Dancing Journey with the Neighborhood Temple Priestesses;
Retreat January 2010
8 days 7 nights
I have been home since Feb 2nd and my suit case is still not unpacked. Soon as I came home I had 3 crazy cats to attend to. Bevin was looking after them while we were gone but they were not very happy to have us gone for 10 days. Kinko camped out in our bedroom for the time we were gone only coming down for duties. She would not purr for the first hour we were home. Tiamat was her usual evasive self and I could tell she slept on the living room couch. Sophie stayed in the kitchen the whole time on a pillow. I have a stack of mail and phone messages to deal with and a ton of e mail of course. Now my butt hurts from too much sitting at the computer. It’s tax time and so book keeping to do now. I have been trying to write a blog entry since before Hawaii . I thought I would even write from there. Usually I have lots to say and write but this retreat has kind of blown me away a bit. Yikes, I have no editor either. Please so for give any typos.
First of all I imagine you might want to know what the Neighborhood Temple Priestess are? Well it’s a committed bunch of dancers with a little bit different focus than other groups. Yes, we feel belly dance empowers our life but not only. It also empowers the lives of our family and greater community if we know how. The way of how is what I teach and mentor. If what we are doing is different then it means what you know already is not it, so keep an open mind and let the difference in. An important part of the NTP is being able to think out of the box, be a leader, strive to be a good dancer, an artist and a Temple Priestess.
We should have called this retreat Belly Dancing Journey through Inner and Outer space for that is what we managed to do. I know that any of these words cannot adequately describe or substitute the actual experience. Hopefully that is what these experiences do over all. They serve to remind people that life is for living not just twittering tweetering about.
In Hawaii we stayed in a room they call the Tree House. It’s not really a tree house but it’s their deluxe rustic accommodation. We loved it! The entry was in the west and the east side was completely glass and screens open to a lush meadow that hugged the country road an acer a way. We got to witness the rising sun and sleep to the sound of the ocean surf. Fuchsia bougainvillea an occasional orchid and lush green tangle of jungle vines framed our view. In the center of the room was a vertical post that supported a 14 foot high ceiling that sloped toward 3 separate alcove rooms. Around the center post was a rectangular tiles table and a lamp in front of that facing the view was a wicker couch and a divan and a kitschy floor lamp that was in the shape of a palm tree. We had a refrigerator, microwave and a coffee pot with coffee and milk in the frig. The bathroom was spacious with lots of staging area for changing clothes, make up and toiletries. Wow I could live here for a while!
I did try to post a blog entry while I was in Hawaii but the retreat was so rich and my mind got so expanded it couldn’t find it’s way into the lap top key pad. Words would fall helter skelter out of my head but they kept running across the the table to play with the with the Geckos that lived on the table post. Geckos are suppose to bring good luck. There is a belief that when one is heard making their long sustained clicking noise, then what ever has been spoken last in the vicinity is to be known as the honest truth. We had many geckos living with us. They keep the mosquitoes down, so they make good room mates. We had a boy and a girl who lived behind the bathroom mirror and would catch bugs attracted to the light. We had the one who lived on the table post where another lamp kept the bug supply coming. Then we had the prankster gecko who would hang his little back legs and tale off the edge of a crack in a board in the ceiling and poop! It was so funny to see. “Hey you?” we would yell and laugh. Luckily it was over the floor and not our bed or heads. House keeping in the jungle is a daily task needless to say. Kalani are experts at it (no worries.) In the jungle you can expect to find bugs, mongoose, wild boar, goats, rats, cats, giant snails, wild turkeys, beautiful birds of all colors, a few dogs. . . We saw all of them. In the water you can see dolphin, sail fish, hump back whales, sea turtles, millions of fish and coral. We saw some of them too even though we didn’t go snorkeling this trip.
Ok so how was the retreat?
Well one should know first that every retreat we do has it’s own theme and schedule of classes and guest instructors, musicians and events. This one was on Neighborhood Temple Priestess Training retreat. The goal was to dance and sweat so we got a good dose of exercise but then diverge into the more esoteric, artsy, touchy, feely realm of belly dance that has been cultivated by the visionary belly dance water mark. These are teachings that are not ordinary fare in my classes and retreat but are very dear to my heart. We delved into our minds, our hearts and our humanity as dancers.
This retreat was small. This means of course that those that signed up for this retreat get a lot of individual undivided attention from me, Erik, and Laura Rose. We get to know the members of our retreat very up close and personal. I can even write about them individually with out it becoming a huge book.
Jane was brand new to belly dance, who had some health issues and was going to approch things slowly and as she felt comfortable each day. She also brought her Mother whose name was Dola. She had recently recovered from a bout with cancer. They were sharing some good Mother /Daughter time together. The thing about Jane was she was very knowledgeable about the the feminine jungian psychology aspects and the ritual and other things we were going to explore on this retreat. It’s what attracted her. She ha been watching the retreats come and go on line for years and finally decided it was time! She was good natured and enthusiastic to try most anything.
