Delilah’s Visionary Belly Dance Retreat
April 2-9 2010
Location: Kalani Resort
Special Guests: Amy Sigil director of Unmata Sacramento, CA,
Dahlia from Seattle, WA
Musician: Erik Brown,
Your Host: Delilah
Hawaii Belly Dance Retreat, Easter Group 2010
Letters from the Edge of the Volcano
Every one of our retreats since 1991 have been unique and an in depth explorations into the art of belly dance. They all occupy special places in my memories and my heart. This frank day-to-day journal is a window into one such retreat. It is completely different from the theme and energy we explored 3 months ago in January with the Neighborhood Temple Priestesses. Thats the idea. To keep exploring, tasting, learning and to occupy different perspectives in our dance. To keep the art of it, alive from within.
We arrived in paradise on Friday afternoon. It’s Monday as I begin to write.
The retreat is going very well so far. We did 8 hours of full out dance on the first day! Not a lot of talking either. We put our efforts to learning a bunch of tribal improv body vocabulary first off, and were reduced to total sweat and minds of mush by end of Saturday night. Of course not everyone did all of it. After a certain point some of us had to sit and watch. Watching is just as important mind you, and often more important because while you are constantly moving, you often miss the totality of the movement and the underlying attitude that goes with it.
We had 2 Island dancers from the town of Hilo join us for just Saturday. Knowing this ahead of time, I rearranged the class schedule to give them a real bang for their buck since they could only join us for one day; (Sherry and Denise). We enjoyed connecting with them very much. I wish they could have stayed for the entire retreat because it just kept getting better. Next time!
We knew this retreat would be very challenging compared to other retreats. We were calling it “Unmata Boot Camp”. Of course that’s only if you choose to do everything we were offering. We always tell dancers they don’t have to do everything. On this particular session we were offering a large variety of belly dance classes. Each year we have dancers come who approach our retreats differently. Some want to dance 24/7 and others want to dance and relax by the pool or beach half the day. This retreat availed a special opportunity to really grok tribal styles in an accelerated few days if you had the energy. We learn and retain by daily doses, repetition and reinforcements. A retreat is a perfect vessel for this kind of work. When we retreat, we are cut away from usual life obligations, going into a different environment, where we can devout body and soul to our dance. Not like a workshop in the city.
I am learning a lot. I probably am not going to emerge a ” Tribal Girl” but I am learning signature moves and gaining a good appreciation for the different styles. It’s really great. I like the different way of moving and being in my body for a change. I think we all should experience different styles to stay fully engaged with dance and avoid becoming stale.
Crazy as it sounds tribal is not all we are doing either. Dahlia is teaching Egyptian and Folkloric, and I’m adding Power Belly and taking care of the Easter Sunday ritual element with a little dose of NTP style…
We are dreaming dance as we listen to the jungle sounds. We can hear the roar of the surf and either the rattle of hard tropical rain on the roof or an ubiquitous hiss that fills the air with spray. The Hawaiians have so many names for the different kinds of rain. My cottage is circled with open screened windows. It’s like we are sleeping under a banyon tree in the jungle. I lay listening to the bush and sway of palm frowns like slow hula hips in the night, partnered with the aftermath of rain drops plopping on jurassic park-sized leaves in the trees. Oh, and frogs. Lots of frogs singing “boo peep, boo peep!”
We had an anonymous donor make a gift of “TWO” week-long scholarship spots to out retreat this year! Wow! It happened every once in a while. It really is a testimony to the good work we do each year. It makes me proud. Women see, feel and know that the experience is so beneficial. They are inspired to GIFT other women! This is a powerful thing . . . . Mahalo. I love this universe.
It was up to me to choose who????
It was not easy, and it was last-minute so it had to be some one who could get off work and buy a plane ticket. I finally decided to choose 2 women who really wanted to come but couldn’t because of finances, would try their hardest, are very supportive of VDP, show the most potential in learning fast, and retaining concepts and choreography and then can bring it back to our studio. If it had been a different theme I would have chosen very differently. I knew this retreat would be very, very challenging.
More later, maybe, signing off for now. . .
Back again for more. . .
