A few weeks ago I ventured up to Taos, New Mexico and interviewed two very important and special women in my life. It was like going home and remembering where my passion started from even as naïve as it was. I went homeward bound to my belly dance roots because my dance journey really started in Taos. It was in Taos that I met Barbara Sayre Harmon and Sakti Rinek; the two women who would be instrumental in making my belly dance dreams come true.
On my trip up to Taos, I had forgotten how spectacular the drive was because everywhere I looked was breathtaking. Coming up from the canyon you are met with a panoramic view of the Gorge and the Taos mountains. They greet you like an old friend that has been around since the beginning of time. The view is always, fresh, new and awe-inspiring, no matter how many times I see it. In many ways, I said to myself, “I am home.”
The lingering memories of learning an ancient art form was almost like a pilgrimage going back to a place that transformed my life. From the day I saw dancers performing so many years ago, I knew belly dance had placed her mark upon me. Taos in many ways represents my temple of learning. Sakti and Barbara were the two women that took me by the hand and guided me into the poetic dance movements of ancient times. Sakti’s studio always had the feel of being an ancient sanctuary with a high priestess energy to it. As I entered her studio, I always knew I was there to study and to understand that the dance was a privilege to learn. Sakti’s curriculum was detailed and full of combinations that were easy to absorb and practice. To this day I find that Sakti is the one teacher through out my career that shared everything she knew about belly dance with me. Sakti always reminded me of a high priestess because she took belly dance and made it ageless. It was as if she took it from an ancient manuscript and brought it to life, always youthful with no apparent age to the movements. With ageless beauty emanating from her varied movements I knew when I saw Sakti dance that I wanted to be apart of this ancient heritage that was a rite of passage, the path of the enlightened and worldly belly dancer.
Every woman who goes into the farthest reaches of her heart knows that magic is alive and by proxy we are its ambassadors. Whenever I walk up to Barbara’s courtyard I am not only taken back in time but I think time stands still out of reverence. It’s a vortex of magical fairies, dragon flies, and an array of flowers of all colors and shapes leading up to her cottages that are alive with whimsy and delight. Walking into Barb’s studio is a piece of pure enchanting revival to the eyes. Everywhere there is a painting that leads you to another one and then another so that the senses are filled and slightly intoxicated with pure creativity. The colors seem to emanate off canvases that come to life telling their story from creative inception to completed masterpiece. For a dancer, the atmosphere can easily captivate the mind and stimulate the creative link between creativity and inspiration. With both studios apart of my up bringing and training in belly dance, it is no wonder that my dance persona is part enchantress and priestess. I think with most women, this is our rite of passage and one that we often forget.
Coming back to Taos was like coming home after a long pilgrimage where I ventured out looking for answers to many questions. I started off each adventure as a naïve novice and as time passed the proficient dancer emerged. As I was driving up to Taos, my accumulated experiences somehow looked me square in the face when I looked into the rear view mirror and I wondered if any of my experiences had amounted to much. I realized my fear was like a dress that shows off all my imperfections and magnifies them with no regard or consideration for my state of mind. I was wearing my fears of inadequacy with the details of a skilled seamstress.
The interviews in many ways were a long time coming. Barb has been living the painters life most of her life along with Cliff Harmon her husband and comrade in arms. Barbara is one of the top female portrait artists in the US besides being a well received writer of children’s books. Sakti has been living the belly dancers dream, traveling around the world for over 36 years. She has been performing and teaching her unique dance style to hundreds of women from all walks of life. They both radiate a kind of accomplishment that not many women can pride themselves in, a life time of creative study that results in endless works of art. The creative process became a way of life for both Barb and Sakti so much so that they have become one with the essence of their own inspired design. It is because of this very reason, I felt it was time to interview them for my membership site and get their stories out to aspiring dancers and artists.
Its funny how we think the world views us like we view ourselves, it’s really not a realistic way to think. As I met with Barbara and Sakti, my apprehension just melted away and I had the best time laughing and talking non-stop the whole time I visited and interviewed both of them. When I was looking behind the video camera and listening to Barb talk, I realized that there just aren’t women like Barb anymore. Her eloquence and refined gestures made me feel like I was in the presence of a legendary actress. In many ways each painting is a script or a story that has individual meaning to whoever looks at it. If I closed my eyes, I could hear the whisperings from each portrait that was surrounding me. That’s why I love going to Barbara’s studio, it’s a magical place that transports me into a world that is always waiting to be discovered or rediscovered. There were a few times I wanted to pinch myself just to make sure I was really there listening to Barb talk about her early years or the tidbits of information about Martha Graham. I decided right then and there I didn’t need Google or Wikipedia because Barbara was a walking encyclopedia. The amazing thing about artists is that they are sponges for every topic they come in contact with. There seems to be no stone unturned by the curious artist and I realized that creativity demands a studious mind. Barb symbolized this with brilliance and genius.
Sakti was as vivacious as ever just as I remembered her. I really think she found the fountain of youth and is keeping mum about it. The studio had a new floor that her boys (obvious young men) Eli and Adam put down for her. It was even more beautiful then I remember and with the new sitting area with large windows over looking her pond, it was just enchanting. As we began our interview it was so much fun to relive Sakti’s stories and adventures with her. Sakti did what every belly dancer dreams of doing; she not only made a living with belly dancing but she became successful with it as well. But the difference here is that Sakti was “living” the belly dancers life instead of just talking about it. In the end trains, plains and automobiles become as familiar as each hotel room. It’s a gypsy life that isn’t for the faint of heart but for those who pursue it, the end result is enriched memories of cultures, people and places. Sakti’s portfolio isn’t just full of shows, workshops and performances she has the memories of each experience that lives inside her. The difference between a professional hobbyist and old school dancer is how they live their lives and what they carry within them. Experience is the upper hand in this case. You feel the experiences as soon as you walk into Sakti’s studio.
The working dancer lives a novel life that is a daily script made with continual rewrites but that is why it is so enticing for the average woman; it’s a nonsensical way of life. If women were any less complicated it wouldn’t seem logical but because we are who we are, it’s the perfect way to stimulate the senses and reawaken the soul. As Mae West said, “I’m no model lady. A model’s just an imitation of the real thing.” We either live our lives to the fullest or live to regret not birthing our dreams. And to me that’s the difference between women who go out and live their lives versus those who watch from the side lines, they make magic happen. So in my interviews prepare to meet two amazing women who made magic happen and to date are still living their lives to the fullest yet leaving room for new adventures, scripts not written and performances yet to be danced. It’s the blank canvas of life that allows us to paint masterpieces of our desires.
I will be eternally grateful to Barbara and Sakti who have imprinted upon my heart, joy; friendship, laughter, loyalty and the desire to succeed. They showed me this by example and it is only fitting after all this time I come homeward bound to my belly dance roots to thank the two women in my life who made all the difference and helped me become the woman that I am today.
If you are curious about my membership site, check it out and become a member. I have many videos to view and as you can see many more to come. www.bellydancevillage.com