comes to Tucson
October I had the great honor of hosting the International Peace
Belt and its creator, Wendy Black-Nasta, for
two days. It was one of the greatest times of my life. While Wendy
was here, we had an awesome bellydance show honoring the Belt
and what it stands for: Peace.
I first saw the Peace Belt on the website of dancer Hala,
in the Bay Area. I was stunned and amazed that such a Belt even
existed. What an incredible idea! I went over to the website of
for World Peace and learned more about the travels
of this Belt and the unique ceremonies honoring it. As I watched
the trailer on the site, I recognized one of the elders of a Native
American tribe located near where we used to live in Oregon. He
was wearing the Belt at the Pow Wow that we had attended every
year. Tears came to my eyes as the Honoring Song was sung and
the elder danced with the warriors; it brought back so many memories
and it seemed so right to see him there.
what is the peace belt?
The International Peace Belt was the first
major project undertaken by Artists for World Peace, Inc.
In the summer of 2003, two of Wendy's jewelry apprentices
and six of her advanced students assisted in the making
of the belt, incorporating coins and gemstones from
around the world into its design. The hope is to
ultimately have coins and/or gemstones from all 191 countries
present on the belt. Therefore, as the belt arrives in a
country that is not represented, people are invited to add
either a coin or stone from their part of the world. The
coins were donated from people around the globe, the gems
came from Wendy's own collection, and sterling silver was
woven into the body of the belt in order to secure the gems
In accordance with Wendy's vision, dancers, peace,
keepers, and spiritual leaders from every country that the
belt visits are asked to meditate on peace while performing
in The International Peace Belt. It is intended that, through
this act, the belt will become a living link between the
cultures, a symbol for peace and unity binding the people
of all nations as one.
the belt travels it is being caretaken by a specific person
who is responsible for documenting their leg of the journey.
Ultimately, the belt's complete travel from nation to nation
will be documented in the form of a film as well as a book
which will include photographs of each dancer who performed
in the belt.
I felt then
that I was meant to bring the Belt to Tucson. I had read that
its creator, Wendy Black-Nasta, had been inspired by bellydancers
when she made the Belt. One of her students was learning to bellydance,
and at the student's first performance, Wendy was so moved by
the dancing that she felt that a lovely Belt should be made for
bellydancers. Wendy adores bellydancing and she is always moved
by our connection to each other and each movement. We are not
“empty” when we dance; this is a "full" dance, if that
But then the Belt took on a life of its own. Everyone wanted to
sponsor the Belt, to have it come to their city or their country,
to honor it and the concept of Peace in their own ways.
I won’t go into the complex and inspiring history of the Belt,
because I think folks might want to read more at the website,
www.artistsforworldpeace.org, so let me just talk about the events
here in Tucson.
very few had heard of the Peace Belt, I had a heckuva time getting
any schools to allow us to come and bring it. A large number
of schools were against us because when I called around and
told them about the Belt, and identified myself as a Bellydancer,
they seemed to take offense. They had a very wrong idea about
this dance, and when I told them it was bellydance that was
the inspiration for the Belt, they cut me off rather quickly.
In the end,
we were able to show it three different times at two different
schools. At the Honoring Ceremony at Serenity’s Way many of our
local Desert Crones came to see and touch the Belt.
amazing thing about the children was that they “got it” right
a very touching short film of the many places the Belt has been,
and third graders all the way through teenagers watched that film
completely transfixed. As Wendy spoke, their eyes lit up and the
teachers’ eyes lit up as well, and in a matter of minutes, they
understood what the Peace Belt meant to so many people.
itself is extremely beautiful, and monetarily valuable . Well,
let me clarify: when the belt was first made, it was worth around
$50,000. That was the price that Fed Ex would insure it for
shipping. Now, Fed Ex won’t ship it at all, because the Belt
is considered priceless. All the coins and jewels have been
donated, and there are some very valuable components on the
Belt. It is one of a kind, and it is always personally carried
by the person taking the Belt to each community.
