutch for that matter, only took me further away from where I wanted to be. But then again… Later in my life I would learn that the more times you can figure out who you are not, the closer it brings you to knowing who you are. Perhaps dead ends are part of our journey that cannot be avoided.

So, on that beautiful fall evening, I took the last puff on my “rescue” cigarette and stubbed it

out in determination, watching the sky turn deep blue and lilac as the cool breeze brushed

against my skin. Enough of hiding. The stage awaits you, Elena. Counting to ten in my mind and keeping my eyes down, I briskly walked down the dark hallway and straight into the light, afraid to gaze up and see the faces of my students. When I finally did it though, my self-confidence mask was securely glued to my face, and I was pretty sure that no one could ever tell by looking at me what my mind had been riddled with just a few minutes prior.

“Oh, wow, we have quite a group tonight!” I exclaimed in a nonchalant manner, trying to

ignore the excited pounding of my heart. “Ten people! I say—we’ll need a bigger room soon!”

“Oh, Elena! You know how much I love your classes. I think you need to have three classes

a week!” Isabella’s eyes shone with enthusiasm, and I felt a familiar warm sensation in my

chest, a little wave of inspiration that seemed to give my life more meaning.

Isabella was the first person to respond to one of the multiple paper ads Chris and I had

been stapling to community boards all over Raleigh, Cary, and Chapel Hill, and she had never missed a class. I loved her spirit and her contagious, heart-warming smile. She was one of those people who become your friends almost instantaneously and who remain your friends through time and space, even if you happen not to see each other for decades on end. But then again, I am getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?

“Ha! You’re funny, Izzy!” I mused. “If I start having three classes a week, it’ll be just you and

I, baby!”

“And that will be totally fine with me!” Isabella laughed warmly, wrapping a bright-orange coin belt around her waist, and giving me a rebellious wink.

“I’ll be here three times a week, Elena! Perhaps that way I can get rid of this muffin top!”

giggled Katy the Omstead HR Recruiter who also happened to be one of my most devoted

students. Come to think of it, most of the women who came to the belly dance classes were regulars, and it started dawning on me—perhaps even unbeknownst to myself—that I had nothing to fear.

I was the one who created the boogie man, and it was up to me to get rid of him. Or chop his three heads off like the protagonists of fairy tales tend to do to dragons in dark, monster-ridden caves.

Feeling invigorated by such great attendance and vivacious chirping of the girls getting

excited in anticipation of the class, I gave everyone another welcoming smile and pressed the play button on the stereo. Slow and sensual Arabic music filled the air, and everyone stood still, gazing at me with curious eyes that once again gave me a strange, but rewarding sensation, making me feel like everything was all right in the world.

“All right, my Queens! Shall we dance?” I called out, raising my arms up and taking a deep

breath in.

Everyone followed, and my heart sang in unison with the inspiring music, and scarlet leaves

on the half-naked branches behind the window danced along with us, as if in some otherworldly, life-transcending encouragement.”

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