What is this? Etang and I had arrived at a point where we needed to stop and ask, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” So much had happen in so little time. The idea was sparked last November during a DVD shoot in Baltimore. In December and January we started laying the groundwork for what is now Your Body Raks. Since then, we have jumped through a litany of the governmental bureaucratic hoops. Became networking divas. Done nearly a dozen performances. Completed a business course. Taught two weekly classes. Developed new choreographies and designed new costumes. Created a new logo, motto, website and promotional materials, and set up business systems. We also began to prepare for the 2012 summer session of Girls Raks. And we lived a bit of life on the side, nursing partners, getting sick and well again ourselves, somehow paying the light bill, finding new roommates, hosting family gatherings and sometimes sleeping. Yes, it takes a lot out of a person to do this dance thing, completely.
By the time we sat in the morning plenary session of the Dance/USA conference in late June, we were thoroughly overwhelmed by it all. What we didn’t know is that we were about to receive a major injection of wonder, connection and hope. Right off the bat, the keynote speaker, Simon Sinek, challenged us to revisit the reason we started
Your Body Raks. With a focus on the big “WHY,”-the passion, the origin story—we could then use it as a source of inspiration for ourselves and for others. Attending Arts Marketing in the Digital Age, Dance and Community Arts and the Power of Documentation workshops gave us fresh ideas and insights. And imagine sitting in a workshop about the healthcare of dancers on the very day that the U.S. Supreme Court released their ruling on the Obama healthcare plan. It was fascinating and immensely helpful.
And then there were the people! Over 450 dance professionals from throughout California and the country called for some furious card passing and rich conversation. We seized the opportunity to connect with Bay Area dance notables about upcoming projects. And what do you know? There were other bellydancers there, too. The precious time spent comparing notes about our careers and hopes for the future (outside of a bellydance event) was golden. We need more of that!
As bellydancers we were welcomed into a broader community of dancers. And yes, for us that was no small act of validation. As we were treated to a series of performances ranging from ballet, modern and plenty of folk dances from Cambodia, India and many other countries, I couldn’t help but feel that yes, this was my community too. Like any community, it has its imperfections, controversies and struggles. I accept that. In fact, because of my sense of belonging, I feel obliged to add whatever talents and knowledge I have to that struggle.
The questions of what does it means to be a dancer in this body, at this time and in this community were not silenced by the Dance/USA conference. Where we go from here will depend on how we apply what we have learned. But more importantly, we are energized and inspired to move forward with bellydance, body justice and joy!
PS: We want to send out a special note of thanks to Wayne Hazzard and Dancers’ Group for assisting in our participation in the Dance/USA conference.
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