Dancing To Your Own Tune

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belly-dancer-leyla-najma-relaxing-desertMy husband Daniel, looked up at me from his desk today and said, “Why don’t you write about dancers performing from who they are instead of performing from who they want to be?” He is always thinking about cool stuff for me to write and this one was a gem! So ladies thank my husband on this one.

Before Daniel suggested this short article I was giving him photographs of myself to copy that were taken years ago. I wanted to show you guys who I am besides Leyla Najma, the belly dancer. One photo is me praying in my medicine dress in the desert around Tombstone, Arizona. The other was me on my Clydesdale mare, Maggie who was doing a curtsy pose. I was dressed in my gypsy outfit riding Maggie for fans who were taking pictures.

These are both still me today but the belly dancer has taken precedence for many years. I often wonder how much the medicine woman comes out it me. I am still a gypsy and always will be……..so where is she in my dancing? A while back I wrote an article talking about “Life is a Stage” and this actually coincides with that article.

When I was studying with medicine men and women years ago, I learned to live each day as a rebirthing. My teepee always faced east because we believe that the sun coming up each day is a rebirth. The doors to the teepees are oval in shape so they make you feel like you are stepping out of a womb. This way each day stands on its own and the day before is in the eternal circle of life that has gone back into the Universe. I remember so clearly that I didn’t look forward to the weekends because each day was celebrated and many times I couldn’t tell what day it was. I was actually on “Indian time.”

I feel this celebration when I am on stage performing. Time stands still and doesn’t exist which in many ways is so liberating. This is where I write my script and keep my life lessons alive in my dance. If I live in the moment, than I can keep the memories alive in my heart with vivid details that never fade.

My days as a cowgirl and living in gypsy wagons, Bedouin tents and covered wagons are treasured memories but there are times when I relive those adrenalin moments especially just before I go on stage.
I remember on one particular road trip I was hauling my horses and following another truck in front that was hauling my gypsy wagon. Little did I know that the road was a two lane highway in the middle of nowhere that was down hill for at least 15 miles. I wasn’t told that the truck I was driving had brake problems.

The side I was driving on also happened to be on the side of the road that had no railing and a drop of over 30 feet. Half way on the downward incline my brakes gave out and all I could do was to shift into grandma gear and pray. I had to actually turn the truck sideways at the end so the momentum of the horse trailer and my truck going down hill would be at a minimum if I couldn’t stop. Burning brakes, smoke and a few curse words ended the white knuckle experience. I traveled every six months plus or minus a month and that was only “one” of me seeing my life pass before my eyes experiences that I had.
The first time I taught and danced in a workshop show……my life passed before my eyes. So as you can see there are a lot of similarities…kind of.

Years ago I was lucky enough to experience a spring and fall round up with one of the last working ranches in the Big Bend part of Texas. I was working with some of the best cowboys around, a dying breed.
On one particular brisk morning during the fall round up, we were taking a large herd of Mexican Steers to another part of the ranch. The cattle were skittish and the horses were nervous. You could feel electricity in the air and you could sense something was about to happen. With no warning the cattle took off in a dead run and we were all caught off guard. Within seconds we were all caught in a stampede.

My mare was keeping up but she was dodging bushes and jumping ravines at a dead run. If she tripped or if I fell off it would have been all she wrote! You could feel the ground shaking and the amount of focus it took to hold the cattle together was mind shattering. There could be no mistakes or the cattle would have scattered apart and it would have taken hours to get them back together. Fortunately the lead cowboys were able to get in front of the herd and we finally slowed them down keeping them all together. It ended just as quickly as it had begun. The adrenalin rush was coursing through my veins and my horse was shaking from head to hooves from her dead run. We all just looked at each other realizing at that moment that we experienced something that happens maybe once in a life time.

Is this not the feeling we feel just after a great performance. We know when we are on stage all eyes are upon us and that our timing has to be perfect with no mistakes. Our hearts beat at an uncontrollable rate and afterwards we stand in amazement that we’re apart of something that was incredible.
So……yes I guess I do bring in all of me when I dance. My script includes all my experiences but than I like to create a different persona now and than just to mix it all up. That’s a woman for you…….we stir the pot for no other reason than just because we can. And you know something…..I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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About Leyla Najma
Lifelong professional Belly Dancer dedicated to providing "Belly Dance Instruction That Is Easy To Understand And Learn That Connects The Dots"

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