Sunday, December 26, 2010
Being the end of the year, I was thinking back about where this past year has brought me, and that progressed to much further back, well over a decade, and then something clicked...
I have long-considered dance a journey. But up until last night, I never gave much thought to the shape of that path - it was clearly not a linear line of progression, but rather more circular. To be exact, a spiral.
Let me explain. There is the short and sweet version of how Tempest became a bellydancer. If you've ever read an interview with me, you probably know it. But then there's the more complex version that speaks to the very beginning.
Before I found bellydance, back in the late 1990's, I was the leader of a college-based faith organization that somehow became the largest open-path Pagan group in Rhode Island, if not in New England - as well as the leader of a tradition. Looking back, I'm not sure how I did it, because not only because was I finishing up getting my degree full-time, newly married, and working part-time, but I was also barely 20.
Anyway, members of the group and the tradition would often socialize together, and one night we all piled into the van, and attended a live concert with Libana - a woman's folk group. What I remember most about that evening was that they performed a short Zar segment (complete with one of the ladies going through the movements). I had no idea what it was, but it moved me to my very core. I had never really considered dance as an outlet up until that point of my life, but something happened to me when I heard that rhythm. It felt...familiar and right. But the experience would pass and soon get covered over by the waves of life.
A year or so later, most of that group (the female members to be precise) would sign up together for bellydance classes at the local community college. Not all of us stuck with it, but we eagerly brought the movements and the music we learned into our rituals immediately. Some (mainly the guys) became interested in playing the music, so we had a terrific time jamming, moving, and dancing. About 6 months down the line, Zingari (music and dance ensemble) was born, and we had our first performance at a local street/metaphysical faire. I had a hard time picking a song to dance to, but in the end I chose "Solitude" by Solace. If you're unfamiliar with that song, it's underlying rhythm is the ayyub, more well-known in dance circles as the Zar rhythm. But I wouldn't come to realize this until some time later, after we had moved to California, and even further along when I connected it to my experience with Libana.
Also at the same time Zingari was experimenting, I had bought "Tarantata - Dance of the Ancient Spider" by Alessandra Belloni. Little did I know then that one day I would experience Alessandra perform live as well, and get to study with her.
I spent those early years in California academically studying trance/ritual dances from around Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia and North Africa - but as my physical study in bellydance advanced, it got pushed aside. It seemed to me that spiritually profound aspect that drew me to dance, wasn't found/present in what I was studying - that I would have to bring it myself, and even then I wasn't so sure about it. Most of the teachers and dancers I met led me to believe that it really didn't exist/doesn't anymore/this is not the place for it/etc. The closest glimpses of that spiritual sense, happened when I performed improvised duets with Anaar - we performed (and still do) sacred fusion and ritual dance. But the weight of everything else seemed to bear down on me when I performed solo.
Then I moved back to the East Coast, and if you read further back in this blog, you can learn more about that transition time. And I had series of experiences with amazing mentors that re-awakened that sense of spiritual in a more deeper, grounded way than I ever thought possible, and confirmed what I believed. Most importantly, I found the roots that I had been looking for in those early years of the dance - that they weren't mythical or buried in dust, but alive and thriving today in the world. A part of me too.
And this 30-something woman can smile and brush fingers with that 20 year old girl whose heart first began to beat to the Zar on a cold night in Rhode Island - as she dances past her in a spiraling path toward her next destination.