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  1. #21
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  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by cathy View Post
    If this is true then I think it's possible to imagine that dance could be the oldest form of social bonding ritual other than mating and hunting. If this is so then it is probably a deep instinct. And in Western cultures we are very cut off from this instinct from the most part. We have to seek it out. There are disco nightclubs, college parties, raves, classes, and performances, but very little dance as part of normal social gatherings. In my experience anyway. I NEVER saw anyone in my family dance ever. I don't remember seeing any friend dance until college parties.
    Cathy
    Well, in most of Latin American cultures dance has always been a huge part of social gatherings, and since I can remember I´ve seen my parents and other family members dance to merengue, salsa (oh, I have memory flashes of my parents dancing to disco music.. scary ) But now that you mention it, social gatherings among young people are becoming more "american" and there is not so much dancing going on these days
    Last edited by Ecuabellydancer; 02-13-2008 at 10:11 PM. Reason: Grammar

  3. #23
    Member Andrea Deagon's Avatar
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    Hi folks. Dang, it looks like I missed the "archetypes and goddesses" part of the discussion and came in on the "holding a pencil with ..." part. Well, both are equally interesting, I guess ...

    I just wanted to toss a few things into the mix.

    Joseph Campbell has been an immense inspiration to people who have an interest in the world beyond the mundane and want tools to use and understand the resonances they feel with myths. In my mythology classes, he's the one author some of my students might already have read. Which is both bad and good.

    Both he and Marija Gimbutas have a predilection for "universal theories," that is, finding ways in which a single framework can be applied to diverse things in order to make sense of it all. Which is great for us (modern Westerners), because the overarching framework is phrased in cultural terms we can understand, so it all comes out in our flavor.

    I'll use a food metaphor (it's lunchtime) to express the problems with this: it's like going to the local K&W cafeteria to get your Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Afghani, Spanish, Brazilian, etc. food. It really all tastes sort of the same. To get any richness out of it, you have to go to the right restaurant. Where they do one thing and do it well.

    In other words, go to the original culture to find the meanings of its myths. Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty is a scholar who has written about archetype, and she says essentially that by the time you have refined things to a nearly-universal archetype, it's bare, dead bone -- so vague it's meaningless. I agree. (Among feminist archeologists dealing with prehistory, BTW, Gimbutas's archetype-influenced work is sort of a joke because she has the same interpretation for just about everything, whereas their specific studies are suggesting a lot more variety in prehistoric beliefs in different communities.)

    What most people working in comparative mythology would tell you is that what we call "archetypes" and treat as universal are actually cultural constructs specific to our time and place. We can shoehorn other myths into terms that fit our perspectives (for a perfect example of such shoehorning, see *Women Who Run With the Wolves*). But our archetypes are all about ideas we have constructed to reflect desires and tensions in our own cultures.

    So there is no "Great Mother" archetype that spans cultures, but that archetype is important in our culture.

    Problem with many archetypes is that they are based on ideas that reflect the prejudices and power structures of the mainstream. Every time belly dance is identified in terms of "Great Mothers" and so on, it puts us in the Victorian age when these terms were formulated. It diminishes the multiple talents of women (and the many potentials of this dance) and puts them in a category that is essentially easy to dismiss, because it is ascribed to a time that is past, a power that was lost, a limited cultural function (motherhood), and a reduction of feminine potential into their reproductive biology.

    All the goddess stuff is ultimately undermining the ability of us as dancers to break out of the Victorian molds of disempowered childbearers and be heard for the many other things we want to say with our dance.

    If we want to tell stories that weren't hashed out in patriarchy, we have to get past the idea that "Archetypes" necessarily lead us to truth.

    But I have to say, I feel all archetypal sometimes too, when I dance. So what do you do with those archetypes? Work with the "truths" the archetypes give you until you see beyond them as well as into them.

    At the risk of going on forever, I will say that in terms of real history, there is only one absolutely solid piece of evidence indicating that belly dance or something like it was performed in a religious context: at the Apis Festival in Egypt in the 2nd century AD, probably as part of festive social dancing. There is a lot of evidence of dance by women as part of religious rituals in many ancient civilizations, but most of these dances derive from ritual movement and are probably not like belly dance. And the pop-culture idea of temples populated by dancing priestesses in Egypt and Mesopotamia is quite at odds with the male-dominated temple structure and the specific and limited roles of the women (and men) who provided music and dance at various ritual occasions. To be blunt about it ...

    Joy in dance (and I mean it! ),

    Andrea

  4. #24
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea Deagon View Post
    Hi folks. Dang, it looks like I missed the "archetypes and goddesses" part of the discussion and came in on the "holding a pencil with ..." part. Well, both are equally interesting, I guess ...

    I just wanted to toss a few things into the mix.

    Joseph Campbell has been an immense inspiration to people who have an interest in the world beyond the mundane and want tools to use and understand the resonances they feel with myths. In my mythology classes, he's the one author some of my students might already have read. Which is both bad and good.

    Both he and Marija Gimbutas have a predilection for "universal theories," that is, finding ways in which a single framework can be applied to diverse things in order to make sense of it all. Which is great for us (modern Westerners), because the overarching framework is phrased in cultural terms we can understand, so it all comes out in our flavor.

    I'll use a food metaphor (it's lunchtime) to express the problems with this: it's like going to the local K&W cafeteria to get your Mexican, Italian, Thai, Chinese, Afghani, Spanish, Brazilian, etc. food. It really all tastes sort of the same. To get any richness out of it, you have to go to the right restaurant. Where they do one thing and do it well......snip snip

    But I have to say, I feel all archetypal sometimes too, when I dance. So what do you do with those archetypes? Work with the "truths" the archetypes give you until you see beyond them as well as into them.....snip snip

    Joy in dance (and I mean it! ),

    Andrea
    Andrea,

    Thank you for your wonderful succinct reply. I agree with everything you say, I just lacked the appropriate background to write intelligently about it. Joseph Cambell is a powerful convincing speaker; I have read Maria Gimbutas and her video what shown at a belly dance womens gathering I attended, she is also a very persuasive person, but having lived in another culture, I strongly feel like one culture's myths are unique and not easily, or appropriately, transferred to another culture.

    As much as I want the Mother Goddess archetype to be true my first reaction is always a sarcastic "yeah, right!!" But so many people (not just belly dancers) really, really, believe this I start feeling like a heathen in an Evangelical Christian Church and just keep my mouth shut.

    Marya

  5. #25
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Dear Andrea,
    Another thing here, is that it is really only a few select dancers who are buying into the Mother goddess/belly dancer connection. Again, the average person on the street does not think of the dance as having that connection. We have to realize,I think that just because there are some dancers who are heading in a certain direction with the dance, this does not mean that it has a very ubiquitous effect on the general population, or even the majority of dancers.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  6. #26
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    Actually, Hawai'i is FULL of people who believe exactly that Mother Goddess thing. Andrea, that was marvelously done...though I personally dislike Joseph Campbell a great deal. I agree, however, with everything you said.

  7. #27
    Member Andrea Deagon's Avatar
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    Marya, you *did* write intelligently about it, very much so. I think you went straight to the heart of the matter of our desire and need to believe. I sympathize with feeling like a heathen in church, around the Mother Goddess range of ideas. Not so much the idea of a mother goddess, because there have been lots of them over time (along with goddesses of different sorts, and systems of religious beliefs that did not focus around gods and goddesses). I think what bothers me is the monotheistic idea, and the fact that Goddess thealogy so clearly speaks to our own society's issues, but people want to project it back to where it has no place.

    I am actually quite in alignment with many of the tenets of goddess thealogy. I read a book on this by Carol Christ, who is one of the leaders in this field, very articulate, and found many of my own beliefs expressed there. On the other hand, she was adamant that you have to believe in Matriarchy (with a capital M) as a historical phenomenon, and I draw the line there, just as many Christians draw the line at believing the world is 6,000 years old (figure obtained by counting biblical generations). I'll believe archaeologists about history before I believe spiritual leaders.

    But I have no problem with the idea that spiritual truths manifest appropriately (and differently) for the cultures in which they appear. Of course we have belief systems that make sense to us. Duh. We don't need to have historicity to have spiritual truths. If goddess thealogy makes sense in the 20th century West, then there is no need to have historical precedent for this set of beliefs.

    Having said all that, I do find that in my own dancing -- performing, when I did that, but now that I'm in hiatus, in practice -- when I get really into it, I sometimes find myself doing what I think of as "manifesting," which is short for "manifesting the goddess." Wait a minute, what goddess? Apparently, I *do* feel there is a divine feminine whose parameters we define through our own experiences. In a certain kind of state, the ideas and experiences that have shaped my life come out in dance in different forms that reflect that shifting and changing presence. Very archetypal, for better or worse. Basically this dance is my spiritual practice, and this feeling of "manifesting" is an important aspect of it.

    Yet I get very peeved at the whole "Mother Goddess" thing. I guess this is one of the reasons my signature says, "I am not contradictory, I am dispersed."

    Brea, I'm interested to hear how the Great Mother thing is popular in Hawai'i -- is there anything in that particular mythology to support it? Or is it mainly New Age?

