Belly Dance and the Feminine Bleep

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I always wondered if feminism had anything to do with belly dance. I googled the definition and it says: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. Does any of this matter when we are sashaying through life or does it have more to do with our place in society and the dictum of feminine perception through out the years?

Most women who dance have an idea of what their social identity is before hand but the reasons for them wanting to dance can be a million miles away from the countless gender, political or sociological issues clutching at their skirts. It all depends on the environment of a woman’s childhood, the root of her beginning years and family dynamics that impact her intimate perceptions of the female dichotomy.

Pretty much, I grew up knowing the physical differences between men and women but I didn’t put too much stock into thinking this would influence my life’s options, leading me to question my position and affluence as a woman. My first marriage was the prime example of me, bleeping my way through life, ignorant of my feminine wiles. I came to realize that there were more differences then I ever imagined between men and women and I proudly stood by my own kind, especially during those front line battles. My paradigm for relationships changed like the wind and I never knew what direction my affections and rational would blow. This doesn’t mean I was a floozy, more so my patience along with my free will waltzed out without giving me any warning. Sometimes I just had to leave a relationship in order to catch up with myself.

Belly dance always seems to take the blame in these types of circumstances because it inevitably becomes the fall-guy’s girl, the unfortunate last woman standing that takes the beating and blame for circumstances that would have developed and intensified anyways. Any relationship can spiral its way downwards but for some reason belly dance tends to be blamed for that extra push. The bleeping red flags of any dysfunctional relationship can be hard to see. A woman’s assorted rose colored glasses can make day to day interactions seem inconspicuous with doldrums sentiments. Unbeknownst to the unconscious mind, the downward spiral in many instances is in motion before the reality follows suite or the realization hits home. When the bells chime in the warning signs, sometimes it’s a little too late.

Did belly dance make me smarter? Nope…yup…ah, well maybe. I can’t really say but I do know that after years full of relationships, those including students, dance acquaintances and partners, I am at least standing and ready to carry on. I don’t think the, “last one standing” is the case here; it’s more if you can dance and include the full ingredients of life, along with all the trials and tribulations then and only then do you have something to dance about.

The imperfections of life sometimes are highlighted within head spins, hip circles, sways and hip bumps. The emotional impact memories have on dance movements, can make them into a one of a kind poetic prose that affects people visually with their intimate secrets.

Belly dance can be a double edged sword though, that details and magnifies problems, yet offers a subtle diversion from the gravity of any said issues. It can in some ways become the definitive hypocrite of circumstances.

Years ago, I can remember a distinct experience that changed my perspective on relationships, especially those involved with my dance career. It all started with a dance showcase for the New Mexico Dance Coalition. I had been invited to perform in this prestigious show and practiced for months, obviously becoming consumed with my up and coming performance. It became a sore spot with my ex-husband. He interrupted practice one day to inform me that he was going to take a trip for a few days and that I could come along but my dancing wasn’t invited. He wasn’t impressed with belly dance to begin with and his ultimatum to say the least didn’t set well with me. I just smiled at him and said, “Have fun!”

Let’s see…did he take my comment well? IMG_6534

I’m sure you can all imagine our battle of wills along with savory translations and unsophisticated words spilling out like an erupting, overflowing pot bellied brew. I bleeped more then I had ever in my life that day and I must say it felt really good. It wasn’t the first or last sign of trouble but it definitely altered my fall from grace faster then I ever imagined. Within a year of that very conversation or should I say yelling match, we were separated and I was in Egypt exploring the mystical and magical roots of my dance form. Freedom can be the aphrodisiac of the soul and once we bathe, soaking in its emotional vaporous waters, there is no going back…ever.

Egypt was my soul’s desire, the answer to my questionable ways. Spiritual awakenings can change people but Egypt for me was an emotional dialogue that consumed my conscious mind more then my dance education. Her ancient narratives had subtle innuendos that explained the feminine image as the birthing, fertile poetess bursting forth in seduction and life. After receiving this gift of female wisdom, I understood that I would never need to defend that which is my birthright to do.

On the other hand…

Exploring and experiencing belly dance with dance friends can be as exhausting as climbing up Mount Everest in a bikini, holding your breath, barefoot or as rejuvenating and effortless as a walk in the park drinking a Pina Colada. Obviously, friendships can be a bleeping train wreck with roller coaster ups and downs. Women can get along one minute and then ravage each other the next. But we like to live dangerously because this tells us how alive we are. The problem arises when the experience is traded in for the unabashed blather of conversation rather then the camaraderie of sisterhood. Women tend to have memories like elephants and fickle temperaments, so exhaustive babble can keep a lifespan of a mayfly or take a squabble into infinity.

