Karen Barbee

Downtime and Tom Petty


Historically, I’ve hated it. I mean… just the word “down”! Down is bad, right?

The concept of downtime always conjured images of people getting ahead of me. I think I was born a competitor. Competing for what? I have no idea.

But there is always a two-week break after Karavan Studio’s annual “Give Belly Dance a Chance” showcase. Inherently, amongst the many tasks that need to be done to close out one school year and start the next, there is always a bit of pure downtime.

Last August I spent it de-cluttering. Having become the mom of 4 (sometimes 5 – long story) rescued strays, and being married to a hoarder-in-denial, I felt the need for more space and lots of it! My two-week break resulted in several trips to the trash can, my storage unit, the trash can, several charities, the trash can, and to Half Price Books.

I swear I meant to only take items INTO Half Price Books – lots of books and even more vinyl! But I left with two new books… well, new to me. One was about dogs. I’ve yet to read it. The other, “Petty: The Biography” has been a lifesaver during this Coronavirus Lockdown Era (CLE), the latest bestower of the dreaded downtime.

Petty: The Biography

I can’t tell if the authors are that good or if I’m just so penetrable when it comes to stories about the lives of rock and rollers. In 2013 it was Eric Clapton. Now it’s Tom Petty.

Petty is hitting me hard. Maybe because the downtime that he is filling is lasting so long? Maybe because he’s blonde? Maybe because he isn’t with us any more? Maybe because I would have never considered myself a fan and I suddenly realize that I can sing along to every hit he’s had?

Rolling Stone magazine described him as one of those “rare figures who has successfully maintained an entire professional life span in rock and roll, the music of youth”. Ha! Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m trying to figure out how to successfully maintain a professional life in “Belly Dance” at the age of “coming up on 60”. I mean, hey! Tom and I have more than the blonde thing in common: over 40 years in our chosen craft.

Karen Barbee - Drum Solo at Nara Cafe

Whatever it is – his story has inspired me. I’ve read the book and watched the documentary about his life during this CLE, and he’s still my first google in the middle of the night while waiting for a pup to go potty.

So it stands to reason that – with more downtime in the near future, some questions in my mind about where it’s all going, what it’s all about, why I’m still here, and a new hero in Mr. Petty – I finally start a blog; one that helps this “American Girl” survive all of “The Waiting” while she continues to live like a “Refugee” and avoid a nervous “Breakdown”. THAT was fun.

I’m Karen (Elizabeth) Barbee Adkisson: a dancer, a dance instructor, a choreographer, an improviser, an animal lover, an optimist by choice, a frequent over-thinker, an eternal student of all things Arab, a baby boomer, and a live music addict. Welcome to my blog. THIS TOO is going to be fun.


Internationally renowned professional belly dance instructor, Karen Barbee Adkisson is the founder of Karavan Online and Karavan Studio in San Antonio, Texas. She is the creator of the Karavan Online Masterclass and believes in the power of technical precision, soulful innovation and cultural respect for the art of belly dance. Find out more about her online belly dance classes — available wherever you are, whenever you want — at karavansa.com.