I forgot to mention, on the first day we did all that Tribal, we also did our first “Basics of Egyptian Styling” with Dahlia, a “Power Belly” with me and Erik, and I taught a couple moving meditations for us to greet the sunrise with on Easter morning. Ha! Most slept well after all this and then rose early. It’s the style of living in Hawaii, to go to bed early and wake up early. You find lots of people up at 6 AM walking the dog, jogging, swimming, and doing yoga.
We woke up a little before the sunrise and met at what they call ” The Point”. It’s just across the street from the Kalani, on the one and a half lane jungle road that snakes along this edge of the South East side of the island. It’s a tranquil view spot with a fire pit and a meditation bench. It over looks the crashing surf and wide open ocean. Sometimes you can even see volcano glow as it pours into the ocean further South of us. But not now. Today it’s perfect for witnessing the moment of sunrise. The fire pit still had burning embers from the night before where some one must have enjoyed this post under the stars. It was all quiet, fairly still, the moist morning was colored by a thick gray light, the way mornings start out. I was the first to arrive. I wore a simple yet elegant, easy-to-pack, floor length Goddess gown. I just love to wear them. They ad such grace to one’s day. They take me back to ancient origins. Remember when you were small and played dress up? It takes you to the creative place in your imagination and thats why I think a lot of women are attracted to belly dance.
I put a pink flower in my hair. There was no need for a sweater. The temperature was absolutely perfect even on the bluff in these early hours. It felt a bit surreall. The rest of the dancers showed up, two by two. I lead our NTP grounding and centering movement meditation. It gives us a little stretch and sends loving good will to all the dancers of the world in 4 separate directions. Many dancers have done this with me all over the world at different events. Now it feels more powerful than ever before. Together we stood facing the East and watched as the golden egg of the sun was birthed, crowning face first through the clouds on the horizon. A new day was born. OMG, so beautiful.
After this we all hung around and talked about the different ways we have celebrated Easter Sunday throughout our lives; the rituals of Easter baskets, church services, family dinners, frilly dresses and bonnets, Easter egg decorating with those little store bought dye kits, chocolate and jelly bean eggs and Easter egg hunts. (My goddess gown took the place of the frilly dress ritual I guess.) One dancer shared a story from her past. In Montana no one liked to eat those over-boiled colored eggs, so they got out their guns and ritually used them for target practice . . . . . . This was our 4th retreat we have done at Easter time in Hawaii. It’s really a perfect time to go be with your sister dancers. Away from the gunfire and religious fanatics. They all agreed today would stand out as a very in-tune Easter to remember for a long time to come.
Speaking of eggs. After breakfast everyone got a gift from the Easter Luna Hare. It was a plastic egg with a pair of uterus and ovary logo Power Belly panties tucked inside! Perfect Easter gift. We took a group photo with us all wearing Power Belly logo shirts and Amy and Dahlia posed wearing the panties over their black yoga pants. Too hysterical for words. OMG! Can’t wait to see the pictures!
It was also another big day of dance. We sure started early. We were happy to note our minds were retaining better today. Good food, sleep, clean air and the lack of cell phone reception, TV’s and the constant emailing we normally do is amazing for the dancer’s brain!
As you see I am keeping a short journal and I started it on day 4 looking back when my body has been tossed around – kind of like the rocks and sand in the frothy blue green surf out there. I feel clean.
If you have met her, you know what an exceptional women she is. She is very intensely engaged with her dance. It’s an addiction, she will admit. She prefers to dance every minute of the day. Personally she has the the ability to be very present with everyone she is with, in a way that makes each of us each feel very special. It must also be an addiction. Charisma is a powerful gift to be given. We would all probably follow her anywhere. We each become intoxicated and addicted to her magic . . .
She lead a wonderful “Shimmy Madness” work out. She has a particular method for cultivating that perfect shimmy of hers. Dahlia’s years of childhood ballet give her a signature grace. Her preference to improve keeps her emotionally near her audience instead of off and reserved. To watch her every day like this is to imbibe a lovely balance in her every step.