Malina was from Japan. She didn’t speak a lot of English but she had a little machine translator thingy. She missed some of the wordy explanations but she felt everything deeply. One of her teachers is the amazing Mishaal from Japan. I love Mishaal. Everyone loves Mishaal. I knew if Mishaal was sending her, she would love this retreat and that even with language barrier. Malina would be well seasoned.
Alexandra is from Seattle via Canada. She is a new member the Neighborhood Temple Priestess group in Seattle. She comes when she can but she needed to know more about belly dance as well as the under pinning of what holds the NTP together. This retreat was an opportunity to go catch her up on a lot of the work and an opportunity for us all to get to know her better. She packed light. She just found out she was pregnant and so thats about all she could think about . The homework things like reading certain books, making a sea faring costumes would have to be done some other time. She would come and be as present as possible.
Lori Green was a last minute sign up. She is also a member of the NTP in Seattle. It was her birthday during our retreat. In addition to being a celebration of life, this retreat was a very transformational experience for her. The retreat was a chance to stop the clock and contemplate deep issues in her life. All retreats have that aspect for guests and participants alike. Depending on what’s going on in our lives they register differently on the Richter scale! We got to know and witness Lori’s deep work.
Verna AKA Eden Nadirah, came to last years retreat as well and was my a measuring rod to the reality that each retreat is so different. She came from frigid temperatures and loads of snow to the beauty of the rich green and passionate island. She felt comfortable with me, Erik and Laura Rose and we all carry an affection for her amazing hips!
Wayne AKA Assiyah is an acupuncturist. He’s been belly dancing for 4 or 5 years now. He loves that he can do something that most men don’t know how to do. It makes him feel unique and he gets to hang out with women he announced proudly. He says to his male friends. You just don’t get what I know. Wayne is a very special person. He has come to 3 of my retreats and we see marked improvement each year. he is a very genuine and sensitive person great for the Temple Priestess movement. The Kalani staff loved seeing him come back each year and love watching him in our performance nights. Funny; Wayne has an identical twin brother we would love to meet sometime!
Christine and John are an amazing couple. Christine is my right arm in planning and brain storming NTP events. John helps out in so many ways with the NTP events but her likes to be kind of anonymous. When it came to introductions I asked John if he wanted to tell us about himself and he said. “How long have you known me Delilah? Have I ever told you about my self? Well I’m not going to start today.” and thats totally all right with me, I’m just glad John came. Christine is an amazing artist and waters run deep. She makes many of the banners for our events and activities. She is very well read, a wealth of information and inspiration. She has amazing music collection and I rely on her tastes and choosing of music for many of our activities. She does not spend time on e mail, watching TV or dealing with cell phones. I admire that. She lives life fuller than most people and she reminds me by her beingness that there is a way to resist all this electronic culture. However batteries come in handy. Christine offered to bring her electric candles and build a labyrinth on the grounds of the retreat and if I got tired she would love to teach a class she was into practicing all about fire and smoke being an influential element in our dance. I said wonderful I’ll build it into our revised schedule. Since the schedule was arranged to work with the usual 30 participants with performance time, I think we will have some extra time available.
Laura Rose of course is staff but I was secretly very pleased that I could bring her to this particular retreat. She has been involved in a few NTP things this past year but she is a very in demand performer in Seattle and has lots of rehearsals and shows that keep her busy. I sent her home one day around the winter holidays with my copy of the book, “Goddesses in Every Women” and said I know you read this book years ago, but read it again for inspiration. She read some of it and continued at the retreat. She related partly to Artemis and made her sea faring costume a sea version of Artemis. Laura Rose would get up early each morning and run 5 miles . She had her own room and was not used to staying alone. She read about the virginal Goddesses that Hestia, Athena and Artemis. “What do you think Mom?” She asked me. “I think there is a healthy dose of Persephone and Aphrodite in you as well my dear, but when I see you Mother your troupe members, friends, students, boy friend and burning man family I see Demeter and once in a while even Hera. We use all these archetypes at different times and seasons of our lives dear daughter.” Laura Rose got a lot of personal growth inspiration out of this retreat. This makes me very happy because while all the glitz and performance art is a skill and vocation, DANCE has another influence in our lives that has nothing to do with performance. It’s about praising the sacred, self exploration and giving thanks for being alive. This is the work of the Neighborhood Temple Priestess (NTP). She got to become very close to Christine and really responded to the exercises she taught. This made me very happy.
Erik Brown is my mate and our music man. He brought his chimbus and his base guitar as well as drums and played his POWER BELLY music. He also used his computers to be our DJ and create music sound scapes for our poetry and guided meditation dances. On this retreat he taught frame drums primarily instead of dumbeks and it was a pleasant change. We walked the garden playing drums. In the end the students all accompanied Erik playing frame drum for my final performance!
