Photo of Shira



PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

My Friends Through Dance


Martha Graham said, "Dance is the hidden language of the soul."

As I look back over the many friendships I've had in my life, especially those that have endured for a long time, one common theme has stood out: most (but not all) of my closest friendships were formed through dance. I even met my husband through dance! If dance is indeed the hidden language of the soul, then it makes a certain kind of sense that when we dance with someone else, we are sharing something on a deeper level, whether we realize it or not!

I think most adults form new friendships through the workplace, but unfortunately I've found many of those friendships to be rather transient. Often, the shared job responsibilities are the only thing we have in common with co-workers. Once a work friend leaves the company and moves on to a new job, s/he often falls out of touch because there's no longer that common ground of the job-related issues to foster ongoing contact. I treasure the friends I've made through my job, but of the hundreds of people I've met this way over more than two decades of working in high tech, I can count on one hand the number who have developed into true, long-term friendships. My day job simply hasn't been my primary source of close friends.

For those of us who enjoy dance as a recreational pastime, the social context is very different from the workplace. Depending on which dance form we pursue, we'll join our dance friends in attending classes, participating in workshops, shopping for costumes and other supplies, entering competitions, and rehearsing for performances. In dance, we get sweaty together, we see each other undressed backstage, and we relax after a show or a rehearsal with cold drinks in hand. We share bloopers in performances which we can laugh about together afterward, and we can reminisce about the time we danced on an outdoor stage set up in a sheep pen filled with urine-soaked straw.

Back when I was a college student, I decided to join an international folk dance club. I had a wonderful time learning the varied dance styles. As a group, we went on road trips to folk dance festivals in nearby cities, rehearsed for performances, and went out for ice cream after our weekly dance gatherings. I've been happily married for many years to one of the people I met through the club, and friendships with several others have endured over those many years to the present. When I call these long-time friends to chat on the phone, we instantly re-connect and it's as if no time has passed at all.

A year after joining the folk dance club, I also started to learn Scottish Highland dance. I especially enjoyed getting to know one of the other women, and soon we were sharing an apartment. Over the years we were separated by many miles, but we remained in touch and still had plenty to talk about whenever we connected, until her untimely death from cancer.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Expressing her "international folk dance" persona, Shira wears an authentic Bulgarian dance costume. One of her friends referred to in this article brought it for her from Bulgaria. Photo by Pixie Vision, Glendale, California.

In 1984, I moved to a new city. In my new job, I shared an office with 3 other people. Although they were pleasant, I didn't have anything in common with them beyond the job itself. Quickly discerning that I wouldn't have much of a social life through my job, I turned back to dance and became involved in local international folk dance and belly dance activities. I quickly found myself part of a cohesive, friendly community of creative personalities that contrasted sharply with the buttoned-down suit mentality of my day job.

I became one of the "founding mothers" of my teacher's belly dance troupe. We were more than just a bunch of people who rehearsed and performed together. We went on road trips and giggled into the wee hours of the night in our hotel rooms. We collaborated on producing choreography. We shared a bottle of wine as we watched dance videos. Eventually, the troupe disbanded as our dance goals took us in different directions, but I still treasure the friendships and the memories.

Today, when I consider who my closest friends are, the ones who really understand me, I realize it's primarily people I've met through dance. It's not my only leisure activity, but it's the activity that seems to bring me in contact with "my kind of people", whatever that means! This is one of the major reasons belly dance has taken such an important role in my life.

Shira in Bulgarian costume



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I'd like to thank the many friends I've met through dance for your friendship over the years, especially my friends Carla, Diana, Dolores, Pandora, Camille, Saqra, Morocco, and the members of the now-disbanded Troupe Wasila and Veiled Threats. And of course, my husband! I treasure the countless happy memories of the time I have spent with all of you!



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