Being reflective. Sat here writing this wondering if I am over thinking the past and being wistful or if indeed reaching nearly fifty is the catalyst for reflection and creative change?
Key feature in my life at the moment is large boy looking at university courses. A scientist to his very core I am bewildered by his passion for physics. I get the passion though and his singled mindedness. I laugh as I was never the straight A student he has become. However the passion I had was for continually being creative in art and dance and indeed securing an opportunity to go to be more creative at art college. My identity was Jude the artist. Social work was a side line to pay the bills. Living in London -painting, sewing cutting and sticking was what I got up to.
Having babies was all consuming and gradually Jude the artist shrunk back into the shadows created by nurturing babies, working paying bills and keeping a roof over our heads.
Dancing my way through a range of dance classes finding belly dance for me was like being given a new pack of felt tip pens. All those colours and shapes to make! Fifteen years ago I started to belly dance. I have danced at local classes. I have gone over the UK to workshops, classes, residentials both small and large. I have cried striven and attempted to perfect technique, listen , learn, copy style ,culture, knowledge and skill in belly dance and in later years attempted to create a style of my own.
Belly Dance, Egyptian dance, dance, dance dancing! I loved it all and loved meeting new women far and wide. Then this year I lost my dance mojo. Here is the thing. I have been on my own personal dance quest for nearly fifty years putting my heart soul and body into what I do. I have kept on trying but became very disillusioned and lack lustre with the world of sequins and friendship. This is where reflection comes in.
So before I move onto the exciting new thoughts here some negative stuff I am going to write down. This is the stuff I struggled with :
-opportunities to perform in the UK at my level are limited. So presenting my new “canvas” of dance to hafla and dance show audiences has had it’s limitations. It is very disillusioning to spend hours and hours on a dance only to have disinterested audience, or folk more interested in the next dancer’s Isis wings or indeed getting up halfway in your performance to get ready for their own!
– The dance community has a degree of “emperor’s new clothes” about it. Seems like with a cheeky smile and a good view of you tube anyone can sell teach and perform any dance style. I cannot be bothered with discussions anymore about dance integrity.
– I am weary of the hard sell –“come and pay huge amounts of money and time and we shall give you badge to be in our dance club” -The exploitation of other women for their own ego and cost is really upsetting to me. I joined the belly dance world because you did not need a badge or certificate.
– Too many egos on the dance stage and no room for new. From where I can see you’re either in the “gang” or out. All the time I meet wonderful fabulous dancers and teachers who have so much to offer the dance community but cannot even get their foot in the door let alone a shimmy belt!
– The feeling of being used by others and rather trod on and bruised by other’s race to be in the spotlight
Dance for me has been all consuming as a creative activity. Each dance for me has been my blank canvas, an opportunity to express, to create a feeling , to tell the story to make a connection with my audience. I craft my dance thinking through my very sense of being, of the tale I want to tell. When you pour heart and soul into an activity the idea of walking away from an activity that once gave you so much joy is devastating.
So this is the positive stuff that has made a shift for me :
-finding a dance/ creative mentor. I have had various dance teachers over the years but as dance is more than the “next move/ dance” for me I needed something more. I met Pauline Qu some years ago but this last year she has become my mentor. Pauline has indeed formally supported and given me direction and scope to realise some fantastic dance ideas and develop as a dancer . She has also opened a door into a whole new dance world and a world where dance can become fun again. Being mad fun creative souls themselves it has been lovely develop a friendship and some great dance and drum projects with Pauline and Asif Qu.
– Being a helper at Wortley hall at Farida’s dance weekend. Having been at Ford etc for the past nine years meant I could hardly say no to being a helper! Signing up as a helper I arrived with the intention of smiling all weekend with no job being too hard or small. I laughed all weekend and it took me back to where I came – when dance was about laughter, friendship and having fun
– My hafla with no friends. I had a hafla with no performance slots. With some exceptions none of my local dance friends supported or attended this event despite dancers coming from far and wide. It could have been a disaster but turned out to be one of the best dance events ever. Folk shared their dancing with each other. Everyone danced drummed and were “present”. No one was thinking ego, show off , anxiety, getting changed, next dance interval , have you got a safety pin? Everyone just danced to the beat of the drum. We all smiled and we created joy and happiness. I made new friends.
– Guest teacher at Rita’s day of dance. I taught a madcap workshop about dancing with props. To see women liberated from the mundane of life on a Sunday afternoon waving boas, fans and fabric and laughing was just the best ; fun, pure jolly fun.
So here is the thing. I am going to dance when I want how I want. I cannot be assed with striving to fit in, to get the badge or be in the gang. I am not bothering with maximum effort in crafting a dance and putting heart and soul in. I am just going to bloody well dance because I feel like it to whatever piece of music I feel like when I like. I may not support as many events and I shall certainly be more discerning with my time. Dancing is going back to being about fun and celebration of life. If it is not about joy and nice people you will not find me there.
Drawing pictures and making stuff has been with me all of my life. A packet of felt tip pens and a drawing book was a given at Christmas, birthdays high days and holidays. I can still get overly excited about a new pack of felt tip pens – all that lovely fresh bright colour to smooth onto the page! OOOh vibrant pink, day-glow orange and the pleasure of a deep black line! So I am going back to that. I have started drawing again. It is a small creative step in the right direction.
There is a theme in all of this. It is about being present. In the moment in time. Being engaged in the creative activity one is in and enjoying it for what it is- a moment of wonderful expression. I have always been so focused on the end product that I forget the process and activity of getting there.
Dancing at the hafla was not about performance it was about dance pure creative expression. Drawing with a black pen in my sketchbook is the same as is indeed banging my drum on a sunny day.
So I am going off now to allow myself to play. I do not have to share, give ,teach, make, perform or show and tell. I can just do, be present and get on with being the mad creative one with colourful hair and clothes!!!!