When I was six years old, I saw belly dancers on TV and knew that some day I would be twirling and dancing just like them. At that age I didn’t know how or why but my soul knew my life was forever changed that day.
Our belly dancing community has been the world that I choose to grow, live and learn from. There are many dancers who have influenced my dance career and they will never know it. So this is for all those dancers who don’t know. And this article is also my thoughts and feelings about our dance community.
Never before have there been so many talented dancers grouped together in one city. Not that I can remember and I have lived and danced in other dance communities on and off for years. We are special here because we have a blend of styles, training and philosophies that somehow work for us.
When I opened my studio in Corrales, New Mexico (just outside of Albuquerque) 3 years ago I had hoped to add to the mix by helping belly dancers and students feel good about their individuality. It worked to a point but after a while my sanctuary became a place where there was no shelter from any storms people brought in.
After a while I felt confined to my studio and my feeling of joy gave way to feeling like I was imprisoned. It was no ones fault but my own. I finally realized that I was not responsible for “fixing” people. And that was what I was doing in my studio becoming the psychiatrist instead of the teacher.
So I lost students because they lost faith in me as a teacher. I on the other hand felt like a failure because my students were disappointed in me. It was a vicious cycle but a great learning experience. Those students and dancers gave me a wonderful lesson and one that I believe today makes me a better teacher. I needed to see what I was not giving them in class. Let us all remember that there is always something to learn in this dance even if you have been at it for a long time. I was so busy “teaching” that I wasn’t “learning”.
My students became my teacher and to all of you I say “Thank You”.
Getting my joy back was only the half of it. I did some introspection and realized that the sanctuary that I was trying to create for other dancers was really my own sanctuary. I than realized that if I had to have a sanctuary, what was it I was trying to get away from. It became clear to me that in some ways I didn’t feel safe in our community. So what was my responsibility to standing up to what made me apprehensive? That was a very important question. Because if I was apart of a community that I didn’t trust than why was I apart of that community. As I was searching for this answer something amazing came my way. It was a bit of philosophy that helped me realize that the community that I wanted to become a part of had to first be created inside me. It is with this understanding that I became aware of the unfairness that I was passing on to my dance community and friends.
It is not the dance communities or my dance friend’s responsibility to make me feel better as a dancer or person. To do this is to always set people up for failure and disappointment.
It was a relief to find out that I was actually the cause of my own apprehension. With this new understanding I am able to be myself and allow others to be themselves. The happiness that I feel inside is because there is no longer a feeling of separation from my community. So now I dance with joy and happiness because I dance in a community that is everything I ever dreamed of and it all starts right here within my heart and soul.
Here is a quote from Martha Graham that I would like to share with you all:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”