Sunday, November 27, 2011


This is part six in an on-going series of articles about the ways that well known- and in some cases, wildly famous- dancers prepare for their shows. Everyone I have spoken with has a highly personal take on getting ready for taking the stage, but one similar thing I've noticed while talking to my colleagues is that many of us seem to be very spiritual in general, and especially in relation to their dance practice.

For years, I assumed I was alone in this… but that was probably just because I just hadn’t discussed my feelings with anybody.

From the very beginning of my career, I would always become very emotional before I took the stage- and by using the word "emotional", I'm not referring to stage fright. It was more like a private, internal feeling that I would get just before I stepped onto the stage. Waves of gratitude and even disbelief would overwhelm me. Though I knew I had worked very hard for years to get to the point I was at, I would be overcome by a sense of my own good fortune and I felt humbled that I was being allowed to live out my dreams.

I have always been blessed with creativity, and I have always wanted to dance, but for me, dancing wasn’t always an easy journey. From my first performance onwards, every time I was about to dance, I would thank the universe and the heavens for being allowed this chance, and I would silently pray that that my performance would be “worthy”, both for the audience, and for whatever spiritual forces were granting me this beautiful opportunity. And I still do.

The two dancers- Artemis Mourat and Tamalyn Dallal- whose quotes you will see below, both seem to feel that in their dancing, they are connecting with a very sacred thing, in very much the same way as I do. In an odd coincidence, both of them are also writers and globe trotters as well as dancers, just like me.

Since we are in the midst of The Holidays, I thought it would be a good time to put up a post that is a bit infused with the spiritual side of dance.

Also, as I write this, I have just gotten off the phone with the highly acclaimed Artemis Mourat. She is a lovely person both on and off stage, quite down to eath and extremely funny. Our conversation was all about dance, history and culture, but of course we giggled a lot, too!

A legend in her own time, a belly dance pioneer and an expert on Turkish and Romany dances, Artemis is practically a household word in the belly dance community. She has done decades of field research all over the globe. She has also performed and taught worldwide, made music CDs and instructional DVDs, and has always been extremely generous with her wide scope of knowledge. To say that she has inspired thousands of dancers during the course of her rich career would be a vast understatement!

Here are Artemis’ words:

I pray before each show. I ask that light shine through me onto all who see me. I asked that everybody there leave the show happier than they were when they got there. I ask to be worthy to carry this torch. I ask that the blood of the dancers who have come before me should flow through my veins. And I ask for a spiritual wall of protection around me and around all of the people there.
In addition to this, I do the usual physical warm ups and one glass of wine is mighty nice.

Tamalyn Dallal performed and taught around the world since 1976. In addition to being a superlative dancer, has authored three books, including her latest “40 days And 1,001 Nights”, where she lived for forty days in five Muslim countries, and recorded her experiences. Not only that, she produced a documentary film and two music CDs, both based on the book! In 1990 she founded the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, which mentored dancers all over the globe. The last time I bumped into Tamalyn, it was this past June in Cairo. I haven’t spoken to her lately, but I know she id doing a continuing documentary series called "Dance On Film" and Ethiopia is next. Here is a link to her Kickstarter site to fund the project:

And here is Tamalyn’s pre-performance ritual:

I usually say a prayer and consider how lucky I am to be able to dance, free to dance, and live in a place where women have the luxury of taking a dance class. So many places, people have hard lives and struggle to eke out a living and feed their families.
We are among the privileged few who can dance our hearts out in beautiful costumes for the sheer joy of it. I then think of my dance being offered to the audience as a gift.

To read more about these infinitely inspirational dancers, please visit their websites:
Artemis Mourat:

Tamalyn Dallal:

Photos: Artemis ( in black) & Tamalyn ( with headwrap)

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