Thursday, March 27, 2008

Going with the Flow

For many years I was a professional bellydancer and enjoyed the disctinction of being one of the better dancers in New York City and having my own following. It was my passion, my joy, and although I am no longer performing in that genre, I still wiggle around at home, reliving my glory days during the 1980's when Middle Eastern dancing was still a big draw in many NYC nightclubs.

I learned many lessons from bellydancing that, ironically enough, had nothing to do with dancing and everything to do with life, specifically that of moving with the energy, or, in other words, going with the flow. Take veil work, for example. A dancer has to flip, toss and otherwise manipulate 2 - 3 yards of diaphanous fabric around as she's dancing without tangling herself in the process. I learned that it is best to learn the properties of the veil (such as how well it moves and floats) and work with the veil to achieve your goal. If it floats like a feather, capitalize on that and keep it in the air. If it sinks like a rock, then twirl it around in various ways. If, as sometimes occurs, the veil does not behave as you want it to, change in response to its moods. The dancer sets the veil in motion but the veil dictates how it will behave. It is up to the dancer to work with it so what the audience sees is harmonious movement.

Snake work in particular requires that you move with the flow of energy, which in this case is the snake. There is no way to choreograph a boa constrictor. It moves as it will and sometimes will do unexpected things. The only way to successfully dance with a live snake is to let the snake do what it will and move with the snake, gently manipulating, nudging and moving it so it doesn't wrap itself around any limbs in such a way as to constrict blood flow. The dancer must convince the audience that she controls the snake when in fact the snake is in charge. True, she can manipulate it to a certain degree but there are those times when the snake will not do what is wanted. At those times, the dancer must be able to surrender to the snake's nature in order to achieve her goal of entertaining her audience.

All of the above requires a mastery of the dance form that does not require conscious thought. A dancer must have an extensive enough dance vocabulary so that she can react to unexpected changes instantly and organically. When an extensive vocabulary has been practiced and internalized to the point that the movements are natural and second nature, it is then that true mastery begins. I have seen all too many dancers who are obviously thinking about their steps as they do them, picking and choosing from their limited dance vocabulary. Their dancing lacks in fluidity, much like a person learning to speak in a foreign language or a person learning to drive a car, thinking about every move they make.

All matter is composed of energy, even those things considered inanimate. These days I tend to see things from a perspective of the flow of its energy and how to move with it in order to best achieve my purpose. Bellydancing has proven to be a metaphor for negotiating this energy. Who knew? It has prepared me to master the art of going with the flow.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Right, Wrong, and Truth

It never fails. When I spend time in my garden, my mind wanders and invariably leads me to an insight which I was incapable of arriving at when in conscious thought. Today's rumination led me to consider the issues of right, wrong and truth.

As anyone who has been in a long term relationship knows, conflicts arise. Each party is totally convinced of the righteousness of their position and equally convinced of the wrongness of the other party's side. I've been married for 21 years and it seems that for most of those years I have been engaged in an ongoing battle with my husband over one thing or another. This divisiveness has systematically eroded the foundation of our once-strong love to the point where divorce has been the topic of discussion more than once. In recent years we have become all but strangers living in the same house, ostensibly for the purpose of raising our children but really because moving to separate was more than either of us was willing to endure.

The truth is that I married am emotionally non-demonstrative man who wants to be appreciated and who will not make any romantic overtures if he believes there is even a hint of possible rejection. He's also a control freak. The truth is that I am a extremely affectionate, demonstrative, strong-willed woman who has outrightly rejected my husband on numerous occasions out of anger, spite and downright maliciousness because he pissed me off. I'm also a control freak. This is a recipe for disaster.

A wise woman once told me you can choose to be right or you can choose to be happy. I didn't know what she meant. She asked me if it was more important for me to be right or to be happy, explaining that whatever I chose would result in the truth of my situation. Truth is the result of action. It knows not from right or wrong. If you want the truth of your situation to be one of happiness, then you must take actions that will lead you to that result.

As simple as that logic is, I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I thought and thought and intellectualized it to death with no success. Then I picked up a rake. In that quiet time during which I tend to my garden, the wisdom in her words finally penetrated. It was one of those "AHA!" moments. I knew what I had to do. If I want to be happy, I have to behave in a manner that makes him feel comfortable enough to let his guard down. I have to be willing to let go of the pain of the past and my need to be right in favor of a happier future. If we are to weather this marital storm, I have to take a lesson from palm trees and bend in the wind. This will be a lengthy process. After all, it took 21 years to create the disconnect in our relationship. It can't be mended overnight.

Tonight, when my husband came home, he was obviously tired from working on a demanding project at his office. I acknowledged his fatigue, poured him a glass of wine and, after dinner, sat with him to watch a movie. During the movie (which featured lots of salsa music), I got him off the sofa for a dance, something we used to enjoy during our courtship. After the movie, I gave him a little peck on the lips before I left the room. I've been making little overtures like this for a couple of weeks now and I can definitely see the ice melting. Baby steps.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It's Official...

When it comes to determining the beginning of the spring season, I never look at my calendar. I look at my garden. After all, a calendar is nothing more than a man-made construct created to frame a natural sequence of events. Assessing what is taking place in the natural world is a much better indicator of seasonal changes than the date. So today, when I entered my backyard to "feed" my compost bin, I was greeted by warmth, sunshine and an explosion of new growth all over the garden. The daffodils and tulips are quickly pushing themselves up through the thick layer of leaves that have mulched and protected them through the winter cold. Tiny crocuses dot my front garden and, in my shed which acts as a surrogate greenhouse, my winter hardy pansies are in fragrant full bloom. Essentially, Mother Nature has given me my marching orders. This weekend I begin pulling back the mulch, cleaning out the garden and amassing plant pots and containers to replace those that have outlived their usefulness. Spring has officially arrived and begs to be welcomed in grand style.

This gardening season promises to be abundant and fruitful. Starting now, I'm preparing to enjoy it to the fullest. As is my custom, I will be posting photos of my garden as it progresses during the seasons. Check out my Photobucket to see past photos and get an idea what to expect later this year.

And make sure to stop once in a while and smell the flowers.


Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva