I pulled in my driveway about an hour ago after the five and a half hour drive back from Charlottesville, Virginia. Long drives are the bees knees. They give me time to process any experiences I have had and make plans for the future. Today, I had a lot of processing to do and accomplished very little planning. Cultivation of community is weighing heavily on my mind.
This weekend was all about reliving the memory of my first TribOriginal and peering into the future of what the community can become.
In 2009 after only 6 months of belly dancing, I headed into the forest of Hendersonville, NC to experience my first dance festival. I won’t bore you with the details. The previous post covers that experience. Jump on over there if you are curious. I came out of the weekend on fire for dance. I made a goal that one day, I would share the stage with the beautiful dancers I had trained with and watched all weekend. A few short years later, TribO was no more.
You can imagine how excited I was when I heard this event was coming back for one more go. It wasn’t the possibility to meet my goal that thrilled me, it was the thought of joining the women I love and admire in an intimate setting in which we could bond, eat awesome food, and bounce ideas around. Performing was an after though.
The focus this year was on community. In that spirit, very few of us performed. I’ve had a busy summer and chose my piece a few days before I drove up to Virginia. I grabbed a simple costume and threw it in a bag. I listened to my music on repeat (as we all do) and tried to come up with my character. I drew a blank.
When I dance, I’m either at the restaurant, at a Comic Con, or exhibiting skills at a public event. As I attempted to plan my piece, I realized that nothing was off limits. I didn’t have to be nerdy, peppy, or possibly the only representation of belly dance that the audience might ever see. I could just be me. So, what is it I wanted to say?
The Release I So Badly Needed…
Words do not come easily to me. I’m an introvert who often pretends to be an extrovert and find myself floundering to communicate all of the things in my head. My mind races faster than I can talk. My thoughts come out with little context or sounding jumbled (hence why I like writing). When I dance, these issues are diminished. I use the movement to convey all of those things I’m thinking or feeling. I can let go in the moment and enjoy the experience we (those watching and I) are having together. It’s a moment that will never happen again.
An idea began forming in my head. I dance to share, why not represent that through dance? We’re all in the space together. Let’s invoke that beautiful feeling. So I did. Little did I know that was what I needed. I came off the “stage” (the open floor, nothing fancy) and felt free, elated, more like myself than I have in a long time. I was not the only performer to have this experience either evening. TribO is where you can be vulnerable with no fear of judgement or reprisal.
When you’re out in the woods far from civilization (ok, like a 10 minute drive), life seems to slow down. You disconnect from the phone and reconnect with those around you. We took classes together, ate together, and danced to the wee hours of the morning. Some of us even played D&D together (huge shout out to Paulo for DMing a game on the fly for 4 super tired, yet excited people). Notice the focus on all those statements, “we”. “I” fell away, the shared experience reigned. We connected with new friends and renewed friendships with vigor. We drank tea and ate tea snacks in a cabin, chatted about life on the front porch, took turns fawning over a bird, and enjoyed the genuineness of it all.
The back porch became the area where serious conversations occurred about life, the universe, and everything. We discussed current events, the state of the dance community, and what the future may hold. It was amazing and inspiring to hear other dancers perspectives on this. We were privileged to have dancers from multiple generations present at the event. The long term perspective of the older/more experienced (remember, some dancers started when they were very young) dancers reminded me that this has all happened before and will happen again. I and others are not the first to walk these paths, we won’t be the last. It is up to us to make sure we are educating the next generation in a way that does not to disservice to the dance. It is up to us to make sure we are learning about culture, experiencing it when and where we can, delving into the folklore and not just taking a class and then teaching it (I could go on and on about dancers who claim to know a thing after a 2 hour class or watching it on YouTube), understanding the nuances, and speaking about all of this to our students.
To Infinity and Beyond
What does the future of dance hold? Is it competitions and large festivals? Is it a meeting of the minds in the woods? Maybe its something else entirely. What it is not is a collective of individuals dancing to their own drum. It is a community as dysfunctional and gritty as it is. It’s up to each and every one of us to be the community member we want to meet. I am responsible for me and for my students. I will create the community I want to see. You can do the same.
If you would like to check out my performance, hop on over to my YouTube channel via the link below. Don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to my channel for additional performances and what not.