The courses we planned were sticky. They fit perfectly together. One lead to the next in the most amazing ways. It was a journey we took together of inner awakening.
We began with a social orientation and Power Belly to get the blood flowing and review and see how we all fit together and what our physical dance needs were. The next day I taught my circle dance choreographies and we turned them into duet dances and added spins. We left open time for beach sun and pool or massages and naps and came back in the late afternoon to talk about NTP pride focus and history. Malina from Japan had a hard time following but Laura Rose sat by her and tried to explain. I’m sure some of the words she heard took her by surprised in a belly dance class. Things about women’s rights, empowerment, the effect on our dance by the events of 9/11, community resources, activism, political art, sexism, exploitation belly dance history, women’s culture. A bit of a montage of subjects. OMG I can imagine how this could get scrambled but she kept seeing my face and eyes and knowing my passion for the beauty and truth that some how she gets it. I know her teacher in Japan well and she can straighten anything out. Why would these subjects have any place in a belly dance class you might wonder? Well, because I am not a simple belly dancer. I think deeply and look at the world around us as it influences the cosmic unconscious of our dance culture. I think belly dance is especially an interesting meter to read in relationship to the psyche of women. How our belly dance styles have evolved in the past 40 years in relationship to our social environment should be looked at. An blog article in the future no doubt. I feel belly dance empowered my life? Do you? Why do you want to belly dance? Is it just for exercise? Women have been belly dancing in America for 3 powerful generations. Just for exercise? No, not exactly.
We prepared a student note book to hand out to everyone but I can’t write the whole week down so I have another set of my own teachers notes. I gave them to Malina at the end of the retreat so she could study more.
Everyday we had time to relax, sun bath, go to the beach, hot pools or take a nap. We had a drum class before dinner. This helped to steady the pace of our journey together I think. The second night we set up a shadow screen and everyone brought poetry. We did improve dances to poetry and drum in front of and behind the screen. We traded off reading the poems. Everyone was very enthusiastic and it was a good class. We were energetic, comfortable and well oiled. What I mean is everyone seemed able to be very self expressive. I taught them how to deliver my famous veil blessings AKA Veil Therapy as well this night. I explained we could do this at any point during the retreat for each other. The veils would be here in the rainbow room studio.
The next morning we met at the view point, just across the road from Kalani. We did our grounding and centering movement ritual. We gathered the energies into our hearts and sent our love out to dancers all over the planet. The sun rose into the majesty of grand clouds on the horizon. The air was warm the breeze gentle and the waves caressed the rocky island belt line of Pele’s hips.
It was day three and now time to introduce the power of the dance expressed through eyes, arms, hands and heart. We opened up the acute awareness of our body and how it is viewed in space. How does our body feel in the space of the room, world, planet and how does the space inside us feel? What impression do we bring to space as we move into what we know as dance? How do we move in relationship to each other. Can we turn up the volume to our empathetic sensitivity toward each other? We practiced many awareness exercises. beautiful morning.
We left time open in the heat of the day and came back for a hot hips class and drum in the later day. Then dinner on the dinning lanai with a glass of wine or two.
On this night we had a rather eclectic mid week performance night that the staff at Kalani all were rearing to come and be entertained. Well, this a was loose based evening since we were a small group there were no time constraints on performing really.(nice for a change). Basically we wanted to demonstrate aspects of how we incorporate belly dance into rites of passage celebrations in community NTP style; baby showers, weddings, blessings, wakes. . . . As well as share our deep artistic inspirations in engaging performance art. So we asked the Kalani staff to participate in a ritual with us. We asked each member to stand in a circle and one by one recite their lineage on their mothers side as we had our pregnant participant in the seat of honor. I began; I am Delilah mother of Laura Rose and Victoria, I am daughter of Marilyn who is daughter of Berty who is Daughter of Lucy who is daughter of Marie. As each member adds the names of the women who came before them we the space begins to fill up with the presence of all the ancestral women / Mothers who have come before us to make our life possible. With this comes a powerful presence. Usually this ritual is done with mostly women but here there were alot of men in the audience. Interesting was the note that most men did not know who their Great Grand mothers names were. Hmmmm? Lori noted it and decided when she got home she was going to make sure her teen age son knew these names in her family.
We dressed up Laura Rose as a bride and pampered and washed her feet. It’s actually a humbling ritual. It’s very caring and brings people together in a special way. I danced to a Nubian folk song called 2000 Blessings fro your wedding day. Next we introduced the concept of taste and scents as muse for dances. Before each solo we fed the audience chocolate, ginger and exotic fragrances. Christine did a very exotic candle dance in complete darkness and Laura Rose did a concept dance of experiencing raw savage stress and it being cured by the soothing relief of camomile. Lori and Malina danced solos with heavenly scents and I did the chocolate dance. It was a very eclectic show.
Continued in Part Two
or see April 2-9 2010 retreat details!