A journey with Sun Fyre,
Belly dancer, shamanic practioner, artist, card reader, Celtic Gypsy…..
Sun Fyre with Cinzia and Deirdre at JoY, October 2012
A few months ago, I announced that I had been offered a fabulous opportunity to perform with Tribal Belly Dance troupe, the Gypsy Caravan Dance Company International which was covered by the local press as a significant big break so to speak. The interest in such a matter is that I came to dance in my late thirties, haven been written off as a dancer by my childhood ballet teacher at age eight, and now at 47 years of age I was to be performing on stage with a professional and internationally recognised and acclaimed international tribal belly dance troupe founded in the USA!
So obviously belly dance is different to ballet, and tribal belly dance is a variation of the art form that many people may not be familiar with. TBD radiates from the core centre, the belly and involves isolations, shimmies and undulations that we look for in belly dance, but it puts the emphasis on moves and movements that compliment and celebrate the group, the community, tribe as its focus over the individual. This means that this form in its purest sense is done as part of a group and is a form of improvisation, using a shared dance language that has a tendency towards the rhythmic and regular, which makes it a great form of clear communication between the dancers and their audience. This often has a very mesmerising quality as dancers move together in unison, as one entitiy, connecting into unspoken energies and an exciting dynamic that can be felt and often not articulated through words.
The upshot is also that even if the same music is danced to with the same group, it will never be the same two times over. This means that the dancers are required to learn the language of this dance competently, and with confidence become both a leader and follower in the dance to engage in the art form of shared improvisation. Obviously this takes time and effort, but is all part of the journey and an awful lot of fun too! The dance becomes a democracy in action whereby one realises that no one is more than another, all have an equal part to play to connect to themselves, each other, the music. The dance flows and by necessity, requires the ego to leave the building so to speak, as its very existence challenges the ego in its requirement for every dancer to be completely present, realizing it is about the whole group. This makes an organic and flowing art form that is totally present and of the moment. The energy involved in being part of that as a dancer or witness is one that is full of vitality and life energy!
The first thing to say that in relation to the event, things didn’t go quite according to plan and actually the events that unfolded put our improvisational skills to the test across the board, i.e. both on and off the dance floor. The troupe leader and director of GCDC, Paulette Rees Denis hit difficulties entering the UK from her native USA and a paperwork issue led to her not gaining access. Seemingly a disaster as Paulette was a headliner act with a weekend of sold out dance workshops with people coming from over the UK and beyond especially to learn from her.
I just recall the heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach when she called me to tell me the news. I was already in Yorkshire a day ahead of the event and now in a state of bewilderment and confusion regarding the implications of all this. However, I got to meet with Paulette who passed on the teaching notes and information and she gave her instructions that another member of her International Troupe, Cinzia from Italy (also a professional dancer in her own right and leader of the influential tribal dance outfit Les Soeurs Tribales), who was scheduled to co-teach and perform would be flying in soon and stepping into her position as teacher. And with fellow dance teacher and GC trainee, Deirdre Macdonald of Troon, Glasgow, we would now be working as Cinzia’s assistants in class as well as performing with her on stage on the Saturday night. Our meeting took place in a Thai Restaurant in Saltaire in Yorkshire where this international dance festival JoY was being held. Interestingly enough, even though we were dressed in regular clothing, our waitress was drawn to us AND enquired about what we did. She was curious to the energy she was feeling and expressed utter amazement at the shape we were in and youthfulness of our visages for women in our 40’s/50’s. Yes this has to be yet another benefit; it keeps you fit, strong and youthful.
We were to be representing this beautiful dance in a professional capacity even though at this point, I had never met Cinzia. For me this would be a true test of the power of tribal belly dance and my own ability to communicate through and with this dance at such a high level and profile event.
This is where the Warrior comes in. It may seem strange to some that I am not only very involved with belly dance but also the healing arts, specifically shamanism and card reading. Having explained the nature of TBD and how one has to be in the moment in trust of oneself and fellow dancers, to be present and confident, it can be said that taking part in this dance is actually beneficial to those wishing to be both physically healthy and mentally too.
In ancient Toltec Wisdom, being a warrior is about being able to face one’s fears, and not necessarily defined by the more common association, the desire to slay others. A warrior is a one who has the awareness to recognise their own demons within and face them taking appropriate action to do so. A commonly shared fear is that of not being good enough. By embracing the power of this dance with self-commitment, trust, faith, confidence, self belief and self-reliance, it equips one not only to dance harmoniously, but move through life with more ease and grace, learning how to love unconditionally.
In the physical sense this means getting really connected to our bodies and how we move them, repeating the movements until they are in our minds, bodies and souls, which has a fabulous trance and meditative edge to it. It involves self-respect, accepting ourselves as we are and not comparing or degrading our efforts and souls which brings about an inner peace that transcends the ego and helps us heal at many levels, as well as recognising and respecting others in the same way.
So how did it work out? And what about the performance?
Yes it worked out well. Because we are committed to this form of dance and our personal development, each of us, both as teachers and students embraced the opportunities this event presented to share, learn, and grow. Though we three, myself, Deirdre, and Cinzia had not danced OR taught professionally together before, we were able to present an improvised set with the minimum of preparation that this event presented. We felt a connection and expressed it in an unforgettable weekend of dance.
Sun Fyre, card readings, shamanic practioner, tribal belly dancer, artist.