Imagine this, you walk into a dressing room with five belly dancers standing in front of mirrors and you wonder what do they really see or what do they really think…of themselves. Within these past 25 years of dancing, I have always wondered what the little voices in everyone’s heads were saying especially in a room full of women. Remember the movie, “City of Angels” with Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage? There was a scene where people’s private and most intimate dialogues could be heard and each Angel listened in trying to give comfort where comfort was needed. What would it be like for any of us to really take a good look at our own dialogues and see what we constantly say about ourselves? How do we know if the image looking back at us from the mirror is a true representation of who we really are?
Have you ever wondered why we make New Year’s resolutions each year and by the years end our outcomes are immensely different than our original thoughts and intentions? I think it all has to do with those little voices in our head telling us that no matter what, we are still the same person year after year and the end results will never change or if they do, take a tenacity never before seen. Is it really the ego talking or is it the insecurities of our self image that sabotages our well intentioned efforts. One thing I know for sure, the belly dancer on stage is not always the same woman back in the dressing room looking at herself in the mirror. Dance allows us to put up a façade that allows no secrets to escape because once a dancer is up on stage the entertainer in them takes over. The safety net is the performance, the in the moment pull of the audience, lights and music that helps to keep the entertainer on top of her game.
But what happens when we walk in the front doors of our homes and plop down on the couch…are we really the same person that was up on stage just hours ago? I have left the house half pissed off about something, drive to my restaurant gig, perform and come home with a different attitude. So obviously dance can help in different areas of a dancer’s life but how many times do we separate the dancer from the every day woman because we don’t want the two mixed together? Could they help each other? The dancer in me always had her $#it together and I knew how to dress and enter the front doors of any establishment, engage in any number of conversations and end with two shows under my belt and drive home. But my question is, is the dancer really me or another personality coming through? Many times when I was “off” from being the celebrity belly dancer, I would crash at home exhausted. And I often wondered was it because I was selective in my timing, basically making it clear to myself that there was a correct time to bring out the belly dancer and a time to put her away. If I am always willing to put away the belly dancer for more appropriate times, will it leave a mark perhaps a habitual habit that imprints itself onto my self image? I know I am both the average woman and belly dancer but if I look closely to those hidden voices in my head, I tend to favor the belly dancer because she is after all the closest I have ever come to being my ideal of the perfect woman. The rest of the week, I am just me, mortal and in my eyes average and maybe just a bit boring. It’s in this separatist state of mind that the problems start to perpetuate into cracked and disassociated issue that weigh so heavily on my persona that more cracks emerge from the pressure. In the end, the image looking back at me is always disassociated from the true image that I am. When I look into any mirror, I see insecurities, phobias from past experiences, other peoples voiced opinions of what I don’t have or what I can’t do and it’s interesting that the voices that speak the loudest in my head are those from so many years ago.
It’s not just admitting that I see myself cracked because even an alcoholic can admit they have a problem but do nothing more than just admit to it. To say it, is one thing, to do something about it is another. It’s in the actual process of recapitulation and soul searching that we find the answers that make us whole again besides understanding those experiences that lead us to our disassociated place of acceptance. Remember in the “Black Swan” how the mind took images and made them seem to a certain extent, real. I often wonder if the various cracks we see in our mind, mirrors the impacts of yielding to views that are not our own, consequently making the lines that appear before our eyes our own doing. If we look at something long enough, even if it’s not true, we start to believe it is true. The mirror becomes a distorted view of borrowed opinions that become a twisted and grotesque sculpture that is not of our own design.
An entertainer has to know that her or his journey is harder to travel than most because of fans and audiences expectations of great performances time after time. As I have always said, the audience hates to be disappointed and with today’s technology, they can even take on a troll mentality writing comments that sting. For example, year’s ago I remember a writer came to a play I co-produced called, “The Pearl Fantasy.” A year’s hard work went into the production and all of our dancers and actors spent a year working on making the show a success. Yet the writer, who congratulated everyone after the show in the reception hall, wrote a scathing review that made me wonder what his motive was. Perhaps my mirror cracked a bit more that day not because I don’t believe in free speech but because how could I not take it personally when my creative efforts were mixed into the pot with everyone else’s. The show was partially my baby, nurtured day after day with tireless efforts and sleepless nights. The investment into my creativity was high so it’s no wonder I wanted to punch him in the face. When we create a play, dance, piece of art and someone else proclaims that our creative efforts aren’t good enough; we have to find a way so that we don’t look in the mirror adding more distorted opinions to our image. Once creativity is out for people to view, it’s the risk the artist takes. So I finally understood that opinions people make are from their view of the world and sometimes they are just as cracked or fragmented as me. The difference is simple, how I deal with a situation says so much about who I am and how cracked my mirror is.
