Woman dances her way to successful transitionNorthJersey.com - Hackensack,NJ,USA, Monday, 30 July 2007
Apples, of course, are breasts.
Nelson is a brunette with glossy, long hair, large doe-like brown eyes, and enough shimmy-ready curves to start a minor earthquake. She earns more money teaching belly dancing and performing at private events than she did as a successful doll maker, she said.
She designed dolls for celebrities such as fitness expert Richard Simmons and singer Marie Osmond. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, her business slumped along with the economy. People didn't have disposable income to spend on knickknacks, she said.
When a client 6 years ago said she was taking belly-dancing classes and asked Nelson to make a customized belly-dancer doll, Nelson thought: "Bored housewife takes belly-dancing class."
Nelson had been a tap, jazz and ballet dancer through college. She'd gotten chubby. But she felt inspired after visiting a belly-dancing teacher's Web site to get design inspiration for the doll.
"I was fascinated by reading 'this is a dancing style for mature women,'" said Nelson, who grew up on Staten Island and Morris County and has lived in Clifton for 15 years. Because belly dancing is so expressive, older women, who've experienced more in life, are better at it, Nelson said.
She quoted famed Middle Eastern dancer Bert Balladine: "You have nothing to dance about until you're over the age of 30."
Nelson's career choice is pretty darn rare.
"I think that someone becoming a belly dancer is pretty out there in terms of courage," said Kate McAteer, director of the Wayne nonprofit Women in Transition, which often helps middle-age Passaic County women with career choices. Women who aren't young anymore fear real and imagined discrimination over not being as physically attractive or technically able as they once were, McAteer said.
And then there's Paris Hilton. The slim 26-year-old hotel heiress who's been hogging headlines lately is "hardly encouraging to women who don't meet the same kind of image," McAteer said.
Hilton wouldn't be a very good belly dancer, according to Nelson's metrics. Weight is good. When some of Nelson's slimmer students complain they're no good at shimmying, she's playfully blunt."I say, 'I know, have a cookie.'"
Nelson is married to a musician, has two cats and a Chihuahua, and a tattoo of Aladdin's lamp on her right hip that emanates smoke that circles her hips. Her classes are held at Zari Boutique, on Route 46 east in Parsippany. She attracts clients for private parties, the occasional restaurant gig and 'belly grams' through her Web site: www.IDreamOfGia.com. Her students tend to be under 40. But not all.
Joanne Isabella, 60, of Blairstown, commutes an hour each way to take Nelson's class.
"You feel more confident," said Isabella, of the class. Isabella said she dabbled in belly dancing in the 1980s but then reared children. She's picking it up again.
"I want to dance until I die," she said.
So does Nelson.
"I have a sequined walker at home," she said jokingly.
Tuesday night, nine dancers were under her spell. Imitation coins on their sheer skirts shimmered and clinked.
Stretching their arms above their heads, palms facing outward, wrists touching each other, the women gently gyrated their hips as they bent their knees, heads tilted upward.
They needed coaching with the facial expression.
"Show me the pain," cooed Nelson, as she reached a near-seated position, "of being a beautiful woman."
Bellydancing Headlines on Your Website: Keep informed! Automatically get the latest belly dancing news headlines on your website with live Belly-Dancing.info news feeds. Customisable and easy to set up!
More performance arts: Magic