It’s the last day of 2020 and I’m sitting in my pjs writing this post first on lined paper, with a hot cup of tea next to me, on a small table. I’m trying to reflect on the year we just had and it’s difficult, because we are in a second lockdown and it feels like we’re not quite there, in letting 2020 go. How can we? It’s a pandemic that has no set time frame like the count down we have to midnight, and the calendar switches over to 2021.
Like many, I’m sure 2020 has been a mixed bag of good and bad. It’s been a rollercoaster we didn’t expect to be on, but found ourselves screaming surprise, delight and outrage, but we hoped and anticipated the ride would finally stop. Well here we are, slowing down and waiting for our cat to stop, to raise the bar, step out and go about our lives. For some of us, perhaps there won’t be much that has changed. Life continues with little disruptions, either because they have planned well, adapted with relative ease or are oblivious to the world around them. For myself, I cannot be the same. I have been fortunate to have kept my job throughout this time, as well as, have had generally good health physically. My mental health, though, has been challenged because I’m am naturally sensitive to others’ emotions and emotions have been extra strong this year, both in general in-person passing and especially those online.
The online emotions are the ones that have hurt the most, especially those related to a dance I have been connected to for over fifteen years. The words belly dance, tribal dance, fusion, folklore, shabbi, raks sharqi, etc. have been thrown about, discussed, ridiculed, based. Some of the bashing came onto my Facebook after friends commented or Facebook thought I needed to know. Regardless, the venom and deconstructive discussions were disheartening and made me retreat and question everything about this dance. Cultural appropriation and racism were the two biggest “discussions” or thread that were also highlighted by general news which just accentuated emotions I absorbed of others. These are subjects too big to discuss in a small blog but they are always something I keep in mind when I perform, and/or teach dances of cultures I was never born into. I can only do my best to respect the origins of the dances I have connected to but I know I’m not perfect. Any dance for is a life long study and not all of use do it as a profession. I teach at recreational level and must try to provide context and history of the dance forms while recognizing that the majority of my students are there to try something new, get exercise and/or socialize with friends. Sidenote, both Bollywood and Belly dance are natural socializing type dances. The dances I teach and continue to learn more about are wonderful and I’m grateful that I have had the chance to learn, perform and teach. I am far from an expert and will pass on the knowledge where I can, and direct people to those who have deeper knowledge, always. However, I am tired now of feeling like I did something wrong by falling in love with these dances that were shared with love with me.
I am at the end of the rollercoaster ride of 2020, not wanting to dance because the community has become bickering children and forgetting that dance evolves. I’m not saying ignore the roots. How can you ignore roots that are as strong, watered and cared for, not only by those of the culture but by those who devote a lifetime to the study of the culture and dance?
And this is where I stand right now. I need to step back and water the roots and let my little tree grow next to the beautiful tree of origin, so I can be a better dancers, a better person and add some positive oxygen to a suffocating world of hate. I wan to raise the bar, step off the rollercoaster and start fresh and regain my balance.
How will 2021 unfold? For me, I will be hosting one last Layali Almaz (May 14, 15, 16, 2021) intensive workshop weekend, be it online, in-person and/or a combination of the two. I will be minimizing my teaching and performances. I will be exploring some other artistic ventures I place to the wayside for far too long, like my photography. I will continue enjoying and growing with my day job. I will spend more time in nature and breathe in each moment as a gift, to learn, enjoy and/or grow from. I will regain my work-life-dance balance after this rollercoaster ride.
I hope 2021 brings more joy than sorrow and you let in your inner dancer or creative person shine.
Happy New Year from yours truly,