Over the past couple of months I've been really busy dance wise - practising and performing with my Sakura and Namaste sisters, teaching workshops as Namaste, starting to teach tribal (Gypsy Caravan style) in Wigan and taking a few workshops and classes myself, including a bit of oriental dance and some rather fabulous saiidi. And as I've done all of that, something buried deep within me has started to emerge. Now you're probably thinking Loch Ness Monster here. Maybe chrysalis and butterfly. Well, it's neither of those ....
I think it had probably been growing and developing for a while, but I just hadn't been aware of it (sounding more ominous by the minute!). It first sprung onto a conscious level at a class with the lovely Katy Carmichael of Learn Bellydance here in the UK. We used veils as part of this class. Now, veils and I don't normally mix well. My tribal sisters suppress giggles and on occasion have been known to mock me (you know it's true!). I think that the fact that I'm usually eying up the fabric with a view to cutting, pinning and stitching probably doesn't contribute to a harmonious relationship between me and my veil but hey ho! This class however was totally different. Instead of learning veil tricks and specific ways to move the veil about we actually took time to explore the veil for ourselves. To respond to the music, to the fabric, to the way we were feeling. And something clicked; for the very first time I was truly dancing with a veil just for the joy of it .... No concerns about anyone watching, no consciousness of audience. Just me, the music and my veil.
That experience really got me thinking on a much deeper level about why I love to dance. My next 'Aha' moment came at the Barefoot Festival a couple of months ago, when I took a 5 Rhythms workshop. If you've heard of 5 Rhythms you'll know that once again it's about very free dance, just responding there and then, letting go. Whilst we weren't exactly in the ideal venue for that - being in an outdoor arena with passers-by watching! - I still found it really easy to let myself fall into the moment - and just move! Whilst 5 Rhythms can open up a gamut of emotions what I felt that day was once again joy - in being there in the fresh clean air just moving, reaching, turning.
So where is all this leading you may ask?
Well, it's caused lots and lots of deep thought. And I mean DEEP. Reflecting really hard on why I dance and what is so important to me about it. And how my priorities have changed as I have (hopefully) grown as a dancer. And yes, they most certainly HAVE changed.
Now don't get me wrong, I really, really enjoy performing. Choosing the music, costume, the getting ready ritual, that buzz you get out there on the floor and afterwards. But it isn't why I dance. To be honest, the further I have travelled on my dance journey, the less important it has become. And if I'm going to be totally honest at one point it was about showing people what I'd done, my costume, how I was progressing. However in my defence it was never JUST about the performing - if there were workshops available I'd take them. Yes, we (Sakura and Namaste) have performed in a variety of far flung places, but when we've travelled we've always taken any associated workshops too. There's always been a balance. But when I perform now it's for a very different reason. I perform now to share what I've done - the joy that I've found in this dance. To hopefully make just one person in the audience think 'Hey - I'd like to try that!' and then maybe to find the happiness that I have found in tribal.
So - if it's not to perform, then why DO I dance?
First and foremost - I dance to dance! I dance to feel that joy, that connection, that collective soul. Some of the buzziest (new word there!) experiences I have ever had whilst dancing have been out there on the open floor at the end of a hafla when we are just relaxed, dancing together, rocking it out! ( I always feel really deprived if I haven't had the chance to do that!). Dance for dance's sake, no worries about anything else.
And second is a newer discovery. I love to teach dance! I love to look in that mirror and see all those hips swinging in time, those smiles as moves suddenly click, those tentative early steps into improv (and yes, those smiles again there as confidence grows!). I love to lead a long drill and see that everyone is right there with me! I love to share the beauty and funkiness of Gypsy Caravan. Tribal truly does rock!!!
So performance has slipped down the ranking in my reasons for dancing. I still enjoy it - and making that connection not just with my fellow dancers but with the audience too. But now I really understand some stuff that Paulette said on my Collective Soul about not being in too much of a rush to perform. About taking the time to just truly feel the joy. Yes Paulette, it has taken a couple of years to totally sink in, but NOW I get it!!!
I remember reading something several years ago from Shay Moore (another of my tribal inspirations). I can't remember whether she actually wrote this or was quoting someone, but it went along these lines :
So you say you love dance. You don't love dance. You love who you become when you're dancing.
And yes, I can identify with that. It IS about what I feel, who I become - not in the eyes of people who might be watching, but deep inside my soul.
And THAT is why I dance!
Until next time - joyful dancing!