    And BTW, why do you dislike Campbell? I myself have mixed feelings. "Follow your bliss" is a good motto to live by, and I learned this through his work. And his ideas about seeking not meaning but a deepening of experience in life through myth also resonates with me. On the other hand, some of his work is very sexist, and that innate sexism has been imitated by his many followers, who ought to know better since their ideas of gender roles weren't formed in the 1920's and 30's.

    I think what irks me most about both Campbell and Gimbutas is that it's so easy for the layman to be convinced by the beautiful big picture they offer, that they are not interested in learning the far more complex realities of other cultures. I think both had good intentions with their work -- Campbell wanting to bring us together in common humanity, Gimbutas wanting to describe a way of life that was not like modern patriarchy. But the charm and persuasiveness Marya comments on is hard to counter with admonitions to look for the things we *don't* understand in our search for wisdom ...

    Obviously topics that interest me .... I'll try to make myself stop this flow of virtual ink! (Actually, I'm putting off washing the dishes and writing discussion questions for tomorrow's 8:00 AM mythology class on the Bacchae -- I love the topic but trying to make students talk about Euripides at 8 in the morning is not something I relish!)

    Joy in dance,

    Andrea

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrea Deagon View Post

    Problem with many archetypes is that they are based on ideas that reflect the prejudices and power structures of the mainstream. Every time belly dance is identified in terms of "Great Mothers" and so on, it puts us in the Victorian age when these terms were formulated. It diminishes the multiple talents of women (and the many potentials of this dance) and puts them in a category that is essentially easy to dismiss, because it is ascribed to a time that is past, a power that was lost, a limited cultural function (motherhood), and a reduction of feminine potential into their reproductive biology.

    All the goddess stuff is ultimately undermining the ability of us as dancers to break out of the Victorian molds of disempowered childbearers and be heard for the many other things we want to say with our dance.
    Thanks Andrea! Let's hear it for the multiple talents of women and the many expressive potentials of this dance, and the here and now. I refuse to accept to be reduced to a disempowered childbearer or any of the related alternatives--sex object, shy virgin, old crone, etc. I'm all of these and none of them. I'm human. Cathy

  9. #29
    Senior Member Marya's Avatar
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    snip...
    Having said all that, I do find that in my own dancing -- performing, when I did that, but now that I'm in hiatus, in practice -- when I get really into it, I sometimes find myself doing what I think of as "manifesting," which is short for "manifesting the goddess." Wait a minute, what goddess? Apparently, I *do* feel there is a divine feminine whose parameters we define through our own experiences. In a certain kind of state, the ideas and experiences that have shaped my life come out in dance in different forms that reflect that shifting and changing presence. Very archetypal, for better or worse. Basically this dance is my spiritual practice, and this feeling of "manifesting" is an important aspect of it.

    Andrea[/QUOTE]

    Andrea, you are the divine Feminine, aren't we all showing this aspect of ourselves when we dance?

    I have felt this "presence" manifest also. It happened very early on when I first started classes and the first time it happened was in class and i was so startled, I stopped dancing and went and got a drink of water.

    I also noticed that any kind of snake arm movements seemed to send me into a trance pretty quickly. Interestingly, it happens less now, I have to deliberately work at it to get that "one with the universe" feeling. I think that certain movements have an effect on the brain that is frequently interpreted as tapping into the spiritual realm. Drumming rhythms can cause this also. Certain Shamanistic traditions utilize both dancing and drumming to acheive the necessary trance. The first time I performed Guedra i was so spaced out afterward that I drove home and forgot half of my stuff and had to return to get it and still forgot some things!

    Perhaps this phenomenon is more common than I thought and may be one reason the "Mother goddess" thing is so pervasive and persistant. I would love to explore trance dance more, but I haven't seen any workshops offered very many places.

    does anyone else experience/manifest something while dancing?

    concerning contradictions, I saw a quote somewhere, can't remember who to attribute it to, that states "civilization is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time" I am contradictory, It depends on what I had for breakfast or what my dreams were that day as to what I may say I believe. I believe in nature and nature is not consistant, but it is not random, even though it appears that way.

    Marya

  10. #30
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Dear Gang,
    I have to admit that for me, the dance as it is supposed to be, seems so completely, intrinsically human that I can not even imagine it being relegated to something that belongs to any gods or goddesses, unless they be jealous of what WE have created. This dance, more than any other seems to belong intimately and purposefully to expressions of human nature. When we really LOOK at the authentic dances, we see the warts and all. In natives states, the perfection is all about the humaness, not about an unreachable goal of goddess, but about being able to think, feel and respond as who and what we are in this minute.
    But then, I have never really been into the anthropomorphic concepts of diety, either.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 02-14-2008 at 04:41 PM.

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