Susan's Blog

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spinning Song

So happy yesterday; Natty home and just bursting with his whispers and smiles. He seems so happy to be here, so happy to be. Oh, God, thank you. My own happiness felt like a sugar rush; a candy pink-colored indulgence. I knew I had to dance after dinner. I had to practice what we learned in Najmat’s class: abdominal posture and a new traveling step. But I was also in the mood to go free and wild, which meant veils.

These days what I love to do is mix and match a top and a skirt. This works really well because so many of my costumes are different shades of pink and lilac. Although it doesn’t look like a traditional Egyptian costume, it works because I bring all of it together by using accessories that match the top or the skirt. I chose my long, straight Safti skirt, which is just fuscia and silver, and a bedlah top with lots of fuscia, silver, and lilac beading and fringe. I wore one armband from the Safti outfit, to tie in with the skirt, and a gauntlet from a Pharaonics costume, which is made of sheer net and lots of pink and silver beading, so from a distance it looks like the beading is directly on your arm, like a tattoo.

I asked Ned to go to the car and get my first Natacha Atlas CD, because that stuff was pumping through my brain. Even though I’ve listened to it all ad nauseum, I am still obsessed with it. With Arabic music, just when you think you know what it’s going to do, it does something else, like a syncopated beat or a little trilling thing, or a very faint, deep male chanting like something out of the Aida tomb scene. It just fills my head and I see dark spaces with mosaic walls, silver candlesticks. Or I imagine dervishes, or Petite Jamilla, or Erzulie from the Middle East club doing paddle turns.

The abdominal posture is so difficult, but it is a joy, too. Naj taught me something I had never known before, in my three years of bellydance: you pull in at the lowest part of your belly, and then way up with the rest, also pulling in. This gives your belly that concave, S-shaped look that bellydancers have, like shifting sand dunes. I was ecstatic to see my profile looking like that, my multiple-birth-stretched torso looking smooth for moments at a time, when I had it right. It is one thing to stand in front of a mirror and do it. It is quite another to do dance moves and stay like that. But if you do, you achieve perfect isolations. That is how they all do it. The more absurdly lifted you can be, with the entire core pulled in and way up, the more your hips will look like they can just detach from you, just roll away on their own! (Now I practice this posture discreetly all the time, sucking in the lower belly, shoulders back, etc. Even on my bike.)

I put on “Ezzay” which has some Indian influences, and there’s a part near the beginning that sounds like parts of a Hebrew prayer. It fascinates me the way the Hebrew and the Arabic music and culture intersect and where they don’t. I get a taste of the exotically foreign and a sip of the comfortably familiar at the same time.

Ezzay just demands veil and spinning. It is very fast-paced, swelling, and orchestral in its sound. It swirls around you like a strong wind, so that you feel you have to turn and move quickly. Visualizing out-of-control wind helps me move correctly with the piece. And last night I found that I was not spotting at all, the way they teach you in ballet; instead, I was closing my eyes and spinning, just trying to remain upright and maintain my orientation. I would just spin and spin with my veil high, until the room would start to tip, and then I would stop, eyes closed, and try not to fall over. Ned thought it was funny, but the thing is, I was really beginning to get it. I was not sick at all, I only had a mild headache from it. What I’ve read about dervish spinning is that eventually your inner ear adjusts and you don’t even get dizzy. I actually felt some strange sensations that were kind of like being high.

I also tried paddle turning, and I figured that one out, at last. You stretch your arms out wide holding the veil in front of you. As you turn, you tilt one arm up with the other down, as if they were part of the same paddle. At the same time, you look over the shoulder that is going up, and then the other, so your head goes back and forth. You are paddling, turning, and moving your head all at once, and you try to go faster and faster, throwing your arms up then down so that the veil swirls in one direction, then the other, but also hugging your body.

I knew I had it right after awhile because it all felt automatic, and I was less and less in control of my spin. I was spinning around the room this way, and it was exhilarating. The loss of control while moving was so exciting, I just kept doing it. I was like a little kid again, spinning and spinning without worrying where it would lead. And I did not get sick!

Ned said it looked choppy, which annoyed me, but I knew I had gotten it right, and that over time it will smooth out, like one’s bellydance belly.

1 comment

Sounds wonderful…both Nat’s happiness and yours.

— added by Mom to JBG on Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 5:53 pm

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