Whether your mother is biological, someone who adopted you, or a mother within the realm of dance, use this time to honor her.
I watched my beautiful friend Alli Ruth, a belly dancer from Finland, as she performed. She’d grown up in Southern California, and was trained by the late, great Diane Webber, a belly dance pioneer who influenced hundreds of dancers. Diane’s troupe, Perfumes Of Araby, begat many strong solo performers who taught and influenced many others. Her classes at Every Woman’s Village in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles spawned many accomplished dancers, in the LA area and beyond, including Jillina.
But back to my pal Alli Ruth: in the middle of her show, the woman sitting next to me burst into tears. She clutched at my arm and sniffled,
“I’m so sorry… but I see Diane in her dancing!”
It was a profound moment; I’m getting goose bumps right now just writing about it.
People have told me that they can see my teachers in my dancing, and I have also been told that students of mine reflect my own movements and essence. While I was always proud of both statements, the point was never quite really driven home to me, until the other night…and then I began to think in an even broader scope.
In the very act of dancing, we are honoring our forebears in dance. Belly dancing has been handed down from mother to daughter, from teacher to pupil through many millennia and hundreds of generations. It is a song of the soul, and a celebration of beauty, femininity, power, and strength.
In the very act of dancing, we are honoring women past and present, all over the world.
The women who gave birth to our physical beings, and/or raised us throughout our childhoods are obviously very special… but there are so many other women to pay homage to; the women with no blood ties who selflessly gave birth to us in different ways.
Our Dance Mothers nurtured us and raised us in art and beauty. They helped us through our baby steps to grow into strong performers, sharing our triumphs and our woes, advising us, seeing us through the ruts and rough periods. They understood our discouragement, our passions and helped us fulfill our goals.
No matter what style of dancing you perform, take a moment to think of all those who came before you, those who pioneered the way for us, those who taught our teachers.
Give silent respect and love to the myriad women whom we never even knew in our lifetimes, women from your country and many other countries all over the globe who all have a hand in what we are doing today: practicing the gift of dance that we might sometimes take for granted, grumbling in a class or competing in an audition for a gig.
On Mothers Day let’s dance… let’s dance for the mothers, grandmothers , great grandmothers and great great grandmothers of our dance. Let’s celebrate the lives of Biblical temptresses, harem slaves, dirt-poor villagers, the women in tiny dark apartments in Cairo in the 1970’s, the Romany women of the defunct Sulukule ghetto in Istanbul. Let’s dance for Mata Hari, Gypsy Rose Lee, Ruth St. Denis, Ginger Rogers, Isadora Duncan, and the nameless women of every chorus line that ever existed.
Let’s dance for women of the stage and silver screen who dared to dance when they were forbidden to.
Let’s dance for the women who supported their entire families by dancing, even if it meant they were shamed by society…and the very families they supported!
Let’s dance for women in Beirut when the bombs fell, for the women and girls of blood-torn Syria, for the veiled women who can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, and for all the female children in Afghanistan who were denied education. Let’s dance for Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who crusaded for women’s rights in the Swat Valley, who was shot in the head by the Taliban.
Let’s dance for the 276 girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria.
Let’s dance for all the women whom we will never even know in our lifetimes…
Let’s honor our mothers by dancing for those who can’t, and then let’s all close our eyes and hear their voices.
This post was originally published in May 2013
The Belly Dance Handbook: A Companion For The Serious Dancer is available on Amazon.com or you can purchase a signed copy from my website: