The Goddess Nikki

Gilded Serpent presents...
by Dhyanis
for part 1 click here

For this episode of my travel, adventures, and empowerment through belly dance, I will focus on the teaching aspect of my career, especially the amazing opportunities which appeared in every community where I performed.

It's no secret that we all tend to teach what we need to learn - and teaching belly dance is a very personal way of connecting, since so many core "issues" and fears arise around how we relate to our bodies.

I consider my twenty-four plus years of teaching the "perfect curriculum" the universe could have provided for me. I am working on all of the above, especially learning to be appreciative of other women and tolerant when we see things from different perspectives. I sometimes seems to me that I have not been blessed with natural diplomacy, but have slowly developed some, thanks to the many situations working with students, troupes and other performers.

Since day one, I believe that I've been driven by a sense of mission - to save the world by proselytizing the joys of our most ancient form of movement. I have watched some profound transformations over the years. Among the most vivid teaching experiences are the two summer intensive workshops I gave at Holloway Women's Prison in London. Their policy was to provide community art programs so that the women incarcerated there could learn to work together towards a common goal. From what I could gather, most of the women were doing time for theft or drug offenses. (Sadly, one inmate was there for smuggling some white powder onto a plane inside of a dead baby!) I gave a performance to demonstrate the art of belly dancing. I included a sword-balancing section and you can imagine making it through all the security gates packing my two swords in their rifle case, explaining to all the dumbfounded guards!. Only a few inmates opted to take my class, but those who attended learned a simple routine and put together a costume. The women were so proud of themselves and so thankful to me that I was more than gratified. I often wonder if we could "infiltrate" our own local prisons to help re-socialize women by boosting their sense of worth. I was delighted to learn that Sabah of Berkeley, who graces the cover of this issue of Gilded Serpent, has been involved in this type of teaching also and has also performed in variety shows at San Quentin Prison on the edge of San Francisco Bay.

I also taught one summer in Lisbon at a community dance studio (in the Portuguese language!). This culminated with two of my Lisbon students dancing with me at paid gigs, booked by my duly impressed agent. We shared some performing experiences they'll be retelling to their grandchildren.

A man with an antique shop across from the venue loaned us the eight-foot boa he kept there, so we devised a beautiful trio to support the serpent's massive musculature! We discovered during rehearsal that this snake liked to explore overhead greenery, so we choreographed into the dance his rising up under the large fichus trees in the club

. For one tableau, I had the center of the serpent draped over my head while the two girls knelt on each side holding the head and tail around their necks. Next they spiraled around me until the snake totally encircled me. The only problem we had was when one audience member from Angola totally freaked out with hysterical herpetophobic screams, upsetting the snake, causing him to constrict around me. Needless to say, I cut short the act and exited - stage left!

A stripper I met in Greece took private classes and landed a contract in Baghdad. Once there in Iran, she continued her studies and never stripped again.

Later she married and raised a family in England, eventually bringing them to visit me in California - where she performed a smashing cane dance for us all at the sorely missed Cairo Café which was in Mill Valley, California. I am now honored to be godmother to one of her girls.

After several years back in the U.S., gradually accepting the fact that dancers here can't quit their day jobs, I tried scratching out a living as a costume designer for Regional Theater. By the time I was repeating the same shows twice (like "My Fair Lady") and had won about all the awards my knick-knack shelves could hold, my interest waned. It was no big leap to producing my own shows incorporating what I know best. The "Goddess Show" series was conceived as a way to use dance to portray feminine mythology pre-dating the patriarchal period.

I learned that in the Hindu tradition we are entering what is called "Kali-Yuga" times, or the return of feminine energy to the planet. This energy enters, not as a dominant force, but as the true balance and equally valid, if hugely threatening, intuitive and non-linear suppressed world-view.

We employ our dance/theater creativity to bring to the community a sense of the sacred feminine. It expands our own collective knowledge from a time when women's rituals were regarded as necessary to the welfare of humanity. As women work with other women in this creative process, we discover all of us are parts of the enlarged mission of The Living Goddess. This year marks the seventh annual Summer Solstice Event. Through it, I plan to continue to learn more about diplomacy and true appreciation of our sisterhood with each new exciting compendium of dancers and each stage of empowerment we bring to each other.

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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
Articles on Gilded Serpent by Dhyanis
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2000 with Troupe Dhyanis "Where the Fringe Meets the Fringe"
An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance Video Review
Adventures of a Goddess (Part One)
Adventures of a Goddess (Part 2)
Sausan's Saga at The Grapeleaf Restaurant

12-24-03 Dancing Inside Out by Najia
The state of Oriental Dance in America, as it is most often seen today in festivals and restaurants, is at a crossroads of change from which there will be no way to return.

12-16-03 Egypt 2003 by Zahraa
The winner was also the worst dressed dancer. Her name is Ronda and she has the reputation of being too cheap to invest in a quality costume.

12-12-03 Belly dancing in cyberspace – The LiveJournal Belly dancing Community by Lilly
It is analogous to keeping a public diary, and asking people to comment on it.


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