Featured Student: Mary’s Story

 In Essays

Mary Allen has been a student at Rochester International Dance Studio since it opened.  The first thing that you notice when you meet Mary is the twinkle in her eye and the smile on her face.  She exudes positive energy.  She was gracious enough to share some of her story with us detailing how she first began belly dance and why she has continued into her 70s.

“I have had back trouble all my married life (since 1959). I was pregnant with my first child back in Illinois when I slipped on the ice and landed on my tailbone. That was just the beginning. Next I was getting my good dishes out of the high cupboard when I fell off the chair, again on my tailbone.

The third injury occurred when my fourth child, who has Down syndrome, was involved in roller skating. While I was bent over his skates to adjust them, a very large man who hadn’t mastered STOPPING on his skates, fell on my bent-over body and practically crushed me!!! From then on, I had problems and saw my chiropractor regularly.

I worked hard at teaching first grade and raising our four kids until my first husband died of cancer when he was only 36, I was 34, and my kids were 10, 11, 13, and 14.

A year later I was in the hospital over Christmas vacation! My surgeon recommended belly dancing as a therapy for my surgery.  I tried it, but I was too stiff and gave up after a couple of classes.

Forward to 1998 when my brave second husband, (I was a widow for 9 long years) and I moved to Rochester where I started dance classes again. I didn’t become very serious about it until Terri Allred started Rochester International Dance Studio. I can’t believe the difference her classes have made in my life.

This past spring, I turned 70 and was welcomed to this decade by a Baker’s Cyst behind my knee! Not fun.   My dancing had to be put on hold while I received physical therapy from the Mayo Clinic. At the end, I lamented to my physician, “I guess I will have to stop belly dancing now”.  She advised against that, happily for me. She said if you have a form of exercise you love, you are ahead in the game of life!!! KEEP IT UP UNTIL YOU ARE 90 OR MORE!!! Thank you Dr. Toni Hanson. If it wasn’t for my desire to keep dancing, I would probably just have given up and become a real couch potato, you can verify this with my husband.

The circle of friends at class is wonderful to me. One girl even drove from Owatonna to Zumbrota after working all day at her job to attend my poetry reading at Crossings at Carnegie and 4 other classmates joined us. I have never had a circle of friends’ support my life like this previously and it means so much to mean.

Middle Eastern Dance is for the women and their friends and daughters who pass it down to each generation. It is not for anyone else, contrary to what you might see in the movies or on TV. It was a form of women’s social enjoyment before such things as TV and cellular phones. There is nothing more joyful or relaxing. It is helpful for fibromyalgia, which I also have, and depression. You really can’t think about the world’s problems when you are dancing! It makes such a difference in my life!”