Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's dark in the desert (part 4)

Happy New Year!

So this (possibly) last part of this series, actually started off as the seed for it all, but apparently I had to clear some room before I could get to this point.  And I'm not even sure if I can express in words what I feel in my heart, see in my head, and breathe in my spirit - really, there's a reason why I'm a visual artist and performer - because if I could explain it all plainly, I wouldn't have to paint it or dance it. 

But I will try.

When I look back at the past year, especially the last 6 months, there were a lot of factors all pushing me in the same direction with my dance: a folkloric dance experience of "the other."  What do I mean by "the other"? "The other" is a description of unseen forces at work, in co-existence with the visual, waking world, that while not easily proven, are readily believed by many cultures (if not all).  Deities, ghosts, spirits, demons, angels, djinn - these are all examples generally unseen entities.  Arab culture especially has a rich background involving "the other", especially djinn (not-human spirits) and ancestral spirits.  Even the concepts surrounding both the "evil eye" and the hamsah or Hand of Fatima (prevalent throughout Africa, the Middle and Near East, and the Mediterranean), involve "the other."  And while I consider myself to be a rather rational and skeptically-minded person, I am very familiar with the realm of "the other", dating back to my earliest memories and experiences. 

I think the closer that you actually live with nature (and rely on it), the more likely you are going to be open to "the other."  This is especially evident in tribal/nomadic groups, whose way of living is so closely linked with the seasons, the lay of the land, and the weather.  It's not a matter of categorizing them as "primitive".  It's the reality of removing the layers of modern comfort, the cushions of technology, the atmospheric buzz of media - that you are open to listening to your world without distractions, and you can feel it's pulse.  I'm not being romantic here either.  This pulse involves floods, famine, drought, the trials of life and death.  "The other" helps to provide meaning, exploration, reasoning for what happens, as well as a sense of how to deal with it - both personally and communally.  Just one way that many cultures choose to deal with these forces is through dance - ritual dances, trance dances, celebratory dances.  Through dance, the body and spirit unite to express what words alone cannot.

And all of these things came to mind when talking with a dear friend of mind about her recent experiences in Morocco (and I'll out her if she lets me, but otherwise I'll keep her identity to myself), and she described her trance experience in the desert.  As she talked, in my mind's eye, I could see the night sky open endlessly above me, the night-cool feeling of the sand at my feet, the sound of the music, and the electricity in the air, thick with spirits.  It was like I was there (and one day I hope to be there).  That is an experience with the dark, with "the other", where our sense of physical and metaphysical becomes blur, and we're moved beyond the mundane.  We feel the pulse, we ARE the pulse.

This train of thought is what inspired my "Hecate" piece, as well as "Dance of the Djinn". 

So, when I titled this series "It's dark in the desert" - this is all what I had in mind - and more. 

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