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Category: Belly Dance

From Plinky: What activity, task, or game do you love most in the world? Why?

Two girls dance on stage
Photo by: Educated Savage
Dancers: AZ Desert Dancers in Casa Grande

Today, I’m going to go with dancing.

Dancing is so amazing.

So much of our time is spent outside ourselves: working on paperwork, working on the computer, watching the TV, watching the kids, watching the dogs, doing the chores, taking care of the stuff, escaping into the books/movies/shows.

Dancing is one of the few things that puts us back into our bodies. We become fully away of everything – from the tips of our hair to the bottom of our toes. Well, ideally we become aware of everything. At least, we think we are. Sometimes we have bad habits that we envision look one way when they look a completely different way. But aside from that, we become one with our body.

Revel in the way muscle slides over bone and under skin.

Enjoying the way our joints bend and how our bodies sway. We may or may not listen to music when we dance… sometimes you don’t need any or sometimes there’s already music in your head.

As human beings, we have a drive to channel music that makes us feel stuff – that’s why we sing in the car with each other and crank up the music. We want to feel it coursing through us and dance is the ultimate form of that. Each movement dictated – no, intimated – by the music. Whispered in the drums, cried out for by the strings, and hung out in beautiful stunning stillness by the drama of the thing.

Yeah, I really love dancing.

And I love watching other people dance, too – watching them get transported to another world where nothing matters – there are no thoughts, concerns, or worries – but only the music to drive them on and as long as they can just keep expressing each little belabored nuance and activity, things will be alright. Their hearts won’t break. They will glow from within. They will have reached the utmost. They will have re-embraced their body as part of themselves – and as a good part, too, not a part to be dealt with, put up with, or otherwise neglected, but a thing of elegance, beauty, and emotion that can channel the magic of music.

On the Quality of Movement and Technique

Photo by J.Victor
Photo by J.Victor

When I was first learning to dance, I remember how I raced to keep up. It was a challenge to make the right movements with my hips – to thrust, twist, and drop them – in time with the music. My practicing often included going over choreography as quickly as I could possibly get through it.

Eventually, I was able to keep up with the music.

Then, I was able to out pace it!

In my dancing, I valued being able to make a variety of movements quickly. One after the other – bam, bam, bambambam! Pow!

Soon, I excelled! But my teachers would point out that I was sloppy in my movements and that I needed to slow down. So my practices began to take shape of repeating the movements as precisely as I could. Slowly at first, and then speeding up to keep time with the music.

I was praised for the precision and speed with which I could move, and again, I excelled. I became known for my high-energy, exciting dancing.

Time passed and I found myself away from dance for awhile. It seemed like forever, though I’m sure it was only a couple of months that passed. When I returned to dancing, the high-energy, exciting dancing seemed tried and boring. I had conquered it and it didn’t appeal to me anymore. But I was hypnotized by these amazing, snake-like goddesses who spent entire songs uncurling and unfurling. There was such a slow, agonizing movement in their dancing.

It was like watching slow motion. Only way better.

I became obsessed with moving, uncurling, and expanding as slowly as possible. This was even harder than dancing fast! I had to fight my instincts to complete my movements quickly and practices grew slower and slower. I was milking the music for all that it was worth, creating exquisite, simple, perfect movements.

I practiced this style of dance for years before I was satisfied with it.

Time passed and I found myself away from dance for awhile. This time, instead of months, it was years. I moved, found a new community, and began dancing again.

I could still dance quickly, with high-energy! I could dance slowly and expansively. But neither was fulfilling.

The teacher I found was older and had been dancing for many decades. There was much wisdom here. She taught me the beauty of mixing tempos, which delights me endlessly. To be dancing with high-energy, making quick and precise movements and then suddenly STOPPING! And melting into some beautiful, slow, serpentine movements, deliciously savouring every nuance of sensation. And then, suddenly, bambambam! Raise the energy again!

I learned that it was through this combination of movements that I could really take my audience for a ride – to truly marvel, express, and touch upon the nuances of movement.

I am sure there is more to learn, but it is in this place that I am now. Mixing my fast and my slow, my sudden and deliberate.

