Sunday, January 23, 2011

Raqs Illuminaire!

Chris and I just returned from a wonderful, fascinating performance at the Byrd Theater.  It was called Raqs Illuminaire and was a belly dance extravaganza!  There were 10 different performances by about 20 performers.  I don't really know anything about belly dancing, so I can't go into technical details whatsoever, but I can say that we enjoyed it thoroughly.

My previous experience with belly dancing was pretty awesome - at the blessing way (a sort of spiritual baby shower) before Dylan's birth, a friend of mine belly danced for the assembled group.  This might seem like an odd gift unless you know (which I hadn't) that belly dancing was created to help women give birth!  The gyrations in the dance form are perfect for laboring women to help relieve pain and to work through the contractions.  Amazingly, when I was giving birth to Dylan, even though I'd been throwing up and having other intestinal issues the whole 12 hours previously, I was able to move my body in belly-dance-like movements, and it actually alleviated the pain!  I would gyrate and by the time I reach 180 degrees, the pain was beginning to subside.  I was astonished.  It made labor completely manageable.  I became a convert then and there!  But that was over 18 years ago, and I haven't done anything with it besides think about it every once in a while.

But now belly dancing is coming into my consciousness more and more lately.  My friend Peggy O'Neill has been talking to me about it for years.  She teaches it in town frequently and, in fact, I think is who taught my friend so long ago.  Then there's Linda Hollett, an artist friend of mine who has studied it for over 20  years.  Alice Warner, the wife of another artist friend, has also danced her entire adult life, I believe. 

After my show, Sacred Flesh, in October, two more belly dancers contacted me - Dawn Flores is a very cool woman who teaches Goddess Dancing at Unity at Byrd Park.  She asked me to come to the class so I could see what's going on around town.  It was a terrific class, very empowering and fun.

Khalima is the other woman who got in touch.  She asked me to teach a class at her studio, Illumination, on Naked Self Portraiture, so that's the genesis of that course.  She also sponsored the Red Tent Evening which took place at the last new moon.  And she's who produced the show, Raqs Luminaire today.

And then there's Heather Addley (who's quite an outstanding photographer herself!) who modeled for me the other day.  She came to the studio with her 2-year-old daughter.  I photographed them both.  It was a delightful session.  Seeing Heather with her daughter reminded me of my days as the mother of young kids.  At one point, both of them were nude, and Heather was nursing her daughter while holding her little bottom with a hand to keep her from falling off her lap and pulling Heather's breast with her!  The way Harper climbed all over her while Heather continued the flow of conversation uninterrupted was so familiar to me from my kids!  Then, for the moments when Harper was occupied, Heather would switch gears immediately and tune into her self and her body.  She moved with a belly dancers sensuousness, hand movements, gyrations - the whole thing.  It was gorgeous!  The images we got from that session were so exciting to me.  Chris is already making canvases for me to paint a couple of them.  Heather has a wonderful Birth Goddess figure, reminiscent of Venus von Willendorf and the Earth Mother she evokes.  Of course I'll post the images as I work on them!

But back to Raqs Luminaire!  Here's the description of it from the website along with a list of the performers who were in it:

Luminaire is a beautiful and genre-defying production produced by Khalima and explores the intersection of belly dance, music, theatre and magic. A process and exploration for not only the viewers, but for the performers themselves.

We welcome to the show local and regional performers of bellydance fusion and music.

Joining us on stage will be:
The Rogue Bellydance Collective
Leyla Nissa

Tina Batya on violin
That was one thing that impressed me today - though belly dance is quite a sensual dance form, this performance was certainly not about sex, as people sometimes tend to think belly dancing is.  Sensuality and love of the body, definitely.  There were gorgeous women of every size up there on stage moving their bodies, feeling the gifts God gave them.  One who impressed me the most was a large African American woman who moved with such grace and sensuality, I couldn't take my eyes off of her.  There was also a petite woman who was perhaps of Indian heritage who was quite a master.  She balanced a bowl on her head as she shook and turned and twirled the rest of her body.  She was quite skilled!  The first dance featured Leyla Nissa as a woman giving birth aided by her attendants, Hadara and Khalima.  Leyla Nissa had her own real baby in a sling on her belly whom she "birthed" during the dance.  That was a lovely way to start the performance to remind or teach people that that was the origin of the dance form.

Khalima and the only man in the show, LeVar Carter, did a fascinating piece about death at the end.  Each had on an elaborate mask at the beginning which reminded me of Egyptian lore.  They did some lovely dance together, replete with yoga and contact improvisation moves.  Then there was Spoon who came on stage dressed in black with green neon lights outlining her body and light sabers!   All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon.

I left feeling like maybe I should go take belly dancing so I can become more confident in how I move my body.  These women shone!  Their confidence and joy in movement was apparent.  I want me somma that!


  1. Wow, Susan! Thank you so much. Your words are so powerful. Working with you has been amazing, I look forward to knowing you for a very long time <3

  2. Thanks, Susan!!! Glad you enjoyed the show!!!