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Using bellydance fusion to create a cathartic dance experience
On the cover:
A sculpture by Richard MacDonald, "Primal Dancers, male and female." ©2016 Richard MacDonald
Catharsis in Bellydance Fusion
Huntress, however, became anything but a normal belly dance troupe, and ultimately led me down a dance path I could never have imagined. I decided to have the troupe perform a mixture of Middle Eastern, African and Ecstatic Dance. A dance melting pot. At first, when the troupe would meet for our lengthy three hour rehearsals, everything was normal. All the women were smiling, happy. Then over the next few weeks, things began to change. The music and choreography were powerful. After all, these women had to be Huntresses! They had to be the ones who held the tribe together. I didn't want the usual etheric aspects of belly dance for this performance. I wanted something deeper.
And deeper I got.
The more and more we rehearsed, the more emotional they became. The women would come in with personal issues--relationships, emotional baggage--and they would literally dance it out. They used their moment as Huntresses to leave their baggage on the dance floor and leave rehearsal a little lighter. I began to see the catharsis occurring with this odd fusion of Belly Dance I created. Yes, it was fusion! While there was a lot of belly dance - it wasn't the usual pretty etheric soft belly dance people are used to seeing.
This led me in 2012 to create Primal Fusion World Dance--a mixture of belly dance, African dance, ecstatic dance and meditation. Combining belly dance with African and ecstatic dance may sound like a recipe for disaster, but it was quite the opposite. In Primal, students learn basic belly dance movements - hip lifts, hip circles, hip drops etc. As class progresses we take those same moves and make them more "earthy"--lower, stronger and sharper. Eventually these movements start to slide into African dance--which I tell my students is just like belly dance--but the movements are more earthy and grounded--we are lower to the ground, losing the strong straight posture of belly dance. With a foundation in belly dance, most students find the transition easy. I then teach some basic African moves and everything melds together. There is no choreography, just movement. As the class progresses--and the students feel comfortable with the movements--its at that moment that I let them go. During this part of class, I usually have live drumming and didgeridoo playing. I also let students shout, stomp and scream. Most of them, taught with a classical belly dance background--enjoy this part of class the best. Its this moment in which the catharsis begins. Primal is more than a dance class--its a class of emotional release and spiritual balance. Class ends with a shimmy cool down, followed by a grounding meditation, in which we all lay down on the floor, live didgeridoo music playing in the background, incense burning and the feeling of our hearts beating as it comes down from an intense physical, spiritual and emotional experience. At the close of the class, we place our hands on the floor and pound everything out that is not needed.
Primal has helped many women find a little something extra in a belly dance class. I do teach Primal separately from my classical belly dance classes. By allowing students to go from feeling etheric, feminine and beautiful in belly dance- to becoming fierce fighting Huntresses--I provide a balance. A type of yin and yang. From a wild idea of theatrical belly dance show (that successfully ran for 4 years) -- I created a new style of dance that lets even the most elegant belly dancer-get Primal!
Zehara Nachash, Contributor: Originally from Boston, MA and now residing in Flagstaff, AZ, Zehara Nachash is a celebrated performer, teacher and choreographer. For over ten years, Zehara performed in New England as "Boston's Resident Snake Charmer (Boston Globe 2005) with her snakes Kaala, Pleiades, Salkaiyera, Bella, Wynter and Denali. Zehara has studied Turkish and Egyptian styles of Belly Dance as well as other dance styles ranging from Russian Romany dance to African. Zehara performed in countless shows in a wide array... (more...)