|The Gilded Serpent presents...
Between Navel and Nasal
The top headline on the flyer read "A Scentual Dance," Featuring
Delilah and The Visionary Dancers. In
larger script was the title of the show,"In the Garden of Allah." Small
letters beneath specified An
Aromatic, Multi-sensory Experience. Then,
boldly, "Bellydance & Aromatherapy," and the date -- Saturday
July 24th, 1999. Near the bottom of the page was a note that "Only therapeutic
grade oils will be used. Please be advised: if you are "scentsitive," this
may not be the show for you." Finally, the dancers: Sara Teller as Myrrh,
Pine Crooks as Clary Sage, Corrine Holister as Sandalwood, Faye Zama as Lavender,
Susan Stratton as Cedar, Carone Scott as Jasmine, and Delilah as Rose, and
our scent-bearers or "zephyrs," Jeannie Colby and Alexa Resler.
We opted to keep the advertising minimal. We would just pass the word via email,
flyers and word of mouth: if each of us sold 20 tickets, the hall would be
filled. As we spread the word and sold our tickets, we each encountered an
unexpected phenomenon. People looked at us strangely, wrinkled their brows
and said "Aromatherapy and what?" and "I don't get it," as
though they thought we were joking. Some interrogations were very invasive,
nearly requiring us to give away the structure of the theater presentation
away before it's debut. People were almost suspicious of us!
Not everyone was so perplexed. There were those who marveled and understood
immediately that each dancer requires a muse. What better inspiration* for
an artist than a meaningful fragrance?
Perhaps the occasional subtle, but hostile, response was founded on a misunderstanding
of both bellydance and aromatherapy. Bellydance, of course, is an adaptation
of a folkdance developed by and for women. Aromatherapy is the art and practice
of treating ailments using essential oils. It is not just an oil's evocative
scent but the active relationship that aromatics have upon the chemicals, hormones
and enzymes that control mind and body. It is a holistic therapy, combining
the ancient arts of perfumery and healing, blending the senses of scent and
touch. Modern drugs are derived almost entirely from plants, just as essential
Still, why did some people react with perplexity and seeming suspicion? They
had no problem thinking of a dance show: a visual and auditory extravaganza,
but a scent show? Why? There's nothing to see or hear in a smell, so it can't
be very interesting, right?
Science tells us we are much more affected by our sense of smell than we may
ever know. For the senses of sight, hearing, touch and taste, a signal travels
some distance from the sense organ to the part of the brain that processes
the stimulus. For example, light enters the eye and affects the color receptors,
which send signals along the optic nerve, which branches, regroups and eventually
ends up at the visual cortex at the back of the head. From there, you become
aware of color. Neurons to and from the visual cortex are distributed evenly
across the right (intuitive) and left (analytical) hemispheres of the brain.
In contrast to this convoluted visual pathway is the sense of smell: the molecules
enter your nasal passages and trigger neurons. That's it. The function is very
similar to the touch-based reflexes: Most of us have touched something too
hot and pulled back without thinking. After the reflexive jerk, you feel the
sensation of heat. Smell, unlike the other four senses, goes straight from
the source to your "reptile brain," which controls heartbeat, reflexes,
sexual impulses -- all the basic functions of life. From there, awareness of
scent travels to the two hemispheres for unconscious (right) and conscious
The ancients knew much more about scent's healing and activating properties
than our society acknowledges. A few -- a very few -- scientific studies have
been done. They show what the ancients knew: scents affect us, whether we realize
it or not. Odors can agitate or soothe, protect us from food poisoning, and
trigger vivid memories.
Some individuals are acutely in tune with scent; others are less aware of the
effect smells can have. Smells bring us back to past memories and associations:
Mama¹s perfume, Dad's shirts. Consider the smell of rain or snow, the
verdancy of spring, the hot dustiness of summer, the crisp leafiness of autumn
. . . . How do they make you feel? Do you think of it consciously in words,
or unconsciously in sensations and emotions? Perhaps the intuitive right brain,
working with the "reptile brain," connects us to the essential workings
and mysteries of life.
