|In Hawaian, Kalani Hanua
means heaven and earth. Indeed, this remote area on the Big Island of
Hawaii, was a perfect setting for Delilah's 1995 Summer Solstice retreat.
From Germany, Canada and from every region of the United States,
twenty-four dancers and musicians gathered together to experience a
week-long exploration of "Dance with Elements". Evolving
from a continual investigation of "Dancing in Nature",
Delilah planned to focus on the most basic and intrinsic substances,
Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Ether. She opened the retreat by stating
"I will introduce elements and forms of dance, and I stand with
you to explore, examine, test and ask more questions." together
with guest teachers Z-Helene, Armando and Sulyman, we began our quest.
Z-Helene wrote, "More
just another belly dancing event, this retreat had the potential to
another layer of reality the subterranean one that is usually
hidden behind the thick veil of matter. I had never considered that the
internal experience of the element could be the outer form of the dance
itself. It is this aspect in particular that developed on the Hawaii
retreat. Though more attention was given to how something felt, I always
had a willingness to be seen, a sharing of the personal to the viewer, so
that the experience was not just mine, but ours, the
|The raw beauty of our
location became a source of inspiration.
"With a silken mantle of
soft rain enveloping my arms, I stand in front of a Mango tree. Its
leathery dark green leaves hide the delicately blushed fruit, anticipation
bursting like sunshine in my mouth.
I see a circle of rainbow-veiled
dancers moving in quiet communion to the rhythms of their breath.
The fiery fluid rock of Kiluea
rushes to the sea. The acrid smell of newly formed earth catches in my
throat. A chain of bright dancers; rubies, topaz, carnelion and gold
displayed on velvet black lava. Turning, a precious kaleidoscope of
A rolling six-eight affects my
walking and standing moments. An emerald lake sings to me, the water
nourishing my skin and my spirit, bathing me in affection."
These Images from Delilah's
retreat have become hyper-real, a synesthesia of experiences. Creatively
invigorating, the retreat offered me an affirmation of why I dance. It is
the strength of sensations, a blending and heightening of awareness that
elevates the dancer into a magical being, sharing with the audience a
perception of music and timelessness.
|Each day Steve Flynn shared a
specific meditation and breathing technique, and Armando suggested a
musical rhythm appropriate for each element. Participants brought costumes
created to reflect any or all of the elements and Delilah held a simple
contest to honor their gorgeous designs.
The group was large enough that
there were two houses each with its own kitchen area and large studio area
exclusively set aside for Delilah's retreat. Decorated with veils and wall
hangings, one became the dance space, the other, reserved for music
lessons. In the evenings, the music studio was transformed into
"los Cabrones Cafe Cucaracha" where spontaneous
jam-sessions, easy conversation and a general party atmosphere prevailed.
Sometimes quiet, sometimes lively it was always entertaining.
|The day started with Delilah
leading the group in a grounding and centering exercise, exploring
gravity, contraction and expansion. She finished the class with an
exciting group dance "Circle Beladi, a birthing and reclaiming
dance", inspiring to watch, it was even more stimulating to perform.
Armando played as everyone joined hands and danced. In the afternoon
Z-Helene taught a choreographed solo piece titled "Earthdance"
using a variety of step combinations.
Judylyn Duba expresses the unity
of feeling achieved on this retreat; "With magic and serendipity a
mystical tapestry was woven.
|The magic threads were the
beauty and stark power of the landscape. The black lava contrasted with
the lush vegitation of the tropics and the beauty of the sea. The
serendipity was the gathering of this particular group of women and men,
each seeming to have a special voice for one, or for all. Armando and
Sulyman gave us the music to weave our tapestry, touching each other with
our uniqueness and deepening the power of dance."
||The exploration began with an
exhilarating workout in a class Delilah called "hot hips" witch
was perfect inspiration for the field trip to Kilauea crater. Looking like
a scene from "Lacho Drom" the group treckked up the road decked
out in costumes and veils, playing instuments as they walked among dazed
tourists. The sulfuric air was sharp, but it didn't prevent Delilah from
jumping into action once the Park Rangers gave permission to move past the
warning signs onto a gleaming spot of black lava sand. She pulled several
costumed dancers into a circle to shimmy an ode to the majesty of fire on
Elizabeth Yormick describes the
feeling of a time and place apart from the rest of the world;
"Getting up at 6:00 am and hiking and dancing all day made time
expand. I was never quite sure of the specific day of the week, only that
it was earth day or fire day. Distances seemed distorted as well, since
roads were so convoluted in some areas. One night, while driving down a
pitch black highway, I looked off into the night. Through the dark, miles
off, I could see a glow from the active lava. Bright red and strong
against the blackness."
|Wrapped in their veils,
participants attended Delilah's morning session where she showed them an
innumerable variety of veil manuvers. With one spin leading into the next,
she challenged them to lift higher, to turn faster, to nearly fly through
Z-Helene writes about her
"The First element I danced was Air. After an invigorating
of dancing outside in the beautiful Hawaian atmosphere we went back
the studio for Delilah's origami veil. What a brilliant concept!
origami seems to possess an I Ching quality. Several veils are
over a dancer in origami style a technique Delilah invented
with her daughters.
|Mood music is played and
the dancer allows the veils to fall as she dances. Every dance s unique
and unpredictable. I had it in my mind to be air, feel air, think and
experience AIR. I became aware of the air passing in and out of my body,
my breath was the main focus. I became aware of the air between my
molecules and it was difficult to contain the energy. I litterally felt as
if I was going to EXPLODE! I began to pant, realizing how our breath
changes with our emotions. I felt like crying, but it seemed to be more of
a passionate release than a sorrowful one. It was raw emotion. I had no
idea what was happening with the veils, only my breath. It took me half an
hour to calm down afterward, my molecules were still expanding! People who
witnessed this dance seemed moved and bewildered by it. Me too, it was
visceral and therapeutic. I was personally charged by it."
||Bianca Jansen shared her
diary notes of our expedition to a forest lake. This day, which was the
summer solstice, was the pinnacle of her retreat experience.
"The water is as green
soft soap, and though it is a real effort for me to take the first
it is pleasant. I can not see the bottom, I can only feel the water
at my feet, legs, belly, and finally to my arms, as warm as a bath.
of the moon' was the name of this lake in the volcanic crater. In
middle of the lake floats a raft where my sisters wait to receive
me. The crater walls are dense with lush jungle and the trees jut out over
the lake so that you can hardly see the bank. There is no begining and no
end. Countless colors of green surround us up to the bright opening of the
sky. The air is easy. It is early in the morning and there is a quality of
peacefulness. From out of the reassuring quiet, female voices ring out
A chant rises. Mystical music of the spheres repeating and echoing
around the lake, lift up beyond the trees and release to the sky. Women in
costume become like water. They ease into the water with wave like
gestures and swim like mermaids. Our chant greets and accompanies them and
the music is no longer coming from us, but from the forest and the lake.
The moment would be nothing if any one of us were missing. A moment of
immutability presented to us, nature and ourselves, not of this world, but
more real than ever before."
The second excursion that day
was to the "Green Sand Beach" the southern most point of the
United States. It involved a healthy three mile hike which, against the
wind seemed to take forever. Suddenly, a haven appeared before our eyes.
Scooped out of the coastline was a little olive-green beach, the water
turquoise in contrast. A heightened awareness of the sand, the sun, the
wind and the waves called to our creative instincts. Taking advantage of
Steve Flynn's ability with the video camera he had so gallantly carried
along, we filmed several dances expressing our individual reverence and
inseparability with nature.
Big Island Dancing
The elements of nature are fierce in their power
The powers within the dancer are fierce with emotion
Together the dancer communicates with nature and a
Beautiful symmetry is created.
Like black lava spurting from the earth,
Or cool blue waves crashing the shore...
The dancer inspires mystery, beauty and awe.
Love and respect of the earth can only take place when
One possesses self love and love for all
The creations of Goddesses.
So dance sweet dancer, dance and weave the tale of
|Our spirit was alive! Now
that we had danced with each element as a focus, it was time to put it all
together. Delilah and Sirocco gave a combined class dealing with the
communication between dancer and musician. Delilah's final comment on the
interaction of elemental forces: "The drum and the body derive
from the earth. The energy (fire) of the beat and the vibrations of
instruments are carried by air. The commitment and the depth of emotional
intensity are governed by water. The meaning of the dance is known in the
Everyone was prepared to dance
in the finale. A few guests had been invited to attend the showcase and
the mood was naturally one of excitement!
Sirocco poured their hearts out
that afternoon, as each one of us took center stage.
|It was showtime at Kalani
Hanua. Z-Helene did a beautiful cabaret number at the beginning of our
show, and having fulfilled her allegiance to the craft of bellydance now
she felt free to go where few bellydancers have gone before. Z-Helen
needed time to prepare for this special character she calls Thundula, so
we saved it for the very end. We were visited by a formidable presence.
A hundred feet away from the
state site, she paced in the high grass, from time to time she squatting
down and drawing the life force of the volcanic soil through the soles of
her feet. She tasted the salt air and recognized the watery cycles of her
flesh as she let her heart and mind be absorbed into the omnipresence of
our primal world. Camouflaged by large palm fronds which would later be an
important onstage prop, Thundula waited and watched with warrior
|Drawn by a scream from the
stage, Thundula charged toward us across the open territory with a
messenger's unfaltering strength. Jumping to the stage, she carried the
towering branches with the appearance of having crashed though the densest
jungle. Moving with a stealthful immediacy and unpredictability, her
stature startled us all! Thundula was no hoax. Her intensity vivified our
With tribal face and body paint
she held the pose of a wide-eyed Kali, her tongue out stretched and
threatening. Upon her chest was an organic breast plate made of beads,
glass and feathers and shells. A front piece of feathers covered her groin
and a shagged leather and rafia skirt grazed her thighs. Graffiti-like
cave paintings marked her belly and red paint outlined her navel. Her
Katak style foot patterns pounded the earth and were punctuated by the
bells ringing from her ankles and tattooed hands. The distinctive African
and East Indian influence rightfully took us to an ancient place of nearly
forgotten earth wisdom.
Two pouches hung from the sides
of her thong belt. She took one and
|poured forth green sand from the beach we had ventured to on the
Summer Solstice day. From the other one she poured out black lava sand
from the volcano where we had drummed on Pele's door. As a part of her
offering, she poured the sand over her body. It slid to the floor forming
a circle upon which she danced with increasing frenzy!
Thundula began to speak. At
first the word was indistinct. The earth's magnetism drew down the base of
her spine folding her into a severe birthing crouch. A sound came out of
her body from deep within her viscera, from the dark walls of her womb. By
earth, water, fire and breath, from out of the ether and into the
atmosphere a word is birthed. GAIA!!! Neither a scream nor an utterance,
but a primal call suspended at the edge of time. The word broke the air
like thunder! It pressed us all against the walls and took possesion of
our own vocal cords. Our breaths and bodies were held in awe and in one
stunning motionless moment we were all one voice. Time stopped...
It returned with the cold press
of goose flesh rising on our arms! Something exraordinary was going on
here. This was not your average dance performance, there was no reserve in
Thundula to stay pretty. She was nothing but the truth! She was the
utterance of her name. GAIA!!!
I danced my first dance in the forest
to the trees and the sky and the wind,
And I found to my amazement
a voice hidden deep within.
I danced and I danced.
Spun and spun 'till the
trees and the sky merged into one.
On that magical day, I found my voice.
A voice that is gentle, strong and firm.
I connect to the spirit that is my life and
my shyness melts away.
I now dance for others sharing my smile,
my energy bringing joy.
I speak as I move.
I shout as I move
and you hear what my heart has to say.
Feel the air, smell the earth.
Notice a passing cloud.
See the waves as they dance
pulsing to shore soft and loud.
NOTICE, SEE, BE AWARE
Don't let it pass you by,
this incredible life we've been given.
Breath in its spirit and fly.
I spin and spin, turn and turn.
I stop! I feel the beauty.
I grasp it dearly to my heart and
gently pass it on.
So others may stop and touch the earth
and hear the voice that I have heard.
I dance and dance, spin and spin
and as I spin you join in.
You take my voice and carry it on.
You take my spirit and give it wings
and move where I no longer can.
Spin Spin Turn Turn
Spin once more for me.
The earth has her voice as we dance.
Feel, breath and spin for me.
|The last day was a
culmination of all that was offered during the week. As Armando took the
group through a review of the "elemental" drum rhythms, the room
seemed to open up with possibilities, without hesitation, the drum circle
seemed to swell with enthusiasm. Z- Helene demonstrated a finger cymbal
improvisation, a myriad of rhythmic layering, of tension and ease.
"Eyes are windows to the
soul; soulful hands touch other souls." Delilah taught "The
Power of Bellydance"; the wordless music of dance caught in the
connection of breath to emotion.
The week had come to an end, it
was time for farewell and departures. Habibi (Bobbie Sorenson) writes
" You should have heard us at the Hilo airport! Across the crowded
space I looked over at Stephanie, Z-Helene and Bianca who were heading off
to a different flight. We brought the place to a grinding halt as we
shouted a spontaneous zagareet, our call of celebration and
Having attended Delilah's Maui
the previous year, Susi Liou reflects, "It's like a love
The first retreat was full of passion and frenzy, but the second was
with deeper, stronger feelings that will last and last. That's the
way I know to express it. As for the love affair it ain't
over yet !"
| Visit our Retreat page for more information on
Delilah's Visionary Belly Dancing Retreats.
Visionary Belly Dancing
Seattle, WA 98103 USA
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