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Island Summer Solstice Retreat
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 than just another belly dancing event, this retreat had the potential to explore 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 universe's."
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 jewels.
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.
Quote from Armando
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."
Circle Dance
Quote from Armando 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 earth.
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 the air.
Z-Helene writes about her participation; "The First element I danced was Air. After an invigorating morning of dancing outside in the beautiful Hawaian atmosphere we went back to the studio for Delilah's origami veil. What a brilliant concept! Veil origami seems to possess an I Ching quality. Several veils are layered 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." Quote from Delilah
Lady of the Lake 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 as soft soap, and though it is a real effort for me to take the first step, it is pleasant. I can not see the bottom, I can only feel the water creeping at my feet, legs, belly, and finally to my arms, as warm as a bath. 'House of the moon' was the name of this lake in the volcanic crater. In the 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 procreation.

– Stephanie Christopher

Quote from Betsy
Performance Day
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 ether."
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.
							from Thundula
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 spirit.
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 attention.
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!!!

– Delilah

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.

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.

– Judilyn Duba
Reaching for the sky

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 joy!"
Having attended Delilah's Maui Retreat the previous year, Susi Liou reflects, "It's like a love affair! The first retreat was full of passion and frenzy, but the second was filled with deeper, stronger feelings that will last and last. That's the best way I know to express it. As for the love affair – it ain't over yet !"

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Delilah's Visionary Belly Dancing Retreats.


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P.O.Box 30797
Seattle, WA 98103 USA

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