After I produced a few shows, I found that conversations can take on an ironical tone, hiding debauched meanings of mediocre to exuberant chatter. This extreme journey is one that goes down the rabbit hole, taking the above mentioned even further, concealing true feelings of coded messages and menial surface fluff. Musical verbs can be just as interesting as musical chairs because the end results can be unpredictable and a testament to a calculating mind. I guess if I wanted to be more to the point, I could just say, these circumstances are well suited for a passive-aggressive type of person and the rest of us assumed “prey” just have to ducktail it out of there scampering in the other direction.

Sisterhood is a good thing but to be honest with you, I don’t always get along with my own sisters. I think there has to be more of an understood dialogue between dancers and students while they are working together, that encompasses needed decorum and sociable guidelines. I tried to do this very thing in my own studio, years ago and I found it was hard to implement my own personal guidelines to a bunch of women who had their own ideas of what they felt appropriate was. It came down to me exclaiming in bleeping terms, that it was my way or the highway. I felt like an insane dictator at times but sometimes student’s ideals and opinions just didn’t jive well with my own. There were a few times I was called out on issues as well but the bottom line was, it was my studio and I paid the bills.

Walking a straight line as a dance instructor and performer eventually lead to blistered feet, heart palpitations and a bleeping vocabulary that at times could hold it’s own with any sailor. It’s not always about what a person says in a moment of anger but what they don’t say in order to keep the peace. Choosing our battles wisely is more easily said then done but in dance, we must anchor ourselves by our own convictions through allowing our inner core, the temple of our inspiration to transform into the female archetype of our own feminine design.

Nobody wants to become the sullied version of the very people that annoy the hell out of them. We can’t escape from ourselves so it’s best to turn into the image of decorum we strive to surround ourselves with in daily life. A few bleeps here and there don’t hurt but in the end, we have to find the calm and assured place in our temple of creativity, so we don’t burn out the flames of inspiration at both ends. IMG_6526

Perhaps we can start looking to the feminism of our own gender to lead us into the future. For me, feminism isn’t about being equal to men; it’s about being equal with women of all backgrounds, cultures and ideologies.  I didn’t think much about feminism when I was young but now that I am older, maybe wiser and steadfast in my ways, it’s apart of me.

I can’t always see which direction the wind is blowing but if I set my sails just right, I’ll eventually find my way by following the stars of my own convictions. The infinite above me and the unfathomable below me are the exemplar incentives for creating my dance time and time again but unmistakably with a few bleeps escaping here and there.  I guess this just makes me human but more importantly, it just shows that I’m a woman who dances just because she can.

                     “To create one’s own world, takes courage.” Georgia O’keeffe.

 

Check out www.bellydancevillage.com for my new e-books that are coming out:

“The Spotlight, a Way of Life,” and “The Power of Choreography…it’s Not What You Think.”

Egypt

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Egypt in all her glory was just a name, “Cleopatra” and my expectations of what would befall me when I traveled there years ago was unrealistic Hollywood glitz and romantic ideas. I think there is a part of every woman who sees a little bit of Cleopatra within her. When we actually go to Egypt, our sense of the feminine archetypes goes off the deep end. I really thought I would meet my Julius Caesar or Marc Antony, not because either one would be there but because Egypt captivates the mind sending it into delusional expectations. Read more

Climbing the Queens Pyramid and Missing Time

Climbing the Queens Pyramid - Leyla Najma's Belly Dance Blog

When I traveled to Egypt in 1991 it was definitely a calling from the Heavens. It never occurred to me that I was really going for dance; I was going because the temples, alters, and sacred burial grounds were my calling. My first walk off the plane and down multiple steps was not exactly my finest moment. The obvious dancer in me missed the first step and I went tumbling down a flight of stairs and landed on my suitcases. A dance friend that went with me started to yell my name and burst out laughing. Out of nowhere a myriad of people appeared to help me untangle my arms from my legs. I made an entrance I never planned on making and from that moment on the excitement and unexpected twists and turns never stopped.

I’ll tell you all a little secret that I have kept for a long time…..maybe I’m doing this out of guilt but I figure at this point I might as well let the cat out of the bag. I met wonderful people in Cairo and one friend in particular was a very adventurous fellow. We all called him Jimbo and true to form he was a great traveling companion. One night we were at a pub called Pub 13 in Maadi, a suburb on the outskirts of Cairo when he got this bright idea for us to go and climb one of the Queens pyramids. It was around 2:00am in the morning and by this point we had drunk quite a few beers, a brand called Stella. In my right state of mind I would have said no, but I was in a happy go lucky mood and just about every suggestion sounded good to me at that point. So with an Indiana Jones state of mind we took off in a cab with the full moon as our guide. Read more