In the afternoon we did some island exploring. I took a few adventurous ones to the near by steam vents; Bring a bathing suit, towel and bug spray. Dahlia, Bevin, Amy, Bella and Erik and I went. We drove for 15 minutes and pulled off the road. I lead the merry band of trusting souls down a slippery slope, then down a narrow path cut through the tall wet grass that gobbles us from each others sight if we advance 10 paces ahead. Wild orchids appear here and there in the weave of brush. I luckily remember the correct forks in the maze of grasses, mud, and rock formations. We arrived at a small, low cave opening. It was a little bit bigger than the size of a large pizza tray. I begin getting out of my shorts and shirt and piling them on top of my towel. “Here it is” I announce, “climb on in”. They were a bit apprehensive, but since I guaranteed it would be worth it, they complied to my prompting. In we squeezed through the opening, that to their welcomed surprise, opened into a larger spacious chamber with a natural sky light high above so it was pleasantly light inside. Wood boards had been set into the cave to create a comfortable seating arrangement. In a matter of moments we began to get licked clean by the hot breath of the Mother as the steam rose out of the earth. Everyone was amazed at this supreme natural wonder of the earth and were glad they came with me.
Others in our group trekked to the Volcano Park in Latrelle’s car and even managed to get lost so that they missed dinner, yikes! We got a little worried, but they came in all aglow from their adventure. They managed to find a restaurant out there somewhere on a Sunday night. Others in the group hung out at the beach and pool by day.
On our way back from the steam vents, we took a drive and went into the near by town of Pahoa to shop. We stopped at the shop called “Jungle Love” owned by a nice belly dancer (forgot her name, sorry). She wasn’t in the shop so we missed her. Left a note. “Amy, Erik, Dahlia, Delilah, Bevin and Bella were here!” After it cooled down we were back to dance. We are doing well with the pace of the different classes. Some are hard, some review and some are easy now.
Who is on this retreat?
We are a group of 12. Four of us are instructors. Most from Seattle this time. (That’s actually rare.) Tessa, Erin, Bevin, Bella Jovan, Carolyn, and then Cindy from Wisconsin via Arkansas, Latrelle from Texas and Tina from Chicago. It was easy to learn everyone’s name fast.
Again, the jungle is crazy at night! So many stars in the sky. The moon was full before we arrived and is getting smaller. It shows it’s face in the wee hours of the morning so the nights are mostly black. The night hours seems to be divided so that different animals get a chance to lead the chorus. They influence our dreams I’m sure; birds, frogs, crickets, creatures and falling branches and coconuts. We can hear the surf and the occasional night rain showers hitting the roof and trees. We have ear plugs if we want but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Oh, and sometimes wild pigs can be heard walking around behind my cottage and making low grunting sounds.
We reminisced about some funny stories Katrina (of skin deep) told in the car the
year she came to my Hawaii Retreat in 2006. We are still laughing!!! We also laughed about Princess Farhana and Laura Rose who shared a cottage together at the 2009 retreat. LR did her famous MISS PIGGY routine in one of our shows. The wild pigs came and hung out at their cottage (knowing their was a famous pig celebrity sleeping there) and so Princess has affectionately named LR “Pig” ever since. (Hope LR doesn’t get too mad about that story. It’s cute!)
Bye now. More, maybe later, again, if I get a chance . . .
April 5th, yesterday, was Amy Sigil’s Birthday! The weekend before we left Seattle we helped Princess Farhana celebrate her Birthday and also Erik’s! It’s a very special time to be with people on these ritual days of their lives.
For her birthday, we gifted Amy one of my special “Veil Therapy” experiences. Only Bella Jovan and I knew how to actually deliver a Veil Therapy session, (AKA Veil Blessings). However, they all were quick studies. Kind of wonderful to have the opportunity arise where Amy would get to experience my Veil Therapy sessions. Can’t imagine it coming up in the course of our regular interactions on the mainland. We used her kind of crazy hard-pressing music for our session. Erik picked it out just for her. The experience lasted about 25 minutes. She was touched intensely, she cried like a baby when we were done. Good cry, caring, intimate, moved deeply kind of cry.
(I’ll explain what VT is, some other day.)
