Belly dance is my salvation these days, my creative outlet, my connection to the world. Because of life with a baby, I haven't had as much time to write as I would like (or email--if I owe you an email, please know I'm not ignoring you--I'm just woefully behind.) Somehow, though, I seem to be able to find time to dance.
Until 2008, the last time I had performed as a belly dancer was when I was six months pregnant with Hannah, seventeen years ago. Then, shortly after I separated from my first husband, my incredible friend Nancy invited me to dance with her troupe. It was such a generous gesture--dance was a way for me to work through all the confusion and grief of that time, and find my way back into my body. Belly dance continues to be such a lifeline for me; the women I dance with are, too.
One of my most powerful dance experiences was last weekend, when Nancy and I performed a "pre-funeral party" for the father of a friend; George knows that he is dying, and wanted to host a celebration of his life, surrounded by his many friends and loved ones. It was such a beautiful event to begin with, and the best audience I have ever performed for--I have never felt so much love and joy radiate from a crowd before. At some point, George joined the dance (you can see him above in his motorized scooter festooned with a smiley face balloon); later we invited others to join us, as well, and most people were shy, but below you can see the young man with Downs syndrome who grabbed my hands and led us into some wonderfully spirited twirling.
Nancy had been encouraging me to choose a dance name (hers is Saahira; our troupe is Saahira's Gypsy Soul). I had originally decided upon Ghaliya, which I liked because of its similarity to Gayle, but then I learned that it is also a type of lamb stew, and it didn't suddenly didn't seem as appealing. I ended up choosing Nasheeta, "full of life", the night before we performed for George. I have to say that most of the time I don't feel so lively--I am exhausted and overwhelmed a fair amount of each day--but when I dance, the energy kicks in, and my heart opens up and I feel fully alive, so in that way, the name seemed like a good fit--certainly something to aspire to.
At George's celebration, his daughter came up to us and told us that her dad had wanted the party to be about life and she was so grateful for how much life we brought to the event. It made the name I chose feel all the more meaningful.
Lately, a snippet from a poem by Wyatt Townley has been running through my head--"We are here so briefly, weather/with bones". Why not take that brief time, this transient weather, and dance?