But this is also what I find to be true when we learn most things. When we first learn, we’re just trying to accomplish something. Get the job done. Make it to the finish. Later, we go back and we start working on perfection. Cleaning up the sloppiness. Then we really start to take joy and satisfaction from the simplest of attempts and eventually, we learn that getting the job done is important! But so, too, is the process. So when you feel you have gone as far as you can, go back to the beginning and relearn it again in a different way, in a different style, or with a different philosophy and really squeeze the most you can out of every little nuance.

 

Why Your Brain Loves to Dance

As you know, I’m a huge dance fan. I love dancing and it’s place in Earth and Ritual Magick is long historied, from drum circles and dances, to marriage ceremonies, to ecstatic dance in churches across the nation. It’s hard for us to resist a beat – I know if I’m out and about and hear a rhythm my movements and motions automatically fall into time. Many animals dance as well in mating ceremonies or in dominance displays. So it’s not only a human thing! But it is very important to us. Here’s a video about the importance of dance and what it does to your brain, especially for aging patients (but younger ones, too!).

Learning: Styles and Methods

There's a lot of information out there - books
Photo by: ailatan @ Flickr

There is a LOT of information out there. And I mean A LOT. You can spend your entire lifetime learning about just one path in Paganism and still never know it all, let alone learning about all of them! And at some point, you have to stop reading and start doing. So let’s talk about the different ways you can learn things.

The first way, of course, is reading. There are libraries, book stores, and the internet. Oh boy is there the internet. This kind of learning is especially good when it comes to information that you need to refer back to, such as the properties of herbs and the meaning of animal spirit guides. It’s also really good for learning the theories of magic (of which there are many), finding a community, sharing common experiences, and gaining inspiration. But one should never take reading at face value – it should always be tested against something else, such as personal experience or your intuition. Don’t just BELIEVE that the ritual connects you to the goddess and that it is experienced a certain way, but try doing it. Experiment, shake things up a bit. What you read is a great starting point, but that’s what it should be: a starting point to build your own archive of information about.

The next way is personal experience. This is where you learn by doing, often times by trial and error. Using this method alone could require centuries to gain a good understanding of things, especially considering that trial and error is so much a part of personal experience. But personal experience really comes into play when you’re verifying information you read or intuit. This also includes observation and mentorship as well, because you’re able to use your own senses to perceive what is going on around you. So while you may not personally draw down the goddess, you may watch a ritual wherein somebody else does, and that will give you information you can learn from. You’re having personal experiences all the time and it’s easy to make them all informative and learning experiences.

The final way I want to discuss is your intuition. We all receive information from our intuition, third eye, instinct, guides, or guts. However you decide to call them. This includes meditating and praying on questions, subjects, or experiences.  I HIGHLY recommend using this method of learning things because it allows you to gain a special insight into how things are going to work for you as an individual and in what areas you should be concentrating. Of course, what you intuit should be tested against personal experience, and, optionally, research as well. This can give you a lot of sudden insights and unique understandings of things and create a closer relationship with whatever Divine Source you might believe in.

Let’s use a real life example!

Belly Dancer wearing cowrie shells
Photo by: Alaskan Dude (not of me!)

I’m a belly dancer, and about 10 years ago cowrie shells became a very common accessory in belly dance costuming, especially tribal style. Cowrie shells look amazing and really add an aesthetic of tribal nobility to an outfit. They’re still very popular among dancers and I still wear them frequently. They’re absolutely beautiful. I wanted to learn more about them, so I started gathering information.

First, I looked them up in books and on the internet and I learned that cowrie shells were used by many tribal cultures as a form of currency, which makes sense, since belly dancers frequently use coins in their costuming. It’s only natural that other forms of currency would likewise end up in the costuming. In addition to being currency, they’re also connected to the divine feminine through their appearance as labia, and belly dance is, in modern western society, considered a very empowering dance for both women and men, but especially for women in regards to reclaiming their bodies and their femininity.

Grabbing some cowrie shells, I went into a meditative state and “felt” the energy around them. They were like beautiful meadow flowers from the sea – joyous, beautiful, echoing of the ancient wonders of the sea and myriad of lifeforms in it, precious, and they just felt so good to hold onto. Their energy felt good to me and I love having them around. They seem calming and exude nobility. I also felt the echoes of the divine feminine through them and could understand why tribal cultures would consider them so valuable for their beauty.

Lastly, I tested it against my personal experience. Wearing them made me FEEL empowered. I stood up straighter, I looked people in the eyes more often, my energy was more open and spacious, and I was happier to meet my fellow man. I felt like I could really own my personal power without having to be aggressive or in your face about it. It was a comfortable and comforting feeling. And they were beautiful. When I wear my shells out, I always get compliments on them. I feel empowered, divine, beautiful, and immensely capable. It may be the increased confidence or it could be some primal echo of long ago, but I also seem more respected and acknowledged than my usual foxy-invisible self.

So, altogether, I learned that cowrie shells were very powerful, beautiful, and had strong connections to feminine energy. The currency part of their history seems to be as a result of these qualities, not necessarily inherent to the shells themselves, and their migration into belly dance seems rather like happenstance, but I’m glad for it. I love having these shells around and they make me feel really great. I used the knowledge that I gained from my research, personal experience, and my intuition to learn about the role cowrie shells played in my life and in my experience, and now I can share that information with you. Of course, you shouldn’t take my word for it, but instead, you should find some cowrie shells and do your own assessment of things. But now you have a jumping off point from which to explore. 😉

Macro shot of a cowrie shell
Photo by: Auntie P @ Flickr

Dancing with Spirit

Photo by: law_keven @ Flickr

Long time readers of my blog know that one of my passions is dance – specifically, I’m a belly dancer! I’ve been dancing since I was 17. Now, I haven’t danced that whole time – there were years here and there where I barely even practiced at all. But during these times, I always felt this deep sense of loss and I found myself disconnected from the Earth and my own body.

Dance may seem a pretty mundane topic to discuss, but it only seems so mundane because it is so completely pervasive. All cultures have music and wherever there is music, there is dancing. Even if it’s just drums around a campfire, dancing can be an amazing way to bring you closer to the primal spirits – both your own and that of the Earth. Not only the Earth, but music can help you connect to other elements as well. Some classical music always connects me to air or water, and flamenco speaks to me of fire and passion.

Now, you don’t have to be a trained dancer to feel the benefits. Maybe you let  yourself move a little while you’re getting ready in the morning or in the car on the way to work. Maybe you’re awkward and gangly and you dance exclusively locked in your room where you won’t be disturbed. No matter how you do it, it’s okay. No one has to see it – it can just be between you and Universe/Spirit/Whatever.

If it helps, you can also think of this connection you create as moving meditation or ecstatic movement. The point is to be in the moment, in your body, and experience the physicality that we are gifted with.

Dance can also be a powerful way to shape-change (take on the energy of a specific animal totem) as well. You can put on music – maybe just drumming – and make movements that are reflective of how that animal moves. You can flap your arms like a bird, stalk around your room like a panther, or stand in place and experience the sinuous movements of a snake.

Purpose

Self Portrait of NatharaSo, this blog space has been purposed and re-purposed again and again as I can’t quite decide what to do with it. Today, I decided that this is going to be my personal whiteboard. Where I do my thinking, learning, and growing and those of you who run across this blog are welcome to contribute or not, follow along, occasionally visit, or interface with my blog however you want. But this is my personal journey. So you’re going to see a mix of things here. Self-help exercises, personal thoughts and musings, things I’m struggling with, stuff I just want to get off my chest, whatever comes to mind.

The first thing I want to do is let you in a little more. Tell you a little something about me to make this more personal. So, we’ll start with the biggie. I have PTSD, cause undetermined, there are several theories. But I’ve had enough traumas in my life that they haven’t figured out which one threw me through a loop. I’m sure we’ll touch on those more later. I’m on disability, but I still work irregularly as disability doesn’t cover all my bills and I have a fiance and 3 cats to support. Another thing is that I love art, but I don’t understand it, I’m not sure I ever will. I’m told I’m artistic and creative, but I don’t see it. I do, however, enjoy photography and belly dance and find them to be excellent outlets. But I need to dance more – it’s like my joy has been taken away. But for this, I need space. So I need to give myself space in which to express myself and being generous with myself is not something I’m good at. I also do graphic/web design WAY on the side. I enjoy it the doing part of it, but struggle with the client part of it. Along with my PTSD, I have agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house) and social phobia (fear of other people), so I struggle a lot with day to day activities and the majority of the time I don’t leave my house and I communicate with my friends through my computer, either on Facebook or via text message. I’m also a psychic tarot reader, ordained minister, and a pagan. This is going to be one very strange blog, indeed. I also need to learn the word ‘no.’

So there’s a little bit more about me. This blog should be getting a lot more activity now and I hope my personal journey can help or inspire you in your personal journey. I had a fellow psychic tell me today that my purpose was to deliver my message to the world and help other people. I don’t know what my message is, yet, but hopefully this place will help me find it.

Poor Sick Kitty

My poor little Abel has been throwing up and passing out. We took him to the emergency vet yesterday and they ran every test that they could on him. Most of the tests came back today and show that everything is normal, so that’s good. He’s a very healthy kitty, but the vet has no idea why he’s passing out after throwing up. I’m so sad and stressed out over my poor little sick kitty! I hope he’s okay and that it turns out to be something simple and easy to treat so we can get things back to normal.

Unfortunately, that means that pretty much all of my dance activities are going to be canceled until he’s in the clear. I was so excited to go to the Plaza de Anaya’s drum and dance jam on Saturday – it was going to be our first trip into Phoenix for a dance event and now I’m going to have to miss it. What a total bummer, but it’s worth it for my Abel! Hope everyone who goes has a wonderful time and hopefully I’ll be there next time!

Had a Great Time – Thank You Shutterbugs!

I had a wonderful time dancing for the shutterbugs on Saturday! What a great group! We had a 115 degree weekend, but there was a wonderful breeze blowing Saturday afternoon which kept the park very comfortable. I had the opportunity to dance WITH my teacher, too, instead of just ‘at the same time’ or ‘while following’, which was a great experience. The shutterbugs all had their cameras out, too, so hopefully there will be some good pictures – I’m excited to see their work! Thank you so much, Shutterbugs, for having us out and letting us perform for you!

We did have one problem with a no-show from one of our dancers, so my teacher and I danced to her music and even got another classmate up to dance with us for a little while during the no-show’s music and I think it went over pretty good. Everyone seemed to have a good time, like our performances, and it was a casual enough atmosphere that I really do think it went over just fine. But I’m curious how other people handle these kinds of situations? You have the music already recorded (in our case, on tape) and you’ve given it to the DJ – but one of your dancers doesn’t show up. Not only does she not show, but she has a solo she was supposed to perform. How would you guys handle it?

A New Direction – Upcoming Performances

Okay, so I change my mind because I can do that. I’m going to keep this blog alive afterall as my belly dance blog – Yay! I’m so excited to have somewhere to post about things!

So, I’m performing on Saturday morning for the Casa Grande Shutterbugs, a local photography group who is celebrating their first year of accomplishments! They are having a barbeque and the Desert Dancers have been invited to perform. We’re honored to be invited and really looking forward to meeting everyone. AND they’re a photography group, so there’s a chance of having pictures taken!

I’ve been working on a blue costume but it, unfortunately, won’t be done for Saturday, so I’m going to go in black and silver instead, I think. I might change my mind, though. I have the skirt done – it’s a double layer chiffon skirt with the top layer being shorter than the bottom layer and a slightly different shade of blue. The bra is two-toned as well with silver dangly bits. I’m going to finish it with d-rings and an excessive tie in the back – it should come out very gypsy-hippie-boheme, which is my favorite!

I’m going to dance to the hidden track on System of a Down’s CD ‘Toxicity’ that’s all drums and very tribally sounding as well as Cheb Mami’s ‘Le Rai C’est Chic’! Quite the juxtaposition but I like it – and hopefully the crowd will like the music, too. I find really upbeat music like these two songs goes great for celebrations, parties, etc. and I really hope they go over well!

I am a little concerned about the pictures, though. I don’t photograph great and, without prior know-how, it’s hard to catch dancers in flattering positions. Oh well – it’s all for fun anyways and any pictures that are gotten are purely gravy!

Nathara has moved!!!

Hello everyone! Just a quick note to let you know that I have moved to http://faenathara.com .

I will be leaving this archive behind for reference, but all new posts can be found on my new site. Please update all links as appropriate and I hope to see you over there!