Belly Dancer to Writer

People have asked me how I transitioned from having a twenty-plus-year career as a belly dancer to my present career as a writer. The two seemed so unrelated. I have to admit I had a head start because I spent over fifty years searching for my family after being orphaned as a small child and when I finally found a family member, I wanted to write about it. But in further pondering the transition question, I surprisingly found similarities between the two.










The main hat I wore during my dancing years was as a Belly Grammer. I was hired to surprise someone for their birthday, anniversary, farewell, get well, reunion or event, with a ten minute dance routine consisting of three parts. The first part was lively Arabic music, accompanied by the rhythm of my brass finger cymbals. Then it slowed down for some pretty, mesmerizing veil work and the last part or finale was lively again, punctuated by the clinking sound of my tambourine. My guest of honor was seated in a chair by himself with people in a circle around him with room for me to dance in the middle. During the routine I presented him with a red banner with a gold glitter message of the occasion and included his name and a red rose. I also crowned him with my veil and tambourine during the number. It was good clean fun and became a very popular way for people to honor coworkers, bosses, family members and friends.









During this time, I attended seminars all over the U.S. and became a professional performer in shows that concluded those lessons. I met other dancers who became friends and I traveled out of the country as well. This opened up trade show jobs and Greek Night events, wedding receptions, gigs in New York and New Jersey in night clubs, fundraising for the Leukemia Society, and as a staff writer for an international dance magazine. I danced for actor Cliff Robertson at a Scottish Céilidh and for Whoopi Goldberg on a movie set and Mr. Winton Blunt, former U.S. Postmaster General asked me to dance in his home for Saudi Arabia’s Prince Turki Bin Nassar. Two military bases in Montgomery, AL, near my home, had numerous events for which I was asked to help them celebrate. I started taking students in my home studio and was asked to teach at Auburn University and later to choreograph a production number for the theatre at Auburn U. I even did a tailgate party in the parking lot at Auburn University before a championship football game. I remember being absolutely amazed I was actually able to find my tailgate hosts without any trouble at the super crowded stadium that day!

Medieval Fantasy Dance




You’re probably getting the idea by now, dear reader, that one thing led to another in my dance career, and you’d be absolutely right. The scope for providing opportunities for dance was constantly changing and growing. In developing a routine for my belly grams I was telling a story through my movements and in some of the other shows, I was following a theme and creating a narrative through the dance itself. The magazine staff writer job and having to come up with written lesson plans for my college teaching stints were most helpful in my development with writing, but finding my sister was the clincher and I started writing a mystery novel involving my search for her. Years later, when my agent found my publisher and my book came out; it was time I retired from dance and start my new career. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have been blessed with two careers I loved so much! What about you? Have you had more than one career that you’ve loved?


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under Art, musings, writing

16 responses to “Belly Dancer to Writer

  1. Susan Coggins

    Love the photos and am sorry I never saw you dance.. In my wedding planing business, I hired belly dancers several times – great fun!

  2. Renee Latty

    Gotcha beat Coco with 5 incredible careers…. well maybe not exactly “careers” but experiences I would not trade for anything! Is this not part of what makes life and living so interesting? I’m still at “clowning” at the tender age of 84! Wonder what my next “career” will be!?

    • That you do, Renee!!!! I do believe you’re the happiest person I know!!!! And I also believe you are the most fit and youngest 84 year-old I know, although I have a friend who is 85 and she’s certainly fit! I want to be just like you when I grow up!!!! Thanks for being such a great friend!!!!

  3. Cynthia

    Great story…. you where always very classy and beautiful in your awesome routines. Now still a beautiful person inside and out as a accomplished writter!

  4. Pat Gordon

    An extremely talented,very interesting and a bright lady!

    Hope your next best selling novel will be From Belly Dancer to Writer.


    • You’re too sweet, Pat! Gosh, I probably could write a book considering all the dancer adventures I had, but you know, truth is stranger than fiction; nobody would believe all the stories I could tell. Hahaha!! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a neat comment!

  5. Wow! I loved reading this, and seeing the images too. My husband assures me that my writing will never be a career as I don’t earn enough. But if you count dreams, I’ve managed three careers – computer programmer, quality assurance engineer, and writer too.

    • Thank you, Sheila! I absolutely DO count writing as a career even though it isn’t much of a monetary source. Intent is everything! And we have gotten riches in other ways, right? And I say to you, “Bravo for having three careers that you’ve loved!!!” I can’t say too much about the first two, but I can say you are a wonderful writer! so there!!!

  6. You’ve led a fascinating life!

    • That’s true, Sherrie. I’ve spent my whole life searching for family and roots and the journey has been one revelation after another and more good times than bad. I don’t know if that makes me nosy or curious or what, but it certainly hasn’t been boring! Thanks so much for your support and comments.

  7. Linda

    Love the pics, another book, boy the stories you could tell!

  8. I am currently working as a dancer and just started blogging. It is so inspiring to read about someone following a path I one day hope to pursue! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  9. Debbie Crews

    So glad to hear you are doing well Coco ! You danced for my Brother In Laws Birthday many years ago . It remains one of the biggest highlights of his life ! Thank you so much !

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