Saturday, April 21, 2007

Goddess of the Dance

Image of Taletha belly-dancing is courtesy of All That Dance in Louisville.
Tonight's post is inspired by an amazing day spent at the Goddess Show in Brighton.

The belly dancers were so good, that Lou, Kate and I have decided we must learn....

Across the deserted square, drums pound the humid air. On the breeze, you can hear the faint sparkling of tiny bells, and in the dim light you sense, rather than see, the women dance. The drums are like a heartbeat, they draw you in, they hypnotize. You move toward them to join the small crowd, until emerging from the dim light, the silhouette of seven dancers appear.

Their arms are raised, bent at the elbows. They turn small circles, half-smiles on their lips as their hips flick from side to side in time with the heavy drums. Not one of the women looks at you as you draw closer. They lower and raise their gaze in time with the turning swoop of their arms as they dance.

One woman steps forward, becomes the centre of a loose, pulsating arc of dancers. Her smile grows broader as she dances forward and back in little steps. She raises her arms and loses her hands in the dark curls of her hair. Her waist gyrates in an impossible circle as she leans further and further backwards in time with the beat, then forward once more. The tiny golden coins covering the scarf tied tight over her generous hips shiver light chimes into the hot air. The scant light of the lanterns, scattered around the circle of dancers, reflect in her eyes. She moves her head like a serpent from side to side.

The other dancers spin in a graceful half-circle away from her, never missing a step in time. Then two dancers shimmy to her side, then two again and two again, until the seven dancers close into a circle. Their backs are to the audience. Their hips move in perfect time. The dancers slowly raise their arms again, until horizontally, they first touch, and then hold the hand of the next woman. The drums grow louder. Slowly, the women begin to step forward in time, closing the circle tighter and tighter as their hands slide up to the elbows of their neighbour. The circle slowly begins to turn. You begin to feel dizzy as the faces of the dancers blur.

None of the women are smiling now. The drums sound louder and louder. The sound builds into a frenzied crescendo. The women stop spinning. The eyes of the dancers do not leave each other as they step on the spot, shoulders writhing. As if in answer to a question you have not yet summoned the courage to ask, the women begin to make a low sound, a kind of tuneless humming. The drumming speeds up once more. As one, the women thrust forward, leading with their chests. They lunge on every fourth beat and each time they do, the chant grows louder. They grow closer and closer to the centre of the circle, to each other.

The drums are so loud, so fast, they make your head spin. The women call out higher and higher, louder and louder, pulling each other closer. They are barely inches away from one another now. You feel sweat flow down the side of your face, the back of your neck, the base of your spine. You begin to think your heart may explode. Just at that moment the drums stop. The women throw their arms above their heads, breaking the circle and coming to an abrupt and final halt.

You clap with the rest of the crowd, a little dazed, your smile a little nervous, a little tight. You decide to make your way back to the hotel. The high-pitched calls of the dancing women follow you, then die away, as you cross the square.

Behind you, breaking the sudden silence, the drums begin again and the women start to dance once more.

No comments: