Where to start? What are the Fatimas? And why do the Fatimas have space on the SAFE website?
The Fatimas have long been a force in the struggle of women of size to feel body positive. One example: at the 1999 NAAFA convention in Boston, the Fatimas danced at Faneuil Hall at the "Every Body - Good Body Festival". That event was planned and carried out by NAAFA to raise public consciousness about body image issues and it was widely attended by the public and media. Our introductory line was "We dance in order to show that ALL WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL!"
That is the philosophy we promote and the reason we donate so many performances and workshops to NAAFA - and now, to SAFE!
But hey, there's a lot more to belly dancing than promoting our beauty at every size philosophy. Belly dancing has had an amazing impact on my life. Studying belly dance under so many different teachers challenges me physically and mentally - it keeps me learning and moving. Our first teacher was Elaine Noronha. She came to the home of JoAl Byrne to give private classes to 6 or 7 women associated with MOR2LUV and NAAFA - this was in 1987. She was a true inspiration. We had begun the class because we wanted to have more movement in our lives, and belly dance seemed like a fun and sexy way to improve our mobility and stamina. Performance? Oh, no, not us, we weren't even thinking about it.
Elaine waited till the 3rd or 4th class to start working on us - she would mention, "Oh, when you perform, you can also use this move", or, "When you're doing crowd work, here's something to do with your veil". One thing she said that had a huge impact on me was, "When you are on stage and you face your audience, you must be happy to be there! Always pay attention to your expression and presentation - if you're enjoying yourself the audience will enjoy themselves too!" It wasn't too long until we started talking about chiffon, skirts, beads, coin bras, sequins - yes, I admit it, I was seduced by sequins! Sure enough, four of us got costumes together for our first performance - "Evening in the Nile", a house party hosted by JoAl Byrne in June of 1987. The rest has been a fascinating journey.
Our other teachers have been the dynamic Vicki Corona, the beautiful Julie Moreno and the incomparable Fahteim. Vicki also got us started with Polynesian dancing and that has been a fun sideline. (When the Fatimas dance Polynesian our names changes to the "Fatimalanis" - "lani" being Hawaiian for "beautiful".) I began teaching a group in 1991. Between teaching and performing, my creative impulses are well served! Teaching comes naturally for me and the dancing, along with the attendant costume planning and choreography, has been a fabulous creative outlet for me.
As I begin to write and reflect, I realize that there are many facets and many stories of the Fatimas. There are numerous possibilities for this link - tales from behind the scenes and in front of the cameras of the 15 plus TV shows where we've been featured, the performances both in and out of the size accepting world, the impact the Fatimas have had on our audiences, and of course the individual stories - the journeys, really - of all the dancers who have performed with the Fatimas. The stories will be told, especially since I already have the title - "SEDUCED BY SEQUINS".
So I do plan to build more and continue writing the history. At this point, though, I'd like to talk about where the Fatimas are now.
The whole belly dance world has changed and we have too. Belly dance has exploded into a multitude of styles and types of dance.
We now include tribal influences in our dances, and the costumes reflect the tribal genre with less chiffon and sequins and more coins and beads. The scene at belly dance festivals has changed radically.
When I first went to Cairo Carnivale in the early nineties, there were a very few larger dancers on stage and the occasional fat chick in the audience. The picture is different now - the troupes have much more size diversity and nearly all troupes have one or more big dancers. As far as I know we are the only all plus size troupe, though we've had "average" size women dance with us and we would certainly welcome dancers of any size to perform with us!'
I do like to think that the exposure and interviews on all those talk shows that featured the Fatimas has had some influence - that women of all different sizes who were watching could say "Hey! If they can do it, so can I!" I was amazed and gratified to find out that one of our current dancers - Flower - saw me on the Sally Jesse Raphael show when she was a kid - that was the first talk show I was ever on!
Back to the present - the Fatimas are always evolving and we are currently in a very exciting stage. It's great when the dancers find other teachers and bring what they've learned back to the group.
There's a pool of knowledge and experience that is beneficial while we are planning new dances and new costumes. Dancing is just about the best thing you can do for yourself. We have a routine for movement that is beneficial for the whole body, the moves are sexy, there's the mental challenge of always learning and perfecting the movements, and the emotional benefits of getting together to have fun with a wonderful group of women are terrific! If you'd like to talk to me about getting started with the Fatimas, just call the Hotline, (562) 693-1844, and leave a number for me to return your call. Code word: FATIMAS!