I was recently asked by a friend over tea: (paraphrased) How does your spirituality influence your bellydancing?
I answer this question differently every time I'm asked, revealing its complex and fluid nature. And it's a subject that is of great import to me.
My forthcoming Bellydance DVD, Theatre of the Dark Goddess, deals with many threads involved in the relationship between spirit and dance. But some thoughts after reading this Wikipedia:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life; spiritual experience includes that of connectedness with a larger reality, yielding a more comprehensive self; with other individuals or the human community; with nature or the cosmos; or with the divine realm. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.
Bellydance does indeed help me discover and rediscover my inner essence. And though its discipline and execution it is a spiritual practice. Drilling can turn into a meditation; the creation of choreography becomes a contemplation of inner archetypes. The act of creation is a ritual and a prayer. I pray to Thee, Great Goddess, that I might be a perfect conduit for your Divine Spirit.
|Photo by Peter Paradise|
I am most often trying to express what I experience in my inner world. As a shamanic artist I experience Underworld journey with all its shadows; it is my calling to transform the demons though my dance, giving them "voice" by being a medium for their wrath. It is shadow work--personal, yes, but collective as well.
Bellydance is ancient. It's modern form fuses back together the corporeal and the spiritual, as things were in times long ago. This is important to me. Bellydance has powerful healing properties--psychologically, physically, emotionally, spiritually. This healing power goes deeper than "body image" or self-esteem" only--it connects us back to our feminine center, the hara or place of power. I think that all of us hold in our collective unconscious "memories" of divine feminine power; Bellydance can connect us to that.
Bellydance is a great way to raise energy in ritual work! Perhaps this was part of its original purpose--to work as sympathetic magick for healthy childbirth and erotic power.
One of my first workshop teachers, Dunya of NYC, called her dance "Spiritual Bellydance". I love her great work, even--or especially--now. Her work combines the spirituality of Sufism with its whirling, with Bellydance. We were taught "Dancemeditation", a form of moving meditation that has strongly influenced the way I teach my own students the inner work of dance. It was Dunya's video that I watched over and over again to learn how to do her beautiful, graceful, fluid hand and arm work. She is a master who dances with a serenity, power and loveliness that is beyond compare.
The invisible world has much to do with dance; music itself is invisible! So is the spirit that moves us; I use dance to make my inner world visible. Some of it still stays invisible, but perceptible just the same. We have senses that perceive well beyond what the "five senses" can do; it is partly what we perceive with our other senses that gives dance--as experienced as audience and as dancer--its magic, its beauty, its feelings of sacred communion, and glamour. Spirit.