I have been having a lot of discussion with the belly dance community in Utah on the importance of presenting your art form in the proper light. Some of the ladies who have been dancing for 20+ years are more than a little disturbed that the going trend seems to be leaning more towards burlesque, especially since they have spent the better part of their dancing careers trying to separate the mistaken notion that belly dance (essentially a womans dance ritual devoted to initiation and child-birthing) and stripping (a form whose sole purpose in creation was titillation) are somehow related.
Well, in my opinion, they are not,. I’ve spent a great deal of time researching the origins of this dance and it is a sacred thing to me. Which is not to say, of course, that I don’t enjoy being silly while goofing around to some suggestive hip-hop songs. It’s fun to tap into that energy and even more fun to be playful, but as far as performing to an audience, I have made a strategic decision to distance myself from overtly sexualized dance styles.
A word here: This does NOT mean I think there is anything wrong with sexuality or more importantly sensuality. Sensuality is inherently sacred and there is A LOT or power in sexuality. It is the Shakti, the dynamic force, which infuses the Universe with primordial cosmic energy. However, I do not want the focal point of my dance to be centered on sexuality in the form of burlesque and or other “dance” forms that seem to be springing up such as pole dancing. Nothing against those who enjoy that, but as I said, dance is sacred to me and I’m choosing to follow sacred forms.
One of my greatest models for devotional dance is Colleena Shakti.
Colleena started out as a belly dancer but was later drawn to Odissi, a 5,000 year old Classical Indian dance. It took her 2 years of searching to finally find a teacher in the United States but after learning many of the complicated steps she said she felt totally striped down to her essence. Shortly after, she bought a one way ticket to India.
Colleena has devoted her life completely to dance upon arriving in India in 2001 when she meet her Odissi Guru, Padma Cheran Dehury and settled in at Bhubaneswar, Orissa- the capital of Odissi dance. Years later she opened the Shakti School of Dance for Odissi in Pushkar. Colleena is a woman with a clear vision and strong beliefs. Her work with traditional dance focuses on understanding both the movements and cultural context equally, so that the essence of the dance remains vibrant.
Currently Colleena divides her time between her home in Pushkar, Rajasthan (India) where she directs Shakti School of Dance (annually presenting ‘The Pushkar Temple Dance Festival’) and continuing in her rigorous training under her Odissi Guru, while in summer months she tours internationally teaching and performing dance.
To learn more about Colleena, visit her Website.
So, my goal is to present meaningful context in my dance, even through fusion. In other news, my yoga studies continue and I’m loving every moment of it.