So far the dancers have had 12 hours of Improvisational Tribal Style now. OMG! They are totally getting it! They are going to walk out of the other side of this retreat as Tribal know-it-alls! LOL. A couple of us are daunted by the quick change choreography but are learning stuff and picking up a lot of nuances and certainly gaining a full understanding between the differences of A.T.S., I.T.S. and Tribal Fusion!
Amy says she is really digging the chance to teach this straight out. It’s a rare opportunity. Usually she just gets a couple-hour workshop in every city and so ends up teaching a tribal fusion combo. This is way different. That’s why I set this up! I knew this. I just wished I could have been able to make it more clear to other dancers so they could have taken advantage of this incredible opportunity. All teachers are in this boat when they just drop into a city to teach to a bunch of new dancers for a few hours. A retreat is different! We all get stretched – teachers and students. Part of the problem is that my instructors don’t know what to expect before they come to my retreat so they don’t really know how to tell their students. I think a repeat of this retreat would be more successful.
I would love to repeat it, but it’s a lot of staff expense to have 4 teachers. I would have to know enough dancers would pony up the money to come. -Improvisational Tribal Style with Amy Sigil and Egyptian Dances & Music Interpretation with Dahlia.
CALL ME IF YOU WOULD WANT TO DO THIS IN JANUARY 2011!
I HAVE NOT SET THE JANUARY 2011 ITINERARY YET. 206 632-2353.
Got some quality sun time today. Laid out by the pool. It’s a beautiful pool in the shape of a tee with palm trees and tropical flowered landscaping. It is so relaxing and tranquil. A statute of the reclining Buddha languishes on the lawn. A lovely Ganesha sits where the diving board used to be. The board wasn’t removed because of an accident. Just insurance policies forced them to take it out. (Don’t you love America? Other countries don’t act like this.) There are statues all around the grounds. Tons of fruit trees as well. Red, yellow and blue birds flit all around while doves coo. At the pool there are 2 hot tubs, a dry sauna, and showers. We are right next to a massage studio and a watsu pool. It’s a clothing optional pool. Nice. Who wants tan lines? Things are very relaxed.
This fact reminded me the 2 times musician Jeremiah Sotto of Solace came to my retreats! A bit surprised by the clothing optional pool status. We assured him being naked was not mandatory and giggled. Again, things are very relaxed.
Dahlia is the perfect compliment to all this tribal intensity. Her “Improvisation – Be Here Now” class came to us like a soothing salve after so much specific technique. Our emotional bodies got a opportunity to be a bit cathartic inside our browning skin. Oh yes, we are getting brown. The rains come mostly at night or by day for short intervals between the warm caress of the sun. Gotta have the rain to have all this beautiful jungle. Perfect temperatures accompany all this action we are displaying!
Me? So far I taught Power Belly, energy balance, veil therapy, 2 moving meditations; Grounding and Centering and Hathor. Oh and I added a few performance notes to Dahlia’s class. I am getting the chance to relax and recharge my batteries. Much needed.
This really is a nice balance of movement and personalities! They, we, me, are loving it! Oh, I got a massage this morning. Much enjoyed, and I heard everyone making appointments this morning.
More Tribal and it’s feeling more and more like home inside our neuro pathways.
Yesterday we experienced some amazing rain at 11:30 AM. So loud, I had to literally yell to be heard when teaching a dance. Very difficult. It was like we all were captured in a bubble of air inside a waterfall. We could feel the water in our mouth as we inhaled. Our body temperatures created a sauna aura environment around us. It was extreme, fascinating and exciting, actually. Dahlia let out a loud cathartic and ecstatic scream that could barely be heard. Luckily it didn’t last too long.
This afternoon Dahlia taught a lovely Egyptian Choreography in the afternoon to part of an Om Kolthum piece with a veil. Nice. I especially like the “jewel step”.
At night there was a big Hula Class with Richard Koob and friends that the gals all went to in the Emax studio. I went straight to bed after dinner at 7:30 and passed out. They reported back the next day all a glow from the wonderful experience. There were live musicians because it was special for the Merrie Monarch Festival taking place on the island. It was the 40th year celebration.
Early in the morning (on Day Six), before breakfast, Bevin and I drove to this place down the road called Coconut Beach. We walked out across the lava fields talking, when I looked over my shoulders after 10 minutes, and to our surprise, on the hillside far away, but behind us and to the South, was a long smoke-filled fire line marking the edge of the lava flow. We had heard there wasn’t much going on that one could see. Most of the Volcano park was closed because of crater off gas activity. Wow, this was impressive. Then a few minutes later a local Hawaiian guy met us on the path and confirmed, “ yes.” The lava action just got bigger. Still no flow into the sea – just surface flow on the ridge and in the caldera higher up. He asked us if he could share a traditional morning Hawaiian chant with us to greet the sun. “Sure.” It was very beautiful. Then we shared our grounding and centering ritual with him. When we got to the part that says “We open our heart,” he jumped down and picked up a perfect heart-shaped rock and placed it beneath the rising sun in the east. Magic!
Back to Kalani .
We had a talking circle a bit before class. Dahlia was feeling overwhelmed – experiencing the magic of the retreat process. It’s something that cannot be relayed to another person very well. When they experience it, there is this special “ah ha” knowingness. She said it’s a bit like the culture shock you get by leaving the country for the first time. She had traveled a lot before she had children, but this was the first big isolation from her kids and family that felt so far away. Not just in miles but inside /outside of time. It’s the quality of time being spent on something you love and the freedom from responsibilities. No one is doing dishes and picking anyone up from school. It’s a big open space in our lives to retreat. It will change our life and shift our perspective. Often people refer to their lives as “before the retreat,” and “after the retreat.” I have done it over and over, seen it unfold in so many dancers’ lives. The underlying theme to this time of year, Easter, is REBIRTH. Welcome to the club, Dahlia.
This morning’s class was on “Saidi Style” with Dahlia. She is so fluid in changing her style of movement. She really does have one of the best shimmies I have ever seen. It’s so even and precise.
After lunch we had free time before our performance night. We caravanned down the scenic road 20 minutes to a mild adventure to a place known as the Hot Pools. It’s the size of a municipal public pool. Nestled in a grove of palms in a beach front park. It’s a nice, large, clean pool made from masoned lava stones and cement. It has steps and hand rails for easy access, with a mostly sandy bottom. It’s no more than 5 1/2 deep at the deepest and protected from the high surf by a sea wall . It’s very relaxing and therapeutic to soak or just sit in the park and enjoy the scenery. Someone built it intending to create a spa center many decades ago. The bathtub warm water is fed by underground fresh water hot springs and mixes with the salt water ocean. Little fishes nibble at us a bit.
We invited a yoga retreat and a few Kalani staff members to come to our little show in the Rainbow room.
The line up was ;
• Bevin . . . danced a wild, visceral fusion to a heavy metal Norwegian rock song.
• Cindy . . . did a piece called Rouge Infusion
• Dahlia . . . danced some stellar Egyptian to some Beledi and Shik Shak Shok
• Delilah and Erik. . .Ya Aziz Aini and a drum Solo
• TRIBAL GROUP DANCE . . .6 dancers and Amy did a stellar tribal improv that blew the audience away! Good job ladies! So proud of this weeks work. It looks like VDP STUDIO will be adding a new class to the schedule in the very near future!
• Carolyn . . . followed with a clever choice in music and a steam punkish kind of costume
• Bella Jovan . . . danced a lovely cabaret dance
• Amy Sigil . . . did a solo that was very slow and made out of American Sign language enhanced by deep emotional and movement interpretation. Very very moving. Then Dahlia joined her on stage and they did an “Unmata” style choreography together. Superb!
The audience loved it. Afterwards the dancers were giddy with themselves and insisted in continuing to practice their new found Tribal Improv dance with each other until the sound system had to be turned off so people could sleep.
This retreat was truly everything I had hoped it would be.
Today we review and some are leaving early this morning due to schedules. The retreat is officially over on Friday at 1:00PM. This afternoon and tomorrow morning are free to practice, relax, get some body work done, catch up on sleep, eat and return home rejuvenated.
Next Hawaii retreat is in the end of January.