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Belly Dancing as Birth Dance: Dance to the Great Mother

video review by Mara Makeda

Dance to Great 

produced by Visionary Dance Productions, PO Box 30797, Seattle, WA 98103
40 min. $39.95, plus $3 SandH.

How many millions of babies have been born since the dawn of humankind? And yet, each birth is miraculous and each time, a woman was the vehicle.

How tragic, then, that so many women, particularly survivors of sexual abuse, have learned a legacy of fear, shame and embarrassment about their sexuality and their pregnant bodies. Even as today's patriarchal theologians warn against "a cult of the body", healers such as midwife/dancer Arisika Razak recognize that many women have been alienated from (heir own bodies. These healers speak of dance and yoga as therapies for reintegrating mind and body and restoring hope to those with low self-esteem.

Teachers of Middle Eastern dance find that many students come intuitively seeking healing. These teachers. students and anyone interested in women's health issues should not miss seeing Dance To The Great Mother. Captured on video is Delilah, during her third trimester of pregnancy before the birth of her second child, performing dance work which is extraordinary and deeply moving.

Delilah was one of several performers who represented our country in 1989 during a cultural exchange between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. She has always called her art belly dance. As silly as the term sounds. she says, "All the movements are centered around the belly, the creative center for human beings. All human life begins in the belly."

Dance To The Great Mother is dedicated to Isis. the mother goddess whose image has remained a powerful symbol of creation and nurturing since the days of ancient Egyptian dynasties. The myth of Isis is not told in this video, but Delilah's essence invokes her in this dance.

The video begins with a brief narration about Isis and the practice of belly dance, leading us on to the dance itself. The video is segmented and portions of the dance are named. For example, a Soul is Called is one section of the dance. The titles are superimposed beneath the dancer's frozen image, so that we never lose sight of her, yet we're provided a few words of explanation. The segmentation enhances rather than interrupts the flow of the entire piece, asking us to become more involved while giving our brains and eyes a moment of rest. This seems most considerate of the producers, because watching Delilah dance can take one's breath away!

A portrayal of stunning depth. Dance To The Great Mother draws us in gently with a lighthearted beginning, delicate and charming, yet full of energy and spins. Next, rhythms and movements captivate and lull us until Delilah concentrates her energy, a priestess invoking an ancient power. We are focused too, witnessing with her the awe of creation. Ancient images and primal feelings are called up and honored until we spill over like a fountain with the joy of this dance and what it represents. The sections are titled: Wooing. This Woman Has Life In Her Body. A Heartbeat, Gestation. A Soul Is Called, and finally, A Welcome To The Planet.

Even though a 60's rock influence can he heard in the final selection, all of the music is acoustic and in keeping with the timelessness and powerful simplicity the work, harkening back to the primal, enduring qualities of Isis the goddess as the sacred feminine principle.

Following the performance is a portrait of Delilah and her second baby, similar to depictions unearthed in Egypt of ancient Isis and her child, Horus. The wonder of new life! Welcome, little one! This beautiful vignette stirs maternal longings and is one of the mal moving moments of the video.

Finally, Delilah talks about Dance To The Great Mother, how the project came about, and about her philosophy of dance. "I wanted to do a dance that would help women feel glorious about this process (pregnancy) they're going through," she remarks. The interview is valuable especially to those previously unacquainted with this dance form. However, it seems somewhat rehearsed and staged. Only near the end does Delilah's voice become more relaxed and conversational. Delilah mentions the pressures of time and budget under which the parties involved in this production worked. Naturally, the taping needed to be completed before the baby's arrival. Nowhere is the constraint of short time and low budget more telltale than on the dance set: a bare wall with electrical outlets visible.

Other than this minor distraction, all other technical aspects are very well done. The sound and video quality, camera work, lighting, editing, special effects, titles etc. are all terrific. Bravo, Visionary Productions! Dance To The Great Mother is an outstanding and important work and an inspiration to present and future mothers.

Mara Makeda (Bloomington, IN) lives with her husband and son. She's the owner of International Dance Discovery, publishers of the 1990 Middle Eastern Dance Video Sourcebook.

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