Why, then, did some of our friends have such difficulty with this connection
between navel and nasal? Perhaps it was our society's puritanical roots. Deep
in the Judeo-Christian unconscious is the idea that denial and physical suffering
are closer to God; therefore the more separated you are from the physical realm
the closer you are to Heaven. As a population we flinch in fear of the sensual
domain because it grounds us, acknowledges the value of the earthly realm and
earthly life. Bellydance celebrates life. Of course it is sensual! Sensual,
emotional, spiritual . . . .
Our puritan society tells us to ignore many of the passions of life. Invisible,
inaudible, intangible scent, with it's uncontrollable reflexive responses,
is ripe for denial. Could this explain everyone's confusion at our novel approach
for a bellydance show? Could it suggest an unresolved phobia of Aphrodite?
Perhaps we are afraid
these vulnerable nerve endings might spontaneously combust
if we indulge our senses!.
We fear our priests or mullahs
might disapprove. Perhaps women are afraid that we must endure another
round of condemnation for the acts of Eve or be burned at the stake.
If so, then an aromatherapy bellydance show might be the perfect
subversive action to take us all back to the garden!
That's why I thought of aromas as dance themes. Two olfactory tracts lead straight
to the limbic system, which concerns both memory and motion. After all, adding
balm to injury can soothe and heal the wound. The holistic processing involved
in dance expression is nonverbal. When taken out of the stricture of classical
ballet, dance becomes the voice of the intuitive right brain.
Isadora Duncan said, "If
I could tell you why I dance I wouldn¹t need to dance."
We needed to dance. Our stage was set, our theater in the round was filled.
The mistress of ceremonies Kathy Balducci and her assistant Laura Legere
described the art of aromatherapy. We danced -- unscented -- a cheerful
karshlama, then Kathy read the tale of each scent and a bit of the personal
journey each dancer made with her aroma as mentor and muse. Jeannie and
Alexa wafted the audience with scented zephyrs of essential fragrance before
each dancer¹s solo: myrrh (death), clary sage (vision), sandalwood
(grounding), lavender (calm), cedar (strength), jasmine (love), and rose
We had not done this in front of an audience before. We did not know how --
or whether! -- it would all work out. I tell you most excitedly, it went beyond
our expectations. As the first scent curled into the air and made its way to
the noses of the audience, a way of how was forged. The audience released their
guard and each scent was met with eager anticipation. There was a quiet alchemical
state of elevated frequency, of transformation and emotion hanging in midair.
A unity of mind and experience joining together. Without words each dance unfolded.
The evening passed through the gateways of seven scents and the curtain came
to a close.
After a long, tremendous, thunderous round of applause we ventured out to greet
our audience. To our amazement it was as if there were flowers and sparkles
in everyone's eyes. They were smiling, happy, elevated; transformed and almost
stoned on the synergy of scents, senses and emotion. Some said they were moved
to tears by the dancers and the dances, the scents and the sensuality of each
individual. There was a softness and a gentle sincerity that we could smell!
*Inspiration means to breath in!
This show is an original concept by Delilah. The first production was on July
24 1999 in Seattle Washington; Second version February 20th 2000 in Maui. and
it is currently in the works as a production with all original music score
by Steven Flynn.
a comment? Send
us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
DANCING IS MY PASSION! by
Lori Marie McDonald
Belly Dancing with Reiki
2-19-00 Is it double vision? No, its double tambourines! by Natica Angilly
All other instruments are apart from the clear connection between the dance
and the tambourine.
2-18-00 Pele's Gift by
Laurel Victoria Gray
As Nona began to demonstrate
the first dance, I noticed many gestures in common with Central
Asian dance. I felt as if another piece of our giant dance puzzle
had fallen into place when Nona gestured to her heart and said, "the
real hula comes from here."
2-18-00 Joy of Teaching by
Dancers need to go
beyond the "tricks of the trade" and connect with
the audience, whether they are in a club, at a faire, in
a concert, or with fellow dancers. I have learned the value