Saturday, April 9, 2016


Recently my 9 yr old daughter decided to get her ears pierced. She was terrified but she wanted it so bad. She went through with it and when I complimented her courage she said "I wasn't brave. I was scared." I told her that bravery and courage weren't about never feeling scared-it was doing what you needed to do even though you were afraid. 
Belly dancing is scary for a lot of us when we first start. Performing is scary for me every single time and I know many of my fellow dancers feel the same way. A couple months ago I finally came out to my family as bisexual and I'm allowing myself to fall in love again. Scary shit! Each of us is going through something that feels scary. Let's make sure we're supporting one another in the best way we can-allowing everyone to be their most authentic selves. Let's carry that belly dance sisterhood out into the world and share our courage with everyone! Like a bunch of shimmying superheroes!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The final straw doesn't have to be so final...

It's funny how the tiniest thing can be THE thing that makes you want to quit. I've had a rough couple of weeks. A lot of it is serious: a relative battling a devestating illness, a co-worker's sudden and tragic death, needing to make a job change, a trigger that caused an intense sexual assault memory. But the reason I'm sitting in my car crying is because my daughter just accidentally smacked me in the face. Well, it's really because she didn't listen to the 3 times I told her to be careful. And that was the final straw. Because it represents to me how I feel in almost every aspect of my life: nobody is listening to me. Nobody sees I'm there anymore than they see a rock they accidentally stumble over. 
And it's moments like this that belly dance becomes even more important. Because when I perform, people DO see me. I've had people search me out after a show to pay me kind compliments. However they phrase it up, the message I get is: "I see you." For those 3-5 minutes, I wasn't invisible and I had a "voice." And that will help carry me through the rest and give me strength to go on. To give my daughter a hug and tell her my eye is fine. To make decisions about work that need to be made. To help support friends who are feeling our co-worker's loss. To help support my family members through their struggle. To be the kind of person I want to be instead of the person society tries to tell me that I am. To take that final straw and toss it aside. I'm stronger than that straw!
Yeah, I get all that from belly dance and I thank the gods for it!

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Healing Power of Belly Dance

I'm a firm believer that art-in whatever form-can be a powerful healing agent. Have you ever read a poem that simultaneously destroyed you and put you back together?  Gazed at a painting and felt like your soul was comforted in a way it never would have been otherwise?  Heard a song that made you cry because it was like the composer wrote it just for you?  Watched a movie with a character or scene that just nailed how you were feeling?  I think we've all been there.  And I think dance can do that as well.

I have been moved to tears while watching ballet and modern dance performances.  And whenever I watch belly dancing I usually have a huge, stupid grin on my face because it just brings me so much joy. And that in itself is pretty amazing.  But I've noticed something even more meaningful in belly dance.  Beyond the way it makes me feel better about myself and allows me artistic expression.  It is healing me.  It is healing me in a way that I don't think anything else could have because of the unique femininity of belly dance.  

You all know I'm pagan, so I'm going to wax a little spiritual here.  My spiritual beliefs place a great importance on the power of the feminine.  Women, sisterhood, the life cycle. Belly dance by its very nature fosters these things.  And it's empowering.  In paganism, there is no idea of the female body being sinful or wicked.  The female body is celebrated.  Part of my conversion to Paganism has invovled learning how to love my body.  This is a tricky thing for most women raised in a cultural and religious environment like mine. I have another challenge to overcome in trying to love my body.  Sadly, it's a challenge that is all too common.  In the United States, 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.  I am a sexual assault survivor.  It's not something I talk about much.  Almost never, in fact. But there have been recent circumstances that have reminded me I have something to share that might help someone else. 

In allowing myself to experience belly dance, I've learned to love my body again.  This body that has felt so guilty about what was done-I'm reclaiming it in a way that is very physical.  And while the counseling and prayer and intellectual reasoning have all helped-those are all very intangible things. Belly dance is happening with a combination of body and soul.  These feminine based movements are bringing me back to everything that is truly me.  No guilt.  No violation.  No shame.  It can never change what was done to me.  But it eases the pain in a way that nothing else has.  I didn't expect that.  I'm surprised by it.  And I'm thankful for it.  I'm curious if anyone else has experienced that as well.  I wonder if it is something we should try to bring to crisis centers that serve women who have survived similar violations in the hope it might help somehow.  I feel strongly that it would.  Yes, we sruvived.  But we deserve to thrive!  

And because this song kept shuffling into my mix while I was writing, I'll share it here:

Friday, April 17, 2015

What do Daredevil and Belly Dance Have in Common?

I love them both.

And we're done!

