Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hips Don't Lie: This Is What A Goddess Look Like

As a woman, I am constantly asking myself what challenges I might face in my life, and I’m sure that there is more to my life than just selling records. I believe that I have to use the resources provided by my artistic career in order to tell people about real problems in the real world, and I know that I have to contribute to the search for real solutions. I’m sure that our planet will be a better place if each one of us will take responsibility for the needs of others.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation, which I created when I was eighteen years old, is currently implementing a program to help 4,020 victimized children in my country, providing them nutritious meals as an incentive so that their parents will allow them to attend school. By doing this, we help to reduce the number of children ages ten through twelve who are forced to work in the streets or go into prostitution, or are coerced into joining the guerrilla groups to become criminals.

She dances, she sings, she gives millions to charity and she works for world peace. Now, that's a goddess.

Hips Don't Lie:

Skakira has been dancing since she was a child and she fuses oriental dance with salsa, hip hop, and other types of Latin dance. Doesn't it look like fun? You can do many of the same sorts of moves, if you wish to learn. If you've never tried tribal belly dance, consider taking a class. It is a womanly, liberating, joyful form of exercise that you can do at any age and any size. Beginning classes can usually be found at local adult community centers and many yoga studios.

Tribal Dance is not just for young, tall or very slender women. My first teacher was a lovely, 5'4" and curvaceous 45 year old woman. She belonged to a group of comedy belly dancers known as "The Veiled Threats". (Here is the website for one of the founders and original members. It has lots of good information on Tribal Dance). I am not your idea of a dancer, either, but I have a very good time.

Some of my friends took classes at Fat Chance Belly Dance in San Francisco. The name says it all, really. You are there to encounter your Inner Goddess and to have a wonderful time. Feminists dance, trust me. This isn't a dance we do for men. This is a dance we do for us.

Andrea Deagon writes:

In 1999, as a professor who teaches in a Women's Studies program and a student of belly dance since the age of sixteen, I am still comfortable with a feminist interpretation of the dance. I no longer describe it as “by and for women ”; while it can be, this description is too simplistic for a dance so concerned with the centers of sex, birth and emotion. I now have mixed feelings about the word “power ”as well, since it contains ideas of dominance and coercion that are at odds with the dance as I understand it. But I feel strongly that belly dance is empowering for women. In performance, I find a voice that expresses my essentially feminine life experience, and I become a conduit through which my audiences can share my vision. Through my teaching, I help others find their own voices. This is womanly power, and I wholeheartedly believe that this dance is good for women.

At the same time, I cannot ignore the fact that the dance as I know it sits awkwardly in Western culture, easily misread as exhibitionistic and intended primarily to arouse men. Some dancers, to be sure, perpetuate this reading of the dance, attracted to it because it offers opportunities to become the focus of sexually charged attention . Yet even when this understandable desire[2] was never the dancer 's main reason for dancing, or where it matured into a wiser understanding of the uses of the dance, Western audiences 'expectations are hard to bypass. In my own experience as a performer, I have danced for many audiences where my art connected, and we all shared a spirit of sensual, joyful, deep togetherness. I have also danced for audiences in which some people participated in this dynamic, while others, locked into their limited expectations, saw a come-on, a tease, a diminishment of the very respect for women I work so hard to represent. My self-presentation and artistry did not change. But dancing in America –or anywhere in the modern world –means dancing in a patriarchy, and conflicts between dancers 'and audiences 'perspectives invariably arise.

Belly dance exists at a point of conflict between women 's expressions of fundamental truths, and patriarchal interpretations of this expression. It is not an easy place to be. Within the profession, dancers heatedly discuss issues of personal ethics, self-presentation, economics, and dealing with the public, which arise from this difficult merger of belly dance and patriarchy. For me, these issues are illuminated by the work of feminists whose writings cast light on the cultural underpinnings of many of our conflicts.

Feminists and belly dancers are natural allies in many ways. Feminists are particularly attuned to seeing women 's expression suppressed by patriarchal expectations. Feminists, like belly dancers, are used to being misunderstood. While belly dancers are often portrayed as being exhibitionistic or sexually immoral, feminists are often tagged as man-haters, lesbians, radicals, control freaks and prudes. Feminists are particularly aware that public images of women can be misleading, and that often there is a different story behind the “story ”society embraces. Feminists are also attuned to the forms of women 's self-expression, and alert to the difficulties society has in hearing it.

I recently found another great article by Palika Benton titled Sacred Dance and Belly Dance at the Heavy Hips website. I can't send you to a direct link (their website is funny that way) so I recommend that you click on their website link above and then click on the link there for "Tribal Dance". The article is worth reading.

Here is an excerpt:

As long as humans have lived together, depending on one another for survival, when the "wood's been chopped and the water's been carried"; people have drummed and danced together, solidifying their allegiance with one another and with Mother Nature. making meaning of their lives in a mysterious universe. We've drummed and danced for birth, we've drummed and danced at death, we've drummed and danced for love, for first blood, for rain, for sun, for harvest, for worship, for joy, to understand our universe and ourselves, and just because we feel it in our bodies. We've danced to insure that all will be as it should in the universe. We dance in gratitude. When we dance and drum we re-member our embodiment and connection to all that is Earth, Air, Water and Fire, we re-member that we are Earth and Spirit, and we feel a sense of kinship, an identity of oneness with those we make the music with. We understand that we are here together on this soil, with this river, on this hill, in this city together and share many feelings of loneliness, hope, joy, wonder, fear and a deep wanting to know what it all means. We sense that we all want to give love and we all want to receive love. This deep sense of existential connection that is experienced through daily, yearly and generational living with one another which can be expressed, celebrated or mourned by drumming and dancing together is "tribal". Tribal is the non-verbal sameness between us, the thread where we commune and empathically grock one another's experiences and where in this aligned committed intention of a group, we place our trust to survive and thrive. We join the group to become a strong integrous bundle of sticks

I would also recommend a book titled Sacred Women, Sacred Dance: Awakening Spirituality Through Movement and Ritual by Iris J. Stewart and Grandmother's Secrets: The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dance by Rosina-Fawzia B. Al-Rawi

On another note:

Folks, I am leaving for Sonoma, CA to see old friends. I hope you all have a fun, safe 4th of July. Make sure that your pets are safe during fireworks season.

I'll be back blogging again after the holiday.


Shakira concert video

Hips Don't Lie video on Youtube.


Inanna said...

Sia, you always post about the coolest stuff. I've been dying to learn belly dancing ever since I went to Turkey last summer. I absolutely love it. Why haven't I started? I have no excuse (well, now being pregnant might be an excuse, since I'm so tired, but how cool would it be to start lessons while I'm pregnant?). Thanks for the inspiration.


Diana Luciano said...

Thank you for posting this, Sia! This incredibly ancient dance is becoming more popular for a reason. It empowers women by providing us with a en emotionally supportive community, confidence in our appearance (no matter what size or shape we are), and a connection to the Goddess, in whatever form we honor Her. I have taught ATS (American Tribal Style) belly dance for several years, and have found it to be an incredible way to empowering my students and helping them to reconnect to the divine feminine. All of my students are goddesses, because they have a part of that divine feminine within them.

Goddess bless!