How did you discover Belly Dance? I invite you to share your experiences below.
Belly dance found me in quite an unusual way.
I felt a calling long ago as a child, and answered it when I traveled to Sharm El Sheik Egypt, over 15 years later.
Since I was a little girl I always daydreamed of the ancient Egyptians. I was fascinated by the colorful exotic images of Pharaohs, Cleopatra and the feelings that were evoked in my heart. I truly believed I had come from that time.
I grew up humbly in a Canadian city called Winnipeg, where the frigid winter temperatures tested one's perseverance and the hopes of magical thoughts ever coming true seemed impossible. At times I felt as if I lived in a little village so far removed from what I could ever accomplish or fulfill. Yet somehow, someday my heart knew I would see Egypt, The Pyramids, The Sphinx and the dreams inside me would come alive.
I have been involved with dance for a majority of my life. I gravitated more towards ethnic music and preferred the improvised, free flowing nature of the internal dance of the heart. Like a wild stallion I could only be contained briefly, until I was set free. I have taken classes and have also been part of different dance groups, yet choreography frustrated and tested my inner rhythm. It was difficult for me to follow because I was going against what my heart wanted to do, which was to run free.
My desire to be free has allowed me to live an amazing journey of life so far, however for now I want to introduce the reason why belly dance runs through my veins. Belly dance was the first shift in consciousness that gave birth to my own self discovery.
In 2002, I was involved with a dance company called, The Cheerleaders of America. The Cheerleaders of America was a division of the USO (United States Overseas) dance company, sponsored by American Forces Entertainment. The majority of dancers were ex NHL cheerleaders and well, American. I wasn’t American at the time, and I definitely was not a cheerleader for that matter. How I ended up on the 21 day journey to the Middle East, a year after 911 could be explained by sheer luck, or perhaps destiny.
I am an entertainer and my strength is engaging and connecting with my audience. Yet on this trip I had to do a semi-cheerleading dance which was horrifying to me, and even more frightful was to sing, both of which are not in my top ten list of talents. Still I was chosen and I am forever grateful, because that experience changed my life.
The journey to the Middle East was a voyage like no other. I performed on various unique stages; some were tucked away in the middle of the Kuwait desert. I also flew in many military aircrafts such as C-17’s and C-141’s. There is one flight in particular that was challenging. We were soaring over the mountains in Afghanistan sitting in the uncomfortable netted seats, while the pilot’s smoked putrid cigars, and a young soldier boy of 18 sat next to me, weapon in hand and in fear of what he would face when he landed. My heart never forgot his face or his invisible tears. The people I met along this entire expedition mattered, and etched a memory so deep in my soul that I will never forget them, or the price of freedom.
While in Egypt we were granted a brief trip to the pyramids that lasted only one hour. Imagine a group of cheerleaders bouncing around a bus with chaperones and heading to the site. I found it quite amusing and wondered how we appeared in that realm.
As we approached the pyramids I felt a sense of stillness and peace coming over me. Being a loner I never truly belonged with groups so expressing to anyone what I felt would seem bizarre and maybe too imaginative.
Nevertheless I am revealing it here now: how belly dance found me.
The desert air filled my lungs with familiarity. Having lived in Arizona for 6 years at that time I already had calmness with the sand, but this atmosphere was different, it was ancient, heavy and dense.
The bus door opened and after emptying out of the stifling vehicle like cattle I stood in awe of their magnificence, in silence.
My stillness was interrupted as I became bombarded by merchants, and knowing that my time was limited I focused on taking in every moment and of course rescuing my camera that was cleverly snatched by a vendor at an opportune moment. That lesson taught me to never let my guard down even when mesmerized by beauty.
A feeling I can only describe as primordial beckoned me toward the massive pyramids. In a trance I glided as if being pulled by a force beyond my control. As my hand touched the aged limestone a pulse raced through me and excitement filled my soul.
My spirit laughed and my heart wept. I felt alive and conscious from a reverie of long ago. I embraced that sensation and branded it forever in the depths of my being. It was as if I had awakened a dragon, from a century long slumber.
