The Beautiful Pause – ALLAF 003
Breathe and enjoy the next time you are stuck at a red light, belly dance like you were hired for a wedding to oriental brass band Kocani Orkestar, try the “Hair Throw Surprise”, know what your earrings will do, and try sprinkling sesame seeds on your next meal.
Danceable Ritual: The beautiful pause.
There are so many moments in life where we pause. In line at the store, at the red light, waiting for our computer to start, or waiting for the bath water to get hot. Sometimes we pause on purpose. Sometimes we are pause by things outside of our control. Regardless, all of us pause.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hahn has used traffic lights as a teaching tool for enjoying moments. When you are stopped at a red light, those moments can be seen as a gift. You can choose to sit back and enjoy your breath. He also does this with a phone ringing, bells ringing. He has taught us many cues that remind us to stop and enjoy the moment.
In dance, all of us can wiggle around the stage or dancefloor without pausing for a whole song. But where is the contrast? When do we invite the audience watching to take breath and relax? When do we give ourselves a moment to take it all in and smile?
Here’s a danceable ritual you can try in your every day life. When you are waiting to cross the street, or waiting for the red light to turn green, make it into a beautiful pause. That might mean you pose or just enjoy breathing in and out, or smile like you just pulled off a move you’ve been working on for a month. Whatever a beautiful pause looks like to you, try it. It won’t take any extra time out of your day. And you can bring that beautiful pause into your belly dance practice and performances as well.
Danceable Song: “Alone at My Wedding” by Kocani Orkestar
I remember making a Romanian friend and talking about our passions. I told her how I love to belly dance, and she asked if I knew Kocani Orkestar.
Oh yes. I have had so much fun performing to their song “Alone at my Wedding”. It’s from a whole album of songs that gypsy bands are hired to play for weddings in Macedonia. Amazing. Their songs come from gypsies around the Balkans, and they even add in some Latin, electronica and funk.
This is a big band with high energy. They’re in the genre of Oriental Brass Bands, inspired by fancy Turkish army bands in the 1800s during the Ottoman Empire. On youtube you can see them playing in the streets and on stages.
They do some amazing collaboration with Taraf de Haidouks, who I will definitely feature in another show. And they have influenced bands like Beirut, which plays some ooey gooey slow pieces I have seen belly dancers like Tessa Myers do such beautiful performances to.
Such a dynamic song, starting with accordion, with dramatic emptiness and electronic embellishments. Some of the instruments that I love the most, including accordion, clarinet, davul (suspended bass drum) and giant horns including a tuba. Instant party, even if sheerly by volume. And they are incredibly talented. They have voices that seem like they could be heard for miles in the mountains.
Demonstrated by this song “Alone at my Wedding”, this band plays the music of life’s events. Imagine this group of solid, groomed dark haired men with big shiny instruments playing in the street outside of the hospital room right after the birth of a child. Welcoming them to the world. Funerals, weddings, times when we get together hug and dance and remember.
I would love to know what the title “Alone at My Wedding” really means. I have thought about that often when performing the song. Is it a woman left at the alter? Is it a woman dancing by herself for the last time before she becomes someone’s wife? I remember watching a woman in her wedding dress alone on the dance floor back in the bar of my hometown in upstate New York. There was a band playing. I didn’t see anyone with her, and I don’t know what happened to her. But she was there dancing alone in her white dress. She didn’t seem to care that we were all watching from our barstools. That part struck me the most. Her desire or need to dance was more powerful than everything else around her.
Damn Sexy Dance Move: Hair Throw Surprise
This is one of those really fun moves that catches audiences off-guard. Especially when a song gets quiet near the end, like the song “Alone at my Wedding” and then bam!
If you have any neck issues whatsoever, don’t bother with this move. Your neck is too precious. If you don’t have any past or current neck pain and you have a strong sense of balance, still warm up first. If you don’t have longer hair, it helps to have something on your head that exaggerates the look of the move like a scarf.
I always start this by tipping my head toward my right shoulder. Roll my head forward with momentum building to my left shoulder and then sweeping my hair back with my hand as I roll back into neutral. There’s a peak to the flow. It’s not even. If it was I would have to keep circling to get my hair to fly. This is just one circle at just the right time.
Featured Lighten-my-Body Food: Sesame Seeds
Get sesame seeds raw and unhulled if you can. Take 5 minutes to dry roast them in a pan, let them cool, and keep them in a jar with a lid. They smell so good when you roast them. And use them! They won’t stay good for more than a month or two after you roast them.
My in-laws, the authors of The Great Life Cookbook hand grind roasted sesame seeds up with sea salt to make gomasio. Such a tasty condiment to put on rice and cooked greens and salads. Just plain sesame seeds add flavor, a tiny crunch and nice color contrast to many savory and sweet dishes. They’re just so darn cute. They have iron and calcium in them as well as protein. And more than your daily requirement for copper. Isn’t that cool? I had no idea our bodies wanted copper.
Another great thing about sesame seeds is that they add flavor without adding salt or sugar to our heavily salted and sweetened lives. And there’s no added oil involved either. None of the addictive trinity that lure us into overeating.
There are a bunch of recipes on my website that call for sesame seeds, including Black Sticky Rice with Banana, Sesame and Flax and Nori Brown Rice Balls
Make You Shine Costume Tip: Know what your earrings will do
Earrings bring attention to our faces, adding character without taking the time that doing our hair or makeup does. Some remind us of people we love and places we’ve been. And we can carry them with us in a tiny box and treasure them. Earrings are so nice that way.
When I grew my hair long and started throwing my hair while I dance, I discovered that not all earrings cooperate with that kind of self-expression.
Know what your earrings will do. Some get tangled in hair, some make noise, some get stuck on bracelets when your hand comes near your face. Some fly out of your ears, especially for dramatic moves like a hair throw. The audience does notice a thud on the stage when your earring flies out, especially because you have to go pick it up when you finish so the next performer doesn’t step on it.
When you are waiting for something, relax and raise your face, roll your shoulders back, restore your posture, and smile. It will make a big difference in the way you feel right at that moment, and your goddess will shine through.
Saint of Truth Confession
I have missed out on enjoying so many quiet moments of my life by filling the pauses with non-constructive thoughts, with looking at my cell phone AGAIN, and with impatience. Like I’ve robbed myself.
Sometimes when I perform I am using too much of the stage. I’m all over the place. It can be dizzying for the audience to follow a dancer who is all over the stage. Again, practicing the ritual of the Beautiful Pause could make my performances more powerful.
When I read Thich Naht Hanh’s books and meditate, those beautiful pauses happen throughout my day. So by my next show, I want to be able to report that I had 1 beautiful pause a day for a whole week. If that’s not what happens, I hope you hold me to it.