Thursday, December 20, 2012

Your Dance Belief

Stereo Vision Gina Simon-Photography
"Beauty/Beast" at Raven's Night
Every time this year, I tend to write a post about the Winter Solstice - whether it's about the balance of dark and light, or facing the challenges of Winter. This year, I'm going to keep up the timely tradition, but I'd like to write about something that's been on my mind since June when I seemed to have the same discussion with several different sponsors along my tour route, and the holiday season is bringing it to the forefront of my mind again.  And that something is Religion.

Nearly every organized (and disorganized) religion has some sort of celebration this time of year.  There's a lot of talk about the reason for the season, about being PC, not offending anyone, offending everybody, celebrating love, fighting commercialism, who started what tradition and why, and so forth.  And of course, everyone thinks they're right.

And well, the same is true for the bellydance world.  We each (whether we like to admit or not) have our own dance religion. What we believe, how we practice it, what we think others should believe and practice.  And we span the range from fundamentalists and dogmatic practitioners to eclectic reformers and agnostic polytheists. And if you've spent any fair amount of time in the bellydance community, you have probably heard some, if not ALL of the following:

-"Egyptian style is the only REAL bellydance" (or Turkish or Lebanese...)
-"Tribal isn't bellydance." (or Gothic or Fusion...)
-"ATS is the ONLY way to do Tribal right."
-"Tribal style is for REAL women and REAL sisterhood...Cabaret is for sluts and strippers."
-"You can't do both X and Y, you just can't. It's either one or the other."
-"Bellydancing is for women ONLY."
-"X's Style is the only way to have proper technique, if you don't do it her way, your dance is crap."
and so on, and so forth, etc, etc.

Why? Why do people believe/say these things?

I've come to the conclusion that when we come to this dance, we fall in love with it.  And we invest so much of ourselves - our time, our money, our bodies - that it becomes important to believe that you're doing it right, that your investment is worthy.  And let's face it, most people starting out don't even know the complexity they're about to run into. Tribal? Oriental? Canes, Swords, Veils, and Fire? Oh my! How do I know I'm doing it right?

Some people react to the smorgasbord with glee : "I'm going to try it all! Weeee!" but a lot of people cling tighter to what they know and are familiar with - which is a very common human condition: whatever is strange/unfamiliar is possibly sinister/wrong.  Which is a great survival technique, but not a terribly good social/communal one.  There is also an explicable fear of BEING WRONG: "If Betty does Tribal, does that make me wrong for doing American Cabaret, or her wrong for doing Tribal? It does look more authentic, but it's really NOT, so there.."  And then there are instructors who further feed into these fears - whether because they're pushing their own religion, or they're afraid of losing students, or they just hate Betty's guts.

And here's where we come to the amazing thing about religion: It's about your personal relationship between you and whatever your chosen deity/path is.  It has NOTHING to do what what anyone else does. If it works for you, that's awesome.  And it's invigorating to share common beliefs and goals with others. But it doesn't make what anyone else is doing automatically wrong.

Egyptian is the only way for you? That's awesome!  Travel over there, study everything you can - there's a LOT to discover (like different eras, regions, history, and like the overlaps between Lebanese and Turkish). American Tribal Style floats your boat, fills your soul, and makes you stupid happy? Fantastic! Study where it comes from, and see what other variations are now out there and why - it's not blasphemy. Bellydancing helps your connect with your inner goddess and makes you feel empowered and beautiful? Rock on! Just remember, "over there" - EVERYONE does it - children, grandparents, women AND men. And just because some wrote some pretty myths and published them doesn't make it fact. Dancing TWO styles? Well, a lot of professional dancers learn and perform multiple styles of dance - generally through more than a single 6 week class.

I could go on and on, but what I'm saying here is: do what works for you, do it to the best of your ability, WHILE respecting that other people feel the same way about what they do and how they dance.  Learning about and accepting that other forms are valid does NOT invalidate what you believe and practice.  In fact, you may learn something new that expands or builds upon what works for you.  It doesn't make you weak or inferior - rather it's just another one of those things that makes you stronger and a better human being as well.

As teachers, we need to remember that what we share is OUR own experience, our own path.  As students, we have to remember this as well - that we are not only getting that person's experience, but are also filtering it through our own experiences. As performers, we also share our experience with the audience when we dance, and again, they filter it through their eyes and hearts. 

So the next time you may feel threatened by what someone else is doing, or fearful that you may be doing it wrong, relax - take a moment and think about the way.  Ask yourself what is at the root of that emotion, and what does it mean if you are indeed wrong?  Will the world end? Nope.  Can you learn more and expand as a dancer?  Yes indeed.  So, go forth and be awesome!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Well, that didn't quite go as planned...but anyway:

Photo by Amber Clark, from SteamCon IV, Seattle
I have been a terrible blogger for pretty much the second half of 2012.  Not being harsh or down on myself. Just the straight-up truth right there.

I managed to update this blog quite regularly when I still had a full-time job (as in working for someone else), compared to the last 6 months where I have been working for myself.  Which is admittedly, also very much a full-time job, which I was already doing ON TOP of the other job.  But truthfully, I managed to write a lot of my blog posts on my work breaks/lunches - where I needed a mental switch-up to keep creatively producing for someone else.  Nowadays, I just switch from task to task, project to project, and my breaks are usually outside and away from the computer, enjoying Seattle and the fact that I can do my grocery shopping at 2pm if I damn well please and work until 2am if I feel like it. 

It hasn't been for lack of ideas of stuff to write about - that's for sure.  I've been keeping a running list - on paper, online, and in my head.  But I haven't sat down to write any of them into posts.

I'm not a big fan of resolutions. I don't want to say "In 2013, I'm gonna get back on track about writing my blog! 2 posts every month!" because that doesn't really work.  Instead, I need to further explore the self-scheduling that happens when one runs their own business(es - cause essentially I'm a performer, instructor, designer, artist, illustrator, booking agent, etc), and frankly, I really enjoy writing these posts and especially the feedback that I receive from y'all about them. This is part of my creative process, and part of what I teach and believe in, so I think it's important to verbalize it regularly - just as it's important to pay bills, make stock, practice, etc.  The key thing is to figure out how to do it best, what works? Is it something that be planned?

And I'm sitting here thinking, wow, 2012 is almost done - and there's no way I can say "oh, where did it go?" because OMG, a LOT happened for me in 2012.  I quit my corporate job. I moved over 3000 miles from Providence to Seattle.  I did a cross-country tour, and have done several coastal mini-tours with bands.  I started a new relationship.  I began new collaborations. I made two new websites for myself to replace ones I haven't updated in years.  I put on a hugely successful dark fusion bellydance event. And so much more.  How the hell did I squeeze all of that into one year?  And 2013 is already shaping up to be one very busy year.

So I'm not going to beat myself up about my posting schedule, and I'm not going to make any resolutions about being a better blogger.

Instead, I'm just going to share the following: 

I am thankful for the blessings of change. I am thankful for amazing friends and family who honor, respect, love, and support me. I am especially thankful that humming inside of me is the kind of drive that makes things happen (and it's because of those friends and family that I have the extra power to do it and keep it humming.). 

You can wish and ponder and imagine anything you want.  But it's not going to happen if you don't do something about it.  Don't resolve to make something happen. MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Don't have the money/time/energy to do what you want? Ask yourself why.  What can you do to get around those obstacles? There is always an option besides "that's just how it is" if you apply belief, some elbow grease, and get moving. No one else is going to do it for you.

So what is it that you want to do in 2013? And how are you going to make it happen?