I loved to see how many bellydancers are in the film! There
are many of us dancing with the Belt, and I’m very proud of
this. Lovely Hala was my greatest inspiration, and watching
her in the film was glorious! She floated with her veil and
dance partner, Isis, and I started out the
Honoring Ceremony with a short Guedra ritual, for which I wore
the Belt around my neck. I felt so many emotions, and I’m sure
Isis did too. I thought of what I wanted for everyone I know
and love, and also what I want for everyone I don’t know. I
thought of as many people as I could during the Guedra; I sent
out happy thoughts, and I felt different. I am almost always
altered in some way during a Guedra, and I would say that this
time was very intense. Being with my sister-dancer, Isis, with
my baby granddaughter on the floor with us, all giving out and
bringing in energies and blessings, was one of the best experiences
of my life. I also wore the Belt when I bellydanced last of
all; it was such a beautiful Belt and it was a great honor for
me. All the soloists, as well as the leaders of the troupes,
got to wear the Belt. After the show, anyone could come up and
just touch it, or try it on and get her photo taken in it.
So, many dancers ask: what does all this Belt stuff have to
do with bellydance? They say that we are supposed to wear bedlah
or shells or something... We are supposed to make money at this,
and get tips in the basket, and smile all the time. They think
that bellydance is not spiritual - it is just a very lovely
will say, “spiritual, schmiritual,” and that’s fine. It really
is. But I like to use this dance as a way to get across other
points of view sometimes. Because sometimes this dance is more
than bedlah; it is more than cowrie shells and piercings. I
love it all.. but mostly I think that bellydance is a very positive,
non-threatening way to approach people.
turned us down and didn’t want the Belt at their schools may
very well want to have it when we bring it back again. There
was a lot of publicity on the show, and we had many good write-ups
about bellydance and the Belt. All proceeds went to buying clothes
and food for the Red Bud Sioux Reservation. Wendy has spent
much of her life there, and I tell you.. until you have seen
a Native American rez, you haven’t really seen poverty. In the
winter, people on the reservation are starving and freezing
to death in this Great Land of Ours, the Home of the Free. Wendy
and her organization have been sending food trucks, filled by
the proceeds from the Belt's travels, out there for a while
I want more people to understand how transforming this dance
is; how it can open doors in so many ways. The hard part is
getting people past their prejudices against the bellydance
and breaking down their stereotypes. I must admit that the negative
reaction I got from some of the local schools, theoretically
dedicated to teaching “peace” ,was a bit of a shock. But I’ve
had that reaction before, so I am not terribly crushed. I’m
always just a little surprised and truly wonder if I will see
the prejudice against bellydance gone by the time I die. I hope
that prejudice is gone soon, because I am not as young as I
used to be, and am running out of time!
Tucson, and hopes to bring the Belt back in two years, as it
will be traveling all that time. We will have more schools to
go to, and more local organizations to view it. Our Honoring
Ceremony will have more dancers, I hope.
can sit at our computers and argue about what is true belly
dance, and what is ethnic, and who should do it, etc. and it’s
a lovely diversion. We argue like this all really matters, and
in some ways it does. But it matters more, I think, that this
dance can be used to stimulate thinking and discussion, and
even to help feed and clothe other human beings. I know that
many dancers do fund raisers, and to me, this is right and just.
“little bleeding heart, liberal Lucy”, would like to ask each
person to think what Peace means to him or her. Is it the lack
of war? Or is it something else? Can it be found in dance and
performance? What makes Bellydance different from other dances,
if it is different? And why is it considered “liberal” (ie.
un-American, these days) to want Peace in the world?
I just wonder what other people think. I believe that more of
us will be sponsoring the Belt. In the end, somewhere in the
future, it will be donated to the UN or the Smithsonian Institute,
and it will be a lovely symbol of all the millions of people
who united to see the Belt and hoped for one thing: Peace
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
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the student recital. There is nothing like watching fledglings
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