The Gilded Serpent

The Gilded Serpent presents...
Advice from a
Temporal Dance Oracle
by Najia El-Mouzayen

When an instructor teaches in a mostly private lesson format, as I do, she finds herself periodically becoming a familiar and convenient person who is available to lend an immediate and sympathetic ear.   Before long, unless you are prepared, you will have become what Bert Balladine has occasionally called me, "A stand-up psychiatrist." (He is alluding to the role of a stand-up comic, because we dance teachers usually have no formal credentials in psychiatric therapy, just a knack for good timing and an off-beat sense of humor). The role is seductive because sometimes other people's problems seem so clear and easily solvable.

Periodically, one of my dance students confides in me that she should probably leave dance and dance lessons for a while in order to "get some space" and to iron out her personal problems with another member of the dance community

These dance related disputes become overpowering, I believe, because dance is such an emotionally charged activity. 

It is so emotionally charged that it can become a magnet for people who are insecure in one or more parts of their lives and who enter the field of dance in an attempt to become stronger through performing on stage. Oriental dance seems to be especially attractive because of its obvious ties to the feminine mystic

No matter what the dancer's problem is, it is best for dance teachers to encourage dancers and dance students to find their own answers.

I have given them answers that generally look like the advice I have given, as an example, below.  If you have a problem that seems insufferable and unsolvable, or you have a student who does, try the following steps and see if it doesn't help both of you out of a potentially loaded situation before you are tempted to become a low-fee un-credentialed faux therapist. Beneath my tongue-in-cheek words, lies the power of positive action and self-help in which I confidently believe:

To you, my dear dance student,
Regarding the problem you have recently confided in me concerning your new dance career,

If I had any good advice for anyone at all,

I would advise myself to stay out of other people's emotional battle arenas!

Taking a break from dance is not going to solve your problem; it will only put conflicts on hold.

I have been through a dump truck load of emotional troubles in my own life and have never taken a break from my dance. I can share with you that dance has been my emotional outlet as well as my savior, in many regards, with the exception of a few physical illnesses that have occasionally stolen the wind from my sails.

Everyone usually makes, and risks loosing, many friends throughout a lifetime of dance. Also, everyone has many dreams and desires, throughout all the years surrounding one's dance activities.

My own experience is that the old adage is true:

"Wherever you go; there you are!"

The adage means to me that all that you, or anyone, experiences in dance will have to be experienced anywhere else to which you imagine that you might escape from your personal life lessons, no matter what you are doing or where you are.  You face your lesson here and now, or the same one tends to rear up again and again like an unruly stallion... whatever your personal concerns and struggles may involve. Solve your conflicts and problems through dance now or it will be back in your next career or activity.

So, dear dancer, here is your do-it-yourself therapy:
1. Go today and repose beside any body of moving water.  Next, pose yourself in a classic position that seems to you to be receptive.

2. Gaze out at the water's movement as you define your problem. Moving water has a calming effect and is symbolic of growth and change.

3. To provide focus for your thoughts, describe your problem as if it were an interesting story on one clean piece of plain, blank paper. Circle or underline all of the words that indicate how you felt in the story; if there are none, you are denigrating your right to feel anything.

4. When you are finished describing your problem fully, sob and feel sorry for yourself no more than three minutes longer. Any more than this very short time of indulgence encourages more sorrow into your life as it wears a treacherous path through the middle of your heart!

5. When you believe that you have defined the worst heartache of your problem correctly, crumple the paper around a stone and throw it into the water with force, determination, and the fierce finality of a Kabuki Dancer.

6. Write down your goal as you now define it.

7. Suck in your breath (and your anger and disappointment) and think of a comfortable plan of action to get what you really want and/or need from your dance.

8.  Write down the first three logical steps of a realistic plan of action to begin to reach for your goal.

9.  Post your list for these first three steps on your refrigerator door with a cute magnet when you get home. Cross out each of the steps you have identified as you complete them, and add one new step to the bottom of the list.

Then, make your new start today:
10.  Go to a friendly café and order espresso or an exotic tea and watch all the people interact with one another.

11.  Do not prolong this particular problem by discussing it with anyone, ever again (especially me). 

12.  Do not share your plan of action with anyone, either. Others will only muck up your plan and your determination with their own desires, and their image of the person you have been--not what you want to accomplish or who you wish to become.

13.  Trust yourself.  Your heart already suspects your best answers; you are the only human who is privy to that information and has any power to go after the prizes that will fulfill your life.

So here is my lone and only piece of good advice for you:
Stay flexible in your goals as you learn and grow older.  You will either grow with them as they, and you, change, or they will doom you to believing that you are, and will always be, a failure; then sadly, your last thoughts for your whole life may become, "I could have, would have, should have.." Personally, I am currently trying to live my own life by the following advice from Goethe: "Whatever you can dream you can do, or believe you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

Your Temporal Oracle of Dance,

  Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?
more from Najia-

10-28-03 Raks Assaya Instruction at Najia’s Studio
Demonstrated by Rawan El-Mouzayen (Arab-American, age 3)
9-9-03 Searching for Your New Dance Teacher, The First Interview

Furthermore, making an effort to meet the people of the culture in question is of the utmost importance when studying foreign subjects.
7-25-03 The New Age Adage for Performing Dancers
If you have nothing to say through your dance, do not dance.

11-23-03 Egypta, a Revivification of Ancient Sacred Dance performed by The Silk Road Dance Company, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Washington D.C. report by Pen Katali, M.L.S.
Egypta impressed me as a stunning artistic success, splendid beyond belief.

11-17-03 2nd Annual San Leandro Festival produced by Tatseena photos by GS staff. seems that this event is destined to grow each year.

The Gilded Serpent

 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines