Friday, November 19, 2010
GIVING THANKS FOR DANCE
It’s the middle of November, where has 2010 gone? On these oh-so-long winter nights, I tend to feel somewhat disoriented. Though my clock says it’s 6:30, because it gets dark so quickly, I feel like it’s already 10:00pm! I feel all paranoid, like I’m gonna get into full-on hibernation mode, and just eat and sleep my nights away. To avoid that, I start looking for “year end” tasks to tackle.
Usually, these are little things I’ve let slide during the past months, and haven’t been able to get to during the commotion-and constant travel- of spring and summer Dance Festival Season. Things like finally unpacking and cleaning out all my gig bags, organizing a CD shelf, throwing away outdated, stale make-up, sewing hooks on costumes, and getting a jump on sorting my tax receipts. Feeling a mild sense of accomplishment, I then move onto lists… holiday card lists, lists of presents, and lists of things I want to accomplish in the next year.
Though it may sound a little overly sentimental, since Thanksgiving is approaching, I made a Dance List of everything I am thankful for.
Dancing literally changed my life. On top of the “usual” benefits, like giving me a strong, toned, flexible body, the emotional and spiritual impact dancing has had upon me is so significant, I can hardly put it into words. In my writing, I am usually a confirmed abuser of the exclamation point, but the amount of punctuation I would need to apply in this case is boundless, so I will spare you.
From the age of three, I wanted to dance, but for many reasons ( the foremost being a ballet teacher who rejected me at an early age because my feet were flat ) dancing wasn’t in the cards for me until I had already reached adulthood.
Maybe I had a karmic debt to pay, maybe my life just unfolded the way it was supposed to, but I came to belly dancing fairly late in life, after the age of thirty. Though I still sometimes wish I had been able to study dance since childhood, I no longer feel robbed, or the regret I used to experience about not having been a life-long dancer; now I am just thrilled with the way things turned out!
Mere months after I began belly dancing-almost as a lark- my life did a full 360 degree turn-around. Instead of picking my body ( and it’s individual parts) to pieces by visually and physically comparing myself to unrealistic and “ideal” images in the media, I began to love my body for the way it looked while I was dancing. Soon, that sentiment morphed into simply loving my body. As I developed more skill, I began to be grateful for what my body could do.
Dancing also helped me quit some very self-destructive behaviors I had for decades: substance abuse and an eating disorder. A hardcore bulimic for years, my love of dancing helped me cultivate a healthy relationship with food…and need I tell you that it’s impossible to dance for hours with a hangover or while high? Suddenly, I had a choice to make and I picked dancing over controlled substances.
Dancing helped me get through-and over- a painful divorce. The feminine energy and sisterhood I felt with other dancers was healing and gace me hope. I see this theme repeated with many other dancers, and I hope I can pass this feeling on to others.
Belly dancing also lead me to other forms of dance, and I am eternally grateful. It’s what directly lead to my career in burlesque, not to mention studying and performing other types of dance as well, like jazz, ballet, Bollywood, samba, contemporary, hip-hop and many other genres. Whenever my schedule ( or my creaky ole body) allows, I try to take other dance classes.
Dancing has also allowed me to meet hundreds of incredible, beautiful, intelligent and talented women the world over that I may never have met normally during the course of my everyday life. Through dancing, I have made life-long friends with many strong women of all ages, shapes and sizes who are veritable super-heroines; they are strong and giving, driven, and usually very witty to boot. I have met dancers who are emergency room nurses, teachers, criminal attorneys, children’s advocates, speech therapists, accountants, trauma counselors, ranchers, authors, film festival curators, architects, coal miners, political activists, rock stars, explosives technicians, police women, sitcom actors, college professors with PhD’s… not to mention mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers…and all of them are serious dancers!
I am thankful that I live in a country where women are free to dress as they please, to dance for joy-or professionally if they choose- and where dancing is considered an art-form.
Every day I give thanks that dancing, something I have always done sheerly for love is also what I do for work, and how I make a living. I never take this for granted, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure my life is real. When I walked into my first belly dancing class, if anyone would have told me that within a fairly short time I was going to turn professional-not to mention have a career twenty years later- I would’ve laughed so uproariously, the walls of the studio would’ve blown apart!
My dance career – my performing and teaching- has taken me all over the globe and I have loved every moment of it. It was a far-fetched wish, and that wish came true. The only thing I might add here ( and believe me, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek!) is the old adage about “being careful what you wish for”. Had I known that my wish was actually going to come true, I probably would’ve added in a clause allowing me to have a luggage valet and a personal massage therapist travel with me!
I am so thankful for all the wonderful women who have sponsored me to teach and perform. Sponsors are super-human, and in addition to paying for my travel, feeding me, housing me and fulfilling my backstage requests, and staying up til the wee hours talking shop, many of them have also gone wa-a-a-ay above and beyond the call of duty. They have taken me sight-seeing, brought me to amazing shows, given me gorgeous gifts, taken me hot-tubbing, booked me massages- even brought me to the emergency room, or dealt with my tearful grief when I was thousands of miles away from home and my beloved kitten disappeared. You ladies know who you are, thank you so very much! In general, my sponsors have gone so far out of their out of their way to make me feel comfortable when I am on the road, I cannot thank them enough; most of them have become life-long friends.
I am very grateful for my teachers and dance-mentors, women who were dancing professionally long before I even started to dance…all of whom were very generous with sharing their knowledge of not only technique, but also practical application, not to mention costuming ideas, crowd-control skills and career- building know-how.
My students, whether on-going pupils or one-time workshop attendees, make me feel such gratitude, I can’t even verbalize it. I learn something new from them every day.
I would like to thank "the audience" too- where would any dancer be without you? There is almost nothing more fulfilling than hearing an appreciative audience and seeing smiling faces in a darkened theater, just ask any performer!
Last but not least, I also gotta say that I am so very grateful for having a job that has the best, most amazing “uniform” EVER- what could be better than a blinged-out costume?
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!