The body expresses what the mind cannot see.
This weekend, at the TribOriginal music and dance camp, someone asked me about my “old dance style.”
The question struck me as odd… I didn’t know I had a “new” dance style as opposed to what I had been doing, but my dancing has changed quite a bit over the past year.
Dance is a physical manifestation of Self. I believe that the way someone dances is a complete and honest reflection of her unconscious, her shadow, her inner demons. If I have a student in my classes who lacks control over her movements, chances are that she’s feeling that her life is out of control as well. If another student has difficulty with fluid movements and is stiff, chances are that she’s feeling stiff or stuck in some other realm of her life outside of the dance studio.
Starting in 2004, I started to use a lot of electronica in my dance performances. For years I had been drawn to IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) and its related electronic music genres, even before I had started belly dancing. I didn’t think to truly combine my love of electronic music with belly dance until 2004. The robotic ticking, locking, and strobing that I used in my performances to (I think) best express the artificial and synthetic sounds of electronic music characterized the essence of my dance. As my visibility in the dance scene grew over the years, the music and accompanying robotic movements I used were (and still are) a hallmark of my own personal style.
Last year, my dance began to soften and return to its Middle Eastern roots. I’ve even been accused of becoming “too cabaret” by some. Not that a few distant voices are going to prevent me from dancing to music I love, from a region of the world that I have been drawn to since birth, and growing as an artist. But why have I changed?
Without getting into details, everything in my life shifted. I quit my job, which had been weighing on my shoulders for several years, making me feel incompetent and inadequate, and most of all, making me feel stuck in a machine in which I was merely a cog. Shortly after I quit my day job, my marriage disintegrated. When I found myself single again, I felt free. I had felt stuck in that situation as well. Both my job and my marriage made me feel like I was living an artificial life: one where I feigned happiness because I should have been happy, not because I truly was happy. I had a secure and well-paying career in a field that most people only dream of; I was married and owned a house. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t. I was not living authentically for my own Self.
In living an artificial life, it makes sense that I would dance like an artificial being, a robot, because that is how my essential Self felt. It felt stuck, inorganic, forced into a situation that wasn’t authentic.
I still love electronica; that isn’t changing any time soon. In fact, I’m listening to Lusine ICL’s beautiful album Condensed right now. But, I’m using less and less electronica in my performances. You’ll still see my “signature” ticking and precise technique, but it will have a different feel. I am not sorry if this disappoints you.
Art changes because we, the artists, change. My dance changes as I change. I am living a life in which I am much more true to myself, therefore, I believe my dancing has become less artificial-looking. I am no longer feeling artificial. I feel organic, alive, passionate, and real.
Life is too short to feel stuck in your art… and it’s too short to expect others to be stuck in their art as well.