Ever since I let the dance genie out of the bottle, I didn’t think it would ever be contained again. It never occurred to me that it might become maimed or even killed.
I released the genie during my first year in college. Despite paralyzing shyness, my college friends egged me on until I “danced” a really bad rendition of Madonna. (The pop singer and dancer, not the mother of Christ.) I’m pretty sure my moves looked more like an awkwardly slutty white-man shuffle.
My dancing evolved over time. The dance lessons I took in my late twenties did wonders to that end: ballet, jazz, ballroom, bellydance…
There was nothing like dancing: connecting spirit and body to music like a moving meditation. It became an integral part of my identity. And despite my shyness, I began to perform and learned that my dancing connected with audiences too. Talk about intoxicating!
Over the past 20+ years, I’ve been part of a folkloric dance troupe with a repertoire that spans from North Africa up through the Caucasus Mountains and east to India. It’s a lot of territory to cover but it’s been intellectually stimulating and has offered up insights into the various cultures in the region that I would have likely never learned without the experience of this troupe.
But over time, I began to notice that people from my own culture didn’t really connect with the dancing which bothered me. It also bothered me that women from the cultures we covered weren’t permitted to dance in public.
I was thrilled when tribal dance and fusion bellydance came onto the scene. These forms teased out elements from folkloric movements and costuming to combine them in novel ways that weren’t tied to any region or music. I knew I wanted to move in that direction. My troupe sisters felt little but disdain toward these “Frankendances” and there was little other opportunity viable for me to pursue this passion so I put it out of my mind and returned my attention to my folkloric troupe.
But over the years, I felt my dance genie losing its grip on me. I came to dread rehearsals. Then, I had to remind myself to smile when performing which had never been a problem before. It seems that I danced dance out of my system. That’s what I told myself.
The harder truth is that I think I killed my genie by not doing what I needed to do to follow my passion. Instead of figuring out how I could make this dance hybrid a reality for me, I shut the door on it. How was I to know it would suffocate the genie?
In 2019, I hope to resuscitate my passion for dance, if possible. The disconnect with that genie feels like a disconnect with my identity. It’s a dead place on my psyche that hasn’t quite putrefied so there might still be time. The first step is to leave the familiarity of folkloric dance behind and do something radical, like bellydancing to punk music. Could that be possible? I don’t have to perform anymore but I do have to feel the passion. Life is flat and meaningless without it. What’s the point in that?