Not really, of course.  I mean, I do love them both-but I'm far from being done.  Indulge my geekery for a moment or two, if you will.  Because I am a geek.  And sometimes geeky things really inspire me.  For crying out loud, I named my daughter after my favorite character from the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  (Had she been a boy, she would have been named "Parker" because of my love of Spiderman although "Murdock" was on the list as well, for reasons you are about to see.)  The first time I watched The Avengers I damn near cried for sheer joy.  So when Netflix released an original series based on the Marvel hero, Daredevil, it was sort of inevitable that I would see it.  I binge watched 4 episodes in one sitting and completed the remaining 9 episodes within a couple days.  The writing, acting, and cinematography are truly amazing.  Seriously, if you haven't seen it-you need to make it the next series you watch.  (Disclaimer: it is VERY violent.  Do not let any children under the age of 16 see this.  I had to look away for some of it!)

For those who aren't familiar with the comic, Daredevil is the story of a lawyer named Matt Murdock who was blinded as a young boy.  Rather than let this hold him back, he utilizes his other senses and trains until he becomes AWESOME.  And by AWEWSOME, I mean he uses his heightened senses and training to fight crime in an effort to keep his city and the people in it safe.  

So, how in hell's kitchen does this relate to belly dance?  Well, I've come to realize that most of us experience something at some point in our lives that feels about as wonderful as radioactive chemicals in your eye.  Divorce, illness, insecurity, financial catastrophe, violence, betrayal, or the death of a loved one.  We've all been "blinded" in some way.  Sometimes by our own actions and sometimes by the actions of another.  But I truly believe that those very hardships create a strength elswhere in our characters.  A heightened sense of compassion.  A drive to help others.  An attitude of positive risk-taking. An appreciation for life and the brevity of it.  A deeper creativity.  I've experienced some of life's heartache, too.  And it has helped lead me to belly dance.  I have limitations as a dancer, a writer, a parent, a human.  But I have strengths in those areas, too.  It's easy to focus on what we are lacking rather than the ways we are talented and strong.  

Ultimately, Daredevil and Belly Dance have taught me similar things.  We can choose to focus on the "blindness" in our lives or we can enhance our strengths to bring something good to ourselves and those around us.  To make our "city" a better place. 

And did I mention the lead actor in the series is super hot? 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Racism and Belly Dance

Let me start by saying this:  Racism has no place anywhere for any reason.  Ever.  There is only one race and that is the human race.  With that in mind, I want to address an article I read a few months ago that really, really, really, REALLY bothered me.  It was an article posted on entitled:  "Why I can't stand white belly dancers."  The title alone is offensive.  Oh, you can't stand white belly dancers? Loki's balls!  You know what I can't stand?  I can't stand child abuse.  I can't stand human starvation.  I can't stand horrible violence.  I can't stand sexual assault.  I can't stand poverty.  And I guess I just can't stand a petty statment like "I can't stand white belly dancers."  

Deep breath.

I like to give people the benefit of doubt, as a rule.  So I thought maybe this was a tongue in cheek kind of article.  *Spoiler alert!* It's not. 

The author of the article cries "cultural appropriation."  Now, she is entitled to her opinion, of course.  But I think it's a dangerous one for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, it's hateful.  Whether she truly is or not-it makes her sound racist and that is always dangerous.  Secondly, cultural appropriation is a very real issue and one to be taken seriously.  Folks, I'm a practicing Pagan so if you think I don't feel the twinges of cultural appropriation every single time a major holiday rolls around then you can think again.  But I always stop myself and remember something I wish this author had thought about-cultural appropriation requires intent.  Yes, Christianity absorbed Pagan customs and rituals into their holy days in an effort to erradicate Paganism.  But that was thousands of years ago.  The Christians who want to do Easter egg hunts today aren't trying to erradicate my religious beliefs!  The more the merrier, I say.
So, the fact that I'm white and I belly dance doesn't mean I'm trying to take over any aspect of Middle Eastern culture.  Belly dance-like all dance-is an art form.  Most artists want to see others take part and add their flavor to it.  In this way, art doesn't just survive-it thrives.  It lives.  It is beautiful!  Should we forbid anyone of non-European descent from performing Mozart or ballet?  Should only those of American heritage participate in modern dance?  Should only English men be allowed to recite the words of Shakespeare?  Should we divide our art this way?  Should we restrict certain art forms to certain goegraphical borders?  Should we make art racist or xenophobic?
Of course not!  Particularly in belly dance where there IS a cultural history of sisterhood and strength we should honor that tradition by supporting each other rather than tearing one another down.  I stand up for all belly dancers whatever their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or body type.  To do otherwise is missing the point. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

What's in a Name?

When I signed up for my first belly dancing class last year, there was a line on the form that asked if I had a dancer name I would prefer to go by.  As an ex-Mormon and currently practicing Pagan, I'm familiar with the concept of using names to show commitment or a kind of rebirth.  As a writer, though, names are sort of the bane of my existence.  I always stress over what to call my characters because I want the name to be dripping with meaning.  And it has to sound right, too.  I fancy my audience will understand-just from her name-that my protagonist is a strong, fierce woman with a sweet sensitivity that makes it just a little bit hard for her to be a bounty hunter.  Or whatever.  (I've never actually created a charcter like that, but you get the idea-right?)  When one self imposes that kind of pressure to find just the right name, names begin to get stressful.  I think the only time I didn't get unduly worried about a name was when I was pregnant with my daughter and that's just because I already knew who she would be named after. 
Naturally, as soon as I saw that ominous line on the registration form, my mind began racing.  About 5 seconds later, I opted to leave the line blank.  I was too busy worrying about my first belly dancing class to invest the time and energy I knew I would want to invest when it came to choosing a dancing name. And honestly, I didn't know how long my foray into belly dancing would last.  Maybe I wouldn't need to worry about it and I could go back to figuring out what to name my 18th century constable in vampire infested London.  (That one is a real character.)  
Fast forward to several months later and I realized it was probably time to give myself a belly dancing name.  When I was asked to join a performing troupe I knew I really wanted to commit.  Dance had become such a major part of my life and in a way, I did feel reborn.  Rising from the ashes kind of reborn.  But every time I tried to come up with something, it just seemed off somehow.  None of those gorgeous Arabic or Greek names seemed to fit my personality either onstage or off.  I was leaning toward something Nordic, but again I couldn't seem to find anything that fit.  I did find one name that I ended up loving...but it seemed a better match for my daughter.  I asked advice from my literary friends and was given some great suggestions, but the ones I really liked were in use locally.  
And then, it fell into my lap: Disa.  Norse for "spirited."  In Greek, it means "double or twice" which makes me think of both my daughter (who is very much a little double of me) and my life after divorce.  The root of the name, Dis, is Nordic for goddess.  And also the name of Thorin Oakenshield's sister, (the mother of Fili and Kili) for all you fellow Tolkien fans. That tickled me right down to my nerdy little Hobbit toes. But the best part is that my teacher's name is Heidi.  So, the last part of her name gets incorporated into my dancer name. Disa. It is perfect for me.  And it came when I least expected to find it.  So I guess the moral of my story is, the right dancer name will just come to you.  How did you come by your dancer name? 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Allow Myself to Introduce...Myself

A smidge over a year ago, I VERY nervously attended my first belly dancing class. I wasn't sure what to expect but I don't think I ever imagined that a year later I would be part of a performing troupe and that belly dancing would become such a huge part of my life.  Even more surprising was that my daughter would also become involved as well.  It has been great for me, great for her, and great for us together.  Since writing is a huge part of my life as well, I decided to convey my thoughts about this journey my daugher and I have started into the art, culture, and spirituality of belly dance.
Manners would dictate that I introduce myself and my daughter.  As a writer and student filmmaker I always find the life stories of people to be fascinating.  Likewise, I realize that it may be a bit boring to some so feel free to skip ahead.  :)
I was born and raised in Utah.  The oldest of four children, my parents always encouraged my vivid imagination and interest in dance-particularly ballet.  Additionally, I was given the opportunity to study tap, jazz, gymnastics, and modern dance as well as things less exciting to me such as softball and piano.  I continued to study ballet and modern into my college years and also a bit of flamenco and ballroom.  In a non-dance sphere, I have also studied literature, history, and film.  I was married for 7 years and during that time I had the opportunity to live in Florida and Rhode Island.  My ex-husband and I have one child together.  My pregnancy was difficult-the labor experience even more so.  But it was all worth it to have my beautiful Willow in my life.  Her father and I divorced when she was 18 months old.  Although my ex-husband and I are still on good terms, he lives on the East Coast and Willow and I are back in Utah.  I'm very much a single mother and it's difficult.  But also a lot of fun and it's good to be near my family.  My life has not taken the shape I thought it would and there have been some very difficult times.  But I'm a better person for all of it.  And I hope it has made me a better mother.  Willow is 8 years old now.  She too has studied ballet, jazz, and gymnastics.  She is also a talented little artist, actress, and writer.  She appears to have inherited my wild imagination and love of books and movies.  She started belly dancing about 6 weeks ago and has become as excited about it as I am.
So now that the introductions have been made, let's begin!