Dancing to the Beat


When I started this blog I had made a sketchy outline of ideas and things that I wanted to blog about, today’s blog was supposed to be telling you about why I chose the name Heartcor for my blog, but the words are just not coming.  Other words need to be typed up much more urgently and so,  trying not to be the control freeeeek I am, I will relax a bit and allow the capriciousness of what really wants to come forth manifest itself in my writing this afternoon….

I have had the most AMAZING weekend.  Like, REALLY AMAZING.  I danced. Let me explain more.  I am a dancer…. well… I am a person who loves to dance. I hesitated for a bit before using the word dancer because being plump, over 40 and a CHD-er, I feel slightly embarrassed using the words ‘I am a dancer’.  But that is what I do.  I have danced throughout my life in some form or another.  It started with Ballet, Tap and Modern Dance, progressed to Contemporary Dance , I majored in Physical Theatre at Uni and for the last 2 ½ years I have Belly danced.

I did give it all up once, I spent the last 10 years pushing paper around a desk as my body ceased up and my weight yoyo’d all over the bloody place.  I took up Bellydancing with encouragement from my housemate.  I was very nervous about joining the class; I was having all sorts of problems with, breathlessness, tiredness and a general feeling of un-wellness.  It was the beginning of a period of time where I was having various tests on my heart that would last another year or so.  So as you can imagine, joining a ‘dance class’ was worrying and I was ready to go once, embarrass myself, get too breathless, admit defeat and go home shamefaced and irritable that I ever allowed myself to think I could join such a class.

Such fears were much unfounded.  I found to my delight, a group of women who were encouraging, of varying levels of dance and fitness, a WONDERFULL, fun and SUPPORTIVE teacher.  I quickly progressed to intermediate level and began dancing with the troupe Easton Bellydance, which was formed from the weekly classes.  I loved it.  It was exercise, it was hard work, I was DANCING. It is creative, expressive, it strengthens my core, and I have lovely friends from the group and just simply I LOVE dance class!

So when my teacher suggested that I go with her to London to take a series of workshops with TOP Egyptian dance stars and teachers I hesitated.  I spent hours and hours arguing myself into a corner of why I shouldn’t go versus why I should go.  It went something like this:

“You shouldn’t go, you’re over 40, and you’re plump.” “You’ll get out of breath, you’ll have to sit out and draw attention to yourself.” “What about the Diuretics (water tablets) you’re on, do you think the teachers will put up with you running to the loo every 5 minutes…??”  “What about the other dancers, they’ll ALL be professional, skinny dancers, who will look at you with surprise at you being there.”

And this was before the angst of: “What if I can’t pick up the choreography, or do the steps right, or fall over or bump into another dancer!” or “What if I can’t understand what the teachers are saying ‘cos they are Egyptian???”

Yeah, I nearly didn’t go…. and then my fabulous dance teacher gave me some straight talking and on a whim I booked my place, and last Friday we went to London and arrived at our hotel ready for Saturday’s series of workshops.

Sooo I turn up, nervous, take my place at the back (of course) and proceed to follow Khaled Mahmoud’s warm up routine at the start of his 2 ½ hour Oriental Bellydance class.  My god I have never sweated so much!! I don’t know if Diuretics make you sweat more (as well as make you piss like a race horse!), but there was a waterfall on my back and a pool between my collarbones! (I am at the moment trying to decide if sweating buckets is better than pissing like a race horse every 5 minutes but I can’t decide yet…) But I didn’t give up. This was not going to beat me. I looked at the other dancers, all shapes, ages and sizes, yes there were the professional, seasoned dancers, yes there was Ellis Pinheiro the beautiful bellydancer from Brazil in the front row but there were a lot of ordinary women like me, who have taken the opportunity to take a class with the world’s leading Bellydance teachers.  What was comforting was that even Ellis had moments of forgetting choreography, and meeting her later on that day, was so humbling, she is so friendly as well as beautiful and talented, you couldn’t help but like her.

There were times during the morning where I was close to tears, not through pain, or sadness or exasperation, I felt like crying because I was SO HAPPY! So, so happy at being at this class, with this famous teacher who was patient and kind and teaching us choreography close to his own heart.  So, so joyful that I was dancing here, right now, in the moment.  At the end of the class  Khaled explained the dance was to a piece of music called ‘I Miss My Country’ Khaled explained that though he lives in England now and has done for many years, and England is his home, he still misses his country and with the troubles happening in Egypt it was all the more poignant and more than a few of us were shedding a tear at his explanation – though I have to admit, I was also crying out of relief that I had completed my first workshop of the day and I was so happy.

Here’s a picture of me, my dance teacher Stephi and housemate Nicky with Khaled.


Master Tito Seif with 2 ½ hours of Baladi and Tabla Solo dance was next. (After lunch)  Master Tito is the top of his game, the highest Egyptian star that there could be at this precise moment.  Again, he was supportive, cheeky and a fabulous teacher.  I must admit the last half hour of his class my brain was beginning to shut down with the overload of information that it was trying to process and I could feel myself getting very, very tired and my breathing was becoming a bit laboured, I did think about sitting out, briefly, but I was glad I pushed on, I may have been stumbly, and all over the place by the end but I did it. I did it!  The sense of achievement when the workshop finished was immense!

