The body is a musical instrument; the purpose of dance is to tune its strings and warm its skin…allowing the spirit of place to sing the ancient hymns. Everyone can dance, it is a natural state. Dance is simply allowing the body to move the way it wants to, without restraints – to the rhythm of one’s breath. Music can help the dancer get deeper into her dance or lift her higher, but dance can also happen in stillness. If we listen close enough, we hear music everywhere… the sounds of nature, the ticking of a clock combined with the sound of a washing machine; even traffic could sound like water waves – if we choose to hear that.
From a young age, I knew that when I danced, I connected with something much larger than myself. I did not know what it was and had no name for it. I was never officially trained as a dancer. Growing up in Jordan, I simply watched my mother and aunts and followed suit. Everyone danced. At sixteen, I came to the US. At the United World College, I learned new dances from friends from many nations; I taught dance for the first time. Later, I pursued psychology and consciousness, all the while dancing. With time, dance became my spiritual practice; it opened me to new ways of expression and set me on this path.
Although I performed and taught it, I had reservations about the term ‘belly dance’. It was a Western term, describing a dance I simply knew as raqs. I felt objectified and exoticized by the term, but I also had reservations about my own womanhood and power. I revisited the belly during my graduate research–through indirect means. I was writing my thesis on the jinn, fire spirits from Arabic lore, credited for inspiring poets, but also blamed for possession. Spirit is said to dwell in the belly. I learned that blocked creativity caused depression, but that dance could release it. I learned about ritual dances of healing like the Zar. Dance du ventre is ancient. The belly is literal and symbolic. It is the seat of passion and fear. The belly: the center, the womb…Mother Earth.
I delved into the belly to discover the goddess; I experienced her through my body–a most ecstatic feeling. I danced with her stories, from Inanna and Isis, to al-Lat, Ishtar, and Aphrodite. I gained insight into myself as well as my relationships. I started paying attention to my dreams: my personal myths. In my dreams, I was often dancing (or called to dance.)