Let’s get real, as women we have different agendas attached to us since birth. How skinny, pretty and talented a woman is sometimes can be more important then how smart and motivated she is. I have been skinny, chubby and back again since my teenage years and I have found that most people don’t treat me any differently. I finally realized that I am the one that reacts differently to people because of my insecurity about being overweight. This is where the dialogue starts talking in my head about what people really think of how I look. I hear what I am thinking and attach it to what they say creating a between the lines problem that doesn’t really exist. So after seeing this bizarre insecurity, I decided to look at myself in the mirror and tell my body how proud I am of it and how thankful I am it’s healthy and able to do all the things I need it to do.
I don’t think we have to go back in the womb to change our habitual way of seeing life but I do think it’s important for everyone to stand back from the general highway and see if what they believe, see and feel is conducive to a happy, loving and prosperous future. I saw how I blindsided myself in certain areas and I finally came to the conclusion that even though it wasn’t a literal hit or block, I could still feel the residual pain and see how it affected my attitude towards my body image, confidence and business intentions. We have to stop the runaway train that in the end is the ghost of inhibitions that were collected along the way of experiencing life. A good starting point is to see yourself in the mirror and take the time to look at who you are in the moment. How you respond to your image can be a gauge as to how well you are really doing with your relationship with yourself.
“Home is a place in the mind. When it is empty, it frets. It is fretful with memory, faces and places and times gone by. Beloved images rise up in disobedience and make a mirror for emptiness.”
MAEVE BRENNAN, The Visitor
If we stray away from the comforts of the temple or home, it’s an obvious risk that we will forget our way back to the comforting fires of our beginnings. I understand this because when I was in Egypt, I always seemed to find my way to destinations and I learned quickly how to get to places, even side roads the taxi drivers didn’t know about. I felt I was home the months I lived there so it never entered my mind that I was lost at any given time. I was as content as any woman could be and my body, soul and mind made my emotional state a happy one. My hair grew in leaps and bounds, my nails were the longest I have ever had them and my skin was a healthy glow. I would wake up excited about the unknown journey of the day. I was as complete and whole as I have ever been. The hard part for me now is to bring about those same elated emotions into an every day way of life. Perhaps if we make the journey within ourselves just as exciting, we will always be in a place where we are whole. The image looking back at us in the mirror can be a constant reminder that the cracks in the mirror are only visible if we choose to see them. The bottom line is our image is what we choose to see, either the end result of what we do to keep the illusion or fragmented belief alive or how we glow with the wholeness of knowing we never left home. Home is not only where the heart is, home is where we are guided by our creativity that is unwavering and absolute.
‘Home is the place that goes where you go, yet it welcomes you upon your return. Like a dog overjoyed at the door. We’ve missed you is what you hear, no matter how long you’ve been gone.”
MICHAEL J. ROSEN, Home
Remember that Jareeda Belly Dance magazine is coming very soon, as a matter of fact it went to print on Monday so those of you excited about getting your issue, the wait is almost over!! www.jareeda.com
Also this year I have made some changes and I have decided to write exclusively for Jareeda and I am very excited to be working with Mezdulene and her amazing magazine. My focus and efforts will be with Jareeda and Mezdulene so look for new and exciting articles coming up from the longest running belly dance magazine to date!
Also, again I want to thank everyone who has supported my book coming out and for all those people who did the reviews for Amazon. I really appreciate it so those of you who want to buy my book, “The Divine Unrest-My Stories and Personal Views on Belly Dance,” here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Divine-Unrest-Personal-ebook/dp/B00AB77Y1U
Here’s info on my classes starting at Continuing Ed/UNM in March. Go to DCE.UNM.EDU my class number is 12788 and my class name is, Hip Phylosophy. If you are local the number to register is 505-277-0077 and if you need any help from me just email me at leyla-leyla-najma.com
Now that I am finally at the cusp of achieving and finalizing the last editing of my book,The Divine Unrest: My Stories, Advice and Personal Views on Belly Dance, I was thinking about the belly dance education I had over the years, and if it was the kind of learning process I expected.
Perhaps I ambled less on the general highway of dance and scuttled more on various hidden trails that lead me to conform my ideals in a way I never thought possible. I wonder if I am a traditionalist in my views with an underlying liberal attitude. Belly dance can take the naïve expectations of a beginner belly dancer and through time, change the unsullied mind with tainted experiences.
My goal here isn’t to spoil the belly dance experience for anyone, only to state that belly dance is a superb teacher and she will teach with an indifference to the outcome of the lesson. Since belly dance is life lived and learned, it is the best tutelage any student can have, even the hard knocks of life have invaluable lessons in them but that doesn’t make them any less painful. Read more
I wanted to write a bit about the belly dance journey and to let you all know that every once in awhile the rose colored glasses come off and reality starts to set in even for us belly dancers. Sometimes women think that self fulfillment will happen magically with this dance and to be honest with you it takes work. But it’s the kind of work that feels more like an entrepreneurial quest. We make the journey what it is, a success or a spiraling drama. At times they kind of go hand in hand but how much really depends on you. Read more