Here’s us with Master Tito after Baladi and Tabla workshop, still feeling an immense sense of achievement, but looking knackered! 


Sunday brought Kazafy with a Mawasha Andelousey dance.  This was a rarely performed type of Egyptian dance and new to all of us!  Very balletic, lots of spins and pirouettes.  All of us felt the challenge of learning this beautiful dance.  I loved it, I felt my balletic arms coming back, and I even pirouetted!  I haven’t done a pirouette since I was 21!! But my, it was a long dance, the information overload came quicker this time, in the last ¾ of an hour of the class my brain wasn’t taking anything in, by the time we came to dance the whole choreography, I was on my last legs.  My legs were heavy, my breathing hard and I had to just concentrate on the steps and forget about putting any flourish or arm movements in, it was all I could do get through.

The journey home was thankfully uneventful, I was tired, and headachy, I got in and dumped my stuff (Silent Sunday’s blog!) and lay down and there I stayed until Monday morning.

It is now Wednesday and I am still very, very tired, I have had to rest over the past couple of days, my body is gently reminding me, with headaches and mouth ulcers, that I should be taking it easy. Thankfully I am not working at the moment, and I can lie in and take things slowly. I look back at last weekend and I SMILE, I never ever thought I would do that, go to London, and take a class with such important dancers at this time in my life. I smile at my sense of achievement, and I smile because the teachers were smiling.  All through their classes, all through explaining again and again a particular sequence, of dancing it for us, of showing us, they were smiling. Smiling at the joy of the dance, and that was what I was doing too, smiling at the joy of the dance, of the joy of my heart beating in time to the music, beating in time to my rhythm, and beating in time to my life.


First Beat


Welcome to my blog.  I’ve been deliberating for many months now about starting this blog.  I’ve swung from, it’s good for me to oil my very rusty writing skills, and a new found need to discuss and talk about what it means to be a CHD patient, to a complete fear of ‘just another blog’ from someone who wants attention, a fear of disappearing up my own arse and inspecting my belly button fluff so much that people will switch off and not read.

But after I posted the following Facebook Status on 14th February 2013 I had such a great response and recently having good feedback from an article I have written for ‘The Somerville Foundation’s GUCH News’  (I hope it will be published) I have found the confidence to write again.  So here’s the post that started it all off…..

“This week is CHD Awareness Week, and on Facebook ‘The Somerville Foundation’ asked me “what are you going to do for CHD Awareness Week?” I replied “Talk about it.” So today being the day of the heart and all that here goes…
I have a CHD, CHD stands for Congenital Heart Disease, this wording irritates me greatly, for it implies that I have been careless with my health and ‘caught’ a disease, or shoddy with my life and not taken proper care of myself. I have been neither careless nor shoddy, I was born this way. I prefer the term Congenital Heart Defect, ‘cos that is what it is, a defects(s) of my heart I’ve had since it built itself in my mother’s womb. It’s also hereditary.

 I have had 3 open heart surgeries; the first was when I was little over a year old. This way of life has left me with many deep seated fears and anxieties that are only now beginning to make themselves known. It’s pretty tough. At present, I’ve a leaky heart valve,’ mad muscle’ and arrhythmias. Those of you on here that I went to school with may remember I never did PE – believe me, if I was allowed I’d have been out there like a shot to join you, nothing makes a child question themselves more than being separated and being made to feel different from their peers. This may explain why today was a bad day.

Today I spent an hour and half in an MRI scanner, with radioactive dye shot through my veins, holding my breath every other minute, this makes me feel light headed and sick, I also don’t care much for the confined space of an MRI scanner. I then had to cycle as hard and for as long as I could, with the cycle making it harder and harder, I hate this, this is a test I can’t win at, or achieve at, I will fail. It doesn’t make me feel good about myself at all, knowing that many of my friends today would find this test quite easy. I am now very, very tired and want a little sleep.

But I’m really lucky. I don’t take many meds, I have a good quality of life, I should be grateful that I’m not at death’s door, that I can still dance and act but I have to accept more and more that there are more days now that I can’t get my head off the pillow and I have to let people down or things slip. I read in a book once, and I think this is a pretty accurate summing up of me anyway that some of those with CHD “fear hospitalization, dread owning up to the next bout of atrial flutter, crave sorbet and ice cubes after anaesthetics and demand fierce independence – but unstinting help when we need it.” Yep that’s me init… fiercely independent, but when I’m feeling rough –you’d better be there! ;0)

So right, I’m not one for really chatting about this stuff on Facebook, it’s a first for me, but I think I’ve said enough now, spread the word, done my bit, and anyway, I am only one person out of loads of us that have a CHD, and we’re all individual, we all have our own experiences and personalities. But do you know what is really getting on my goat…..? That I’m 200 odd miles from home and I don’t know if I’ve got any Valentines cards through the door!! Anyway I’m off for a sleep, if you want to know more, check out The Somerville Foundation: http://www.thesf.org.uk/about-us/

So that’s my first blog post!  I did it. Thanks for reading.  Whoop! Go me!  ;0)