This was a really good read about belly dance and about life. It really made me see how we have to make the dance our own and not just copy someones interpretation. I come back to my belly dancing with a new and fresh view on what I want out of it! Thank you so much Leyla!
Dawn M – From Amazon
Writing “The Divine Unrest”
Listen to Leyla talk about writing “The Divine Unrest”, her motivation and how it evolved through the editing process to become a narrative aggregating much of her experience as a belly dancer in a way that is intended to help dancers and artists of all varieties get more of what they want from their art and their passion.
The Divine Unrest Chapter 1-The Impassioned Years
“When passion is mixed in with a woman’s objective to become successful the world becomes her accomplice and witness.”
As a little girl my life changed forever one fateful morning years ago when I was six. I watched belly dancers on TV and knew from that moment on life would not be the same. Eyes glued to the TV screen and cereal coming out of my mouth, I gazed longingly as each dancer wove her magical spell on the TV screen. They were ethereal beings and everything I imagined what women should be. I saw myself wearing those beautiful costumes, the envy of all my friends. So with a grin and sigh I decided at that moment belly dancing was for me and I marched into the kitchen and informed my mother that I was going to be a belly dancer when I grew up. Being the good Catholic mother, she informed me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and of course I couldn’t be a belly dancer. I had a frown on my face which cost me a scolding and I was sent to my room a little more humbled and determined.
The belly dancing fascination never left me through out my childhood but it wasn’t until I was sixteen years old, that I saw belly dancing again at a Greek Festival in my hometown of Albuquerque. I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest, and it was all I could do just to stand there and watch the dancers. I had such a longing to get up on the stage and perform with them. There was a part of me that knew how to dance like them but my every day reality reminded me this was not true.
Have you ever felt something so strong that you were incomplete if you didn’t do it or see it again? This is the way spirit tells us what we must do in life, and spirit will keep at us until we either do something about it or let it fade away. When we let our desires fade away, apart of us goes with them.
With my background growing up Catholic, the opportunities for learning belly dance didn’t present themselves to me until I left home. The intense emotions stayed with me and as fate would have it, I finally faced my desire and started on my belly dance quest. In this case I started dancing in my early twenties. I ate, drank and slept belly dancing, disregarding anything else except for riding my horses and working cattle. Talk about two extreme identities; they were at opposite ends of the spectrum but to tell you the truth I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved telling people that I both belly danced and worked cattle. Just the reaction out of people alone was worth saying it along with made up stories about how I would ride my horse to our camp site and belly dance the night away in front of our campfire. In my minds eye this is what I did, it all took place and sometimes it was hard to know the difference between reality and fantasy.
One thing I knew for sure, one day I would be dancing on stages in front of big crowds. Throughout the years I have realized that my fantasies helped me keep my desires in the forefront instead of the back burner of life.
Thank goodness for those magical feelings, because in reality, training and practicing are the only ways to get to that magical belly dancing goal. This is the part I didn’t really think about and when I had really long days working cattle the last thing I wanted to do was practice. It’s amazing what the mind can do to you when you’re tired. It can pit one identity against the other, causing bickering and fighting. I can’t really say that my two identities liked each other, they tolerated one another. Both aspects completed me though, because I wanted to be a cowgirl as much as I wanted to be a belly dancer.
Desire can be a very powerful tool because it doesn’t allow the words “I can’t,” overwhelm us, therefore allowing us to become deaf to any words of discouragement. So both identities tolerated each other because they knew they were both my desires and neither of them had to compete with the other for my attention.
Continuing on my path was like an action adventure novel because there were so many unexpected surprises along the way. Not all of them were pleasant, and there were a few occasions where my mouth dropped open and life started to teach me my lessons, in ways I never dreamt of. And did I mention the part about not telling my parents that I was learning how to belly dance? Hmmm well this was the good Catholic girl in me, I thought. At the time, in my minds eye, I knew that the day I became famous they would have no other choice but to accept what I did. Unfortunately this was not convincing enough even for me, so I thought maybe I could use an alias while I danced. Little did I know at the time, that a part of dance is becoming someone else, a transformation into our dreams. It happens naturally, you become not only an alias to yourself but unrestrained from life itself. Dreams and fantasies of stardom took a toll on me and for awhile, everyday living became just a blur that was unless I was on my horse.
I have often wondered how people could go to work and accept a mediocre job, especially since there is so much creativity that pops and bursts out of us. In our acceptance of the need to make a living we can forget how to live. I went the mediocre path occasionally when I thought that dance was just an illusion. It’s almost like a ping pong match goes on inside, until finally one side wins. As women we look for emotional well being in the movements and gestures of life, so how is it that a decision to become the end result of our goals and aspirations can be so confusing and difficult? The beginning years can yoyo a dancer into a raving lunatic, because our society tells us that as women we cannot be selfish and do anything for ourselves. Belly dance has the tendency to whisper in our ears that when we are happy and on stage, sharing our joy to the masses, we are the mirror opposite reflecting back the selfless women that we are. But convincing myself of this in the beginning years was hard. My surroundings became my first obstacle in the beginning years, only because the people around me told me there was no way to make a living dancing, and that I should be realistic instead of being naïve and impractical. Adding to this I became the second obstacle, because I listened to them.
Time seems to be on our side, and if we didn’t have her, there would be fewer belly dancers on the loose. Eventually, most of us give in to our passion, and we finally accept the fact that we are belly dancers through and through. I really believe magic happened for me, because when I finally focused on my dance path, everything fell into place. Well ok, once it fell into place I did a lot of tripping over myself. Thank goodness through my struggles, my family and friends opinions changed from negative to a slight positive. This is where we intend what we want and people eventually move along with us in the same direction or they go their own way.
I must admit, the little girl eating her cereal, watching belly dance for the first time, is still within me. There is no blemish on her purist perspective, only the joy and love for a dance form that changed her life forever. She is not only me but I think she is all of us.
Feedback for the Divine Unrest
I’m almost through The Divine Unrest and want to thank you. I’ve been feeling frustrated and unhappy in the class I’ve been attending for over 8 years and unable to express exactly why. I bought your book on a whim, thinking maybe I’d find the answer…and I did! My teacher is only interested in showing me her interpretation, but isn’t at all interested in helping me develop my own. There are so many passages in your book that I had to highlight…you said exactly what I was feeling! Honestly, this book is like talking to my sister!
Thank you so very much!….Diane
Get “The Divine Unrest” on Amazon Kindle in Paperback and for Kindle
I purchased The Divine Unrest yesterday and could not stop reading. It is a short book jammed with personal accounts of living a colorful career in dance. This book has lessons to learn from and words to live by. I would recommend the Divine Unrest to anyone who has a career in an artistic field. I’m sure you’ll love it.
About Belly Dancer Leyla:
I’ve been Belly Dancing for over 26 years. I’ve studied in Egypt, Europe, traveled the United States, owned my own studio, produced 3 benefit shows, 30+ DVDS and have helped women from all walks of life and ages learn how to Belly Dance. I’ve also recently published a book called “The Divine Unrest” available on Amazon in eBook and paperback form and a book on Choreography. Read more about Leyla Najma