By the time a dancer
is ready to hit the stage, she has prepared her body by learning
movements and mastering a piece of music as best as she can. She
can hit that stage and perform all her movements exactly as
she had rehearsed, with adrenalin flooding her blood and a
great sense of expectation and then finish her performance
to polite applause and exit that stage completely deflated. What
The best dancers I’ve
ever seen are not necessarily those who exhibit supreme technical
mastery. They are those dancers who radiate a mysterious,
prismatic charisma that takes advantage of their peculiar human
vulnerabilities as well as their strengths. It’s a spectrum
of human expression that takes the dance from entertainment
into Art, for the spectator is moved, jarred out of mundane
reality into a fluid moment of eternity, a connection beyond
mere human concerns, something supernal, above and beyond,
yet present in us all.
this be learned? I tend to look at it not as a “thing”
to be learned; rather a “state” to strive for or even a Muse
to be constantly courted; it’s ephemeral.
You can hold it in
your hand like you can “hold” a beam of light, so the answer,
I think, is not to try and possess it. Instead, I think
of how to add dimensions to my practice that work on becoming
a better vessel for it… a broken vessel, to be sure, but is
there any other way? A sage once said, “The Spirit always
comes in a broken vessel.” And to acknowledge one’s human
brokenness is to remain humble in the face of the Muse, allowing
the light its inevitable escape and return to its Source after
allowing it to filter through the vessel of Self.
How do we court the
Muse? How shall we arrange our broken vessels so that
the pure liquid light of inspiration may fill us?
of all, let’s open our eyes and build a sense of connection
with the audience with intelligent eye contact.
Nobody is moved by
a dancer whose gaze is steadfastly attached to the floor, or
to the back of the auditorium, or solipsistically geared inward. People
are moved by dancers who fix them in their gaze, if even for
a fleeting moment, a brief encounter, a shock, a turn with
a half-smile, a goddess-glamour fading into tender, searching
Acting? Maybe. But
let’s consider calling it method-dancing as the late, great
Stanislavsky described the dance art of Isadora
for her channeling of deep emotion onstage. Isadora was
also famous for her transcendent belief in her movements, a
total commitment whose power could make an entire theater cry
just at the gesture of a hand. Belief is central to method-acting
as Stanislavsky taught, a rootedness in human experience and
the emotions that flow from it.
too, must believe in our movements, believe in their
purpose and message, and we must deploy them with the array
of human faculties that begin to evolve when the Art of the
Dance is taken up.
The intelligent, sentient
being is channeled through the sight, but it is not enough. The
dancer must also be fully emotionally present – generous yet
receptive at the same time. Heart, arms, hands and hips
must convey the spectrum of energies that color the music and
the dance that goes with it. She must fill the room,
her emotional presence must expand and radiate outward from
a core glowing with the light of Self-Knowledge. Indeed,
the hardest part of the Dance to master is the Mastery of Self
and the deployment of that Selfhood, joyfully, unselfishly,
to those we perform for.
It’s hard because
it’s a Self that, like the Muse, we must coax out of its protective
shell. It’s a Self that may be shaped by years of life’s
travails, that may have been housed in a body busy with the
processes of Life and Giving Life, a body that may have been
kept under wraps due to the insidious Demons of self-hatred
that possess our cultures and whisper to us that we’re not
pretty, thin, brave, brazen, or nimble enough to ever….do…that.
it’s that primal Self that sparks the universal flame that
can transmute dance into art, the epic story of our heroic
journey of self-discovery – a journey of patience, fear,
dedication, discipline, ecstasy, disillusionment, perseverance
It’s what makes us
realize, one fine day, that the Muse has been with us all along
– she is an in-dwelling divinity whose light shines brighter
when we dance with reverence and joy.
and joy into the Dance is not always easy. We are, after
all, mired in Life and its attendant demands. Sometimes,
when I grudgingly strap my sandals on, tired, feeling like
a faded flower and searching my being for the energy I will
need to countenance another practice, I just stop, take a few
deep breaths, and sit for as long as I need to, looking myself
in the eye in the mirror. I visualize myself as a vessel,
and begin to fill myself with air. And sometimes, I recite
the following “Prayer for Artists” by Ruth St. Denis, as I
do before performances. For my own taste, I take out
the “thee’s” and “thou’s”, but I think you will agree that
it’s a beautiful poem for all artists, not just dancers. May
it fill your vessel with inspiration as it has always filled
mine, and may your vessel overflow, cracks and all, with the
supreme light of your Muse.
Ruth St. Denis
O, Divine Father and
Makers of heaven and earth,
Supreme artists of creation,
I, thy humble instrument
Kneel here at Thy feet.
I listen for Thy inward word
And I wait to behold Thy inward vision.
Cleanse Thou me
From all sin and self-righteousness
From all illusions of prided vanity and fear.
Make me sensitive to Thy sounds,
To Thy vision, and to Thy rhythms.
Let me express beauty,
The wonders of Thy universe
And the immortality of my own soul
Which Thou hast given me.
Allow me to enter that temple
Not made with hands
Wherein I may express the beauty of love
And the majesty of truth.
In humble and surrendered gratitude
For life, for love and for wisdom
I offer again and yet again
To Thee, my heart, my body and my mind.
- Ruth St. Denis, Wisdom
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for other possible viewpoints!
You live a whole lifetime in one week! by Paola
builds bridges, and in today’s world, bridges –between
individuals and between cultures, are becoming more and more
of an imperative.
Raqs –An International Belly Dancer Goes Home to
Macedonia by Paola
The musical folklore of this region deserves full
debut in the World Music scene, and those of us in the MED community
worldwide are ripe for the breath of fresh air that Chochek and Gypsy
Brass Music can bring us. It is an original, organic and time-honored
fusion, brought about by history, geography, and most importantly,
tolerance and mutual cultural celebration.
Hippie Connection: Robert Altman’s 1969 In Utero
Belly Dance Portrait of ME by Melina of Daughters
it was, the second of a series of black and white hippy portraits
--people raving, a woman blissfully breastfeeding, couples hugging,
dogs leaping –THE SEMINAL PHOTO OF MY LIFE –only, I
was cut out!
Kamal by Yasmina of Cairo
the film roles that I've been offered have unfortunately been
frivolous, or portrayed the dancer in the stereotypical way they
always do. The cinema has done enough to spoil the reputation
of dancers, without me adding to it by taking such a role."
April 2008 by Catherine Barros
was a late night as usual as we didn't even go out until midnight
to have dinner and watch Dina at around 3am . . . but who was
watching the time . . . It is CAIRO!
Winning Experience at Leyla Jouvana and Roland's 1st
Bellydancer of the World Contest by Khalida
is winner of the 1st place in the Solo Raks Sharki and 3rd Place
in the Solo - Fusion Fantasy Categories
Bellydance, A New & Ancient Reality by Jehan
trend has been growing steadily since I can remember, but caught
fire recently, due to the instantaneous broadcasting of ideas
and styles on the worldwide web and the proliferation and availability
of video for this generation of dancers.