Not everyone knows this about me, but I was a bellydancer from the age of 4. My Mum started when I was around that age and quickly found a life long passion that engulfed my family. She started teaching out of a hall in Elizabeth, and I remember performing my very first solo there in a little gold baladi dress which my Mum made. She then opened her own studio in Elizabeth Grove – Henna Nights.
The classes boomed – bellydance was the latest thing, especially after Shakira released her debut single with tons of shimmying and shaking in it. At one point we had over 500 students in the school!
We moved to a larger studio space when I was in high school, in Smithfield, taking over a giant shed and turning it into a bellydance paradise with draped fabric and murals on the walls. We stood out between the auto repairs shops!
It truly was a family business. My Mum taught the bulk of the classes, and my Dad started playing the tabla. I started teaching kids classes when I was around 12, and then adults as a teenager. My sister took over our kids classes, and then started teaching her favourite style – Tribal Fusion.
We had our little grumbles like all families do, but Henna Nights was such a wonderful experience for us. We did so many things creative things together, we often travelled in a clan to interstate events, we produced shows together and we danced together. I think I really took that kind of connection for granted when I was a kid, but looking back now I think it is one of the reasons I am so close to my family.
I loved bellydancing and I got to do so many wonderful things like teach and perform interstate, but I started to lose my passion for it in my early 20s and started to pursue other interests like swing dancing and burlesque. A lot of my life happened in the city once I moved out of home, and even though Smithfield isn’t that far away it did leave me disconnected (our family home was right around the corner from it). I didn’t feel like there were as many opportunities in bellydance as I was getting in swing and burlesque, and the scene was quite political in those days which really squashes creative feeling in me. I can’t stand drama. So, I moved on to other things. My sister moved to Townsville with her now husband, and in 2012 my Mum decided to retire after nearly 20 years as a belly dancer.
I haven’t really done any bellydancing since then. I do a bit around my house every so often, and lately I have started to really miss it. It was such a huge part of my life for a long time. Sapphire and I are expanding the Peaches ‘n’ Gin Academy this year to include different dance styles, and so I will be teaching some bellydancing again. I’m pretty rusty but I’ve started my training again recently and things are coming back to me faster than I expected. I think this year will be the right time for me to start getting back into it a bit again. I’m looking forward to checking out the first Adelaide Bellydance Festival later this year and will be taking some workshops. I’m looking forward to learning again!
I have such fond memories of Henna Nights, and wish I hadn’t taken it so for granted. But it still lives in the bond between my parents, my sister, and I, and those who found inspiration in it’s walls. ❤