Stone upon stone I gazed upon its enormity, mystery and felt the vibrations carried in stories and legends by the sands of time.
I was home.
I drifted through the experience as if it was dream, and time had suspended in order to allow the discovery of what existed inside me.
The vision of the Sphinx was immediately captured in a photographic snapshot of my mind. Lions and their symbolism are significant to me as a Leo, but I also love their presence. A passion close to pure love best explains how I relate towards their magnificence. From afar I observed the Sphinx statue and imagined running my fingers along the stone. What history those wise eyes have seen.
A childhood memory overcome my attention and propelled me back into my early years. I distinctly began to remember apparitions in dreams where I stood at the base of the Sphinx in search for guidance and truth. Refocusing my awareness back to the current moment I understood the premonition and listened.
Leaving the Sphinx and the pyramids did not fill me with sadness. Instead I departed with love in my heart and a deep understanding that I would return one day. Watching the sun as it fought to peek through thick, beige desert sky I was illuminated by the aura of the sun. The first step toward my personal journey left a footprint in Egyptian sand.
We traveled to distant military bases to perform our show, up till now even though I was present my psyche was perplexed at what I had experienced in Cairo. The next time I received a piece of the puzzle was in the lovely city of Sharm El Sheikh.
Sharm El Sheikh (known as the city of peace) was the complete opposite atmosphere of Cairo. It was bright, colorful, touristy and situated along the red sea. One evening as the sun began to set we walked along the main path of city which had numerous shops on either side. The amber glow of the sun sprinkled droplets of glowing light over the city and painted the buildings with warm tones of red, orange and yellow. I was enchanted.
Vendors magically appeared selling hookahs, bracelets and treasures of all kinds. Foreign music from one store summoned my internal beat and instinctively I followed the call. The tiny shop was compacted with trinkets, knickknacks, clothing and a plethora of other objects. Overwhelmed I stood momentarily to simply collect my thoughts, and then something caught my eye. Bastet the Egyptian goddess cat stared directly at me. Sitting elegantly on a glass shelf her black curvaceous feline body tempted my curiosity. I walked up to the tiny statue that reached out to me and reached back. Now she sits watching over me as I sleep. From that store I also purchased one of my most valuable belly dance pieces.
What was one of the first pieces you obtained? What meaning does it have for you?
I have always been fond of costumes so it was natural for me to be intrigued by the materials, jewelry and sparkles. This is also where I saw my very first belly dance costume.
Golden and full of coins it draped in the window shining like a beacon of light. The setting sun bathed the coins in a wondrous glow before it was swallowed by the sea. With the inquisitiveness of a child I delicately touched the costume and smiled. I felt happiness, but I also realized something mystical was happening to me at that moment. I asked the store owner what kind of costume that was, she replied with a smile, “belly dance”.
Before that point in time I don’t think I ever heard those two words before, yet since then I have never forgotten. My gaze then fell upon a beautiful black chiffon veil, with edges covered in gold beading. Much heavier then a normal veil because of the beading, it nestled safely around my arm as I picked it up. I could sense the spirit of Egypt caressing me. The veil remains with me still. I had a photographer friend take a photograph of me wearing the veil around my head once. I believe you can see Egypt in my eyes in the photo because that is how I feel when I am around it.
Awakening the Goddess
Awakening the Goddess - How Bellydance Found Me - Take a journey on self-discovery. | Photo: Isaiah Hicks Photography |
My USO trip was a humbling and marvelous experience. I met many wonderful people along the way and I also discovered a part of me that lived inside. I left a piece of my soul in Egypt and breathed in a piece of her in return.
When I arrived back to the United States I became intoxicated with belly dance. I wanted to know all that I could and I sought out many teachers. Since then I have learned from several amazing talents, performed solo and with various dance companies.
Belly dance is a significant vessel that aids many women on many levels. Without the art I would not be here now, as it helped me to accept my feminine strength and power, while healing many areas in my life.
You have the ability and capacity to discover the sleeping dragon in your heart. It is your time to shine.
What do you love about the art of belly dance? How has it inspired you?