In the Belly of Nuit
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January 2014

December 2013

In Praise of the Deep End

Call to Bellydancers:

After you have enjoyed loosening up your midriff, putting some steps together, received some positive feedback from being on stage and felt beautiful in a gorgeous sparkly outfit, I urge you to look deeper into Bellydance. If not, you are so missing out on the best stuff. What you have experienced so far are only the outer trappings of a profound, ancient and rich heritage. What you have experienced so far is like the air pumped ice cream in the discount supermarket. Once you have tried Haagen Das, you can appreciate what ice-cream can really offer.

Discover the experience of Tarab and melt when listening to classical Arab music or a taqsim or mawaal. Discover how every woman has within her the fascinating character of the noble Upper Egyptian girl, the exuberance behind the veiled Saudi woman, the strong and powerful maalema, the youthful proud Hagallah or the Alexandrian flirt. With deep meaning based in socio-political history and real emotion based on a rich musical tradition embedded in your every move, you will experience a joy that spills over throughout all of your life and washes over others around you.

Don't miss out by staying in the shallow end of the pool.

Creating Choreography Part #1

I have never had the opportunity of dancing in an ensemble interpreting another choreographer's work, nor have I studied choreography. Only in the last few years have I been blessed to have the input and advice of Robert Desrosiers. I consider him one of my most important mentors. It is his choreographic genius that inspires me to want to create choreography.

However, in my ignorant bliss, I began creating choreography at the age of eight by rounding up the girls who lived on my block and staging performances. This was even before taking a dance class. Inspired by TV shows, I remember staging a Country and Western number and a Go Go (1960s) number. My biggest production at age nine was staging my own version of Hair. Witnessing the production of Hair is probably the single most important influence that compelled me to be a choreographer.

I have always enjoyed working with large numbers of dancers because it gives me the opportunity to convey my message in the steps of each dancer and the added dimension of shapes and movement in a large space. I feel that the ensemble of dancers is a whole other body with limitless limbs to move about and work with.

The single most important lesson I have learned is that in order to create a choregraphy with impact, all facets must be in sync with the same message from begining to end; each dancer's movement and emotion, the ensemble's dynamic and movment or lack of, the music, the costumes, the lighting, the intent - all need to be delivering the same clear message at all times. It is alot of work but truly magic when it all aligns.

The mystery is where do the mesaages come from that are worth delivering with such intent. They can come from almost anywhere and anytime. The secret is recognizing their value when they appear. Will write more about recognizing inspiration in a future blog.

Posture, Community and Happiness

Funny how life reflects dance class.

So many times I find myself teaching a concept or approach in movement to students who need change in their fundamental view of the dance. Then sure enough, I start seeing the same dynamic play out in so many other facets of life. 

Lately, I have found myself explaining on a number of ocassions the key to authentic stage presence and good posture and how the two are connected. I feel that a dance artist is mistaken if they think a powerful presence is projected by sticking their chest out or even trying to stand out at all. I believe that the whole diva persona that some people promote delivers a sublimal message to an audience; that the performer is insecure by trying to call attention to themselves.

I propose that instead of pushing one's presence on others with chin high and chest out, one could try opening ones back and ribs and take the audience into their heart with a warm embrace. The other day, I was demonstrating the difference physically to a student when she began to cry as she realized what was happening in the second dynamic compared to the first - the profound beauty and wonder in the simplicity and effortlessness.

Lately, there has been more than the usual amount of talk in our local dance community about community dynamics - negative and positive. No point to go into details. I have taught in enough cities around the world to know the same dynamics play out everywhere, pretty much identically. But it did make me ponder the question; why some people feel the need to be confrontative while others are happy revelling in the community spirit.

And then the answer came to me in the stage presence posture lesson!

My fav Bhuddist quote: How do you stop a drop of water from drying up? (think about the answer first) Answer: By throwing it into the ocean. 

Hey Dance Community, I hope you find the answer to any possible "community" strife in this quote or perhaps by trying a different posture. Bellydance belongs to everyone. Being a "star" or diva is lonely. Try melting into the community or into your audience and thereby become something much larger.

Was Wondering if a Dancer Owns Much?

I know there are too many Bellydancers out there who will role their eyes and relate...

Email received this morning similar to many emails I get.
"I was wondering if you'd tell me how I could become an arabic/belly dancer? It's hard to find classes online and I was wondering if a dancer owns much?"

My answer:
"To learn any art form seriously enough to call oneself a proponent of it, one needs to study with master teachers in person for years. Online classes do not offer feedback to further your progress. Of all art forms dance is the most disciplined and takes many years of hard work. Research to find a good teacher in your city or move to Cairo where there are many excellent teachers or to a city where a master teacher lives. The best of Luck."

Infinite Possibilties

Ah! The infinite possibilties that come from the belly of Nuit. I often say that if there was one ancient Egyptian goddess or one aspect of Isis that embodies the essence of Bellydance, it is Nut or Nuit. She is the goddess of the night sky whose belly is the Vault of Heaven. Her belly holds the vast universe from which all possibilties come. In the evening Nuit swallows the sun and in the morning She gives birth to the sun again.

A violinist once told me that when an Arab singer sings "Leili" ("my nights") in a mawaal, they are expressing that feeling of being alone in the desert on a moonless night where above and in all directions of the infinite horizon is nothing but stars. There are no clouds in the desert, no sounds of living creatures and so there is nothing between you and the sky thick with piercing shining rays of light that feel they are so close, they are touching you. This sense of oneness with the infinite universe of empty space and infinite possibilites is what is expressed when "Leili" is sung.

Delving into my beloved art form and its infinite ways to express and share continues to reveal to me just how infinite Nuit's belly really is.