Empty Shells or Artistic Goddesses?

Image versus Substance

"For Beginners" ZAGHAREET! May/June 2005)
by Anthea Kawakib Poole

“My feet, they howled in pain - the wheels of a bandwagon cut very deep...” - Jimi Hendrix

Our dance is so much more than what you see at first glance. The renewed popularity of belly dance (or perhaps “Pop”-ularization is more accurate, since corporate America now actively drives the trend) tends to focus on the outward image - gorgeous women in flashy costumes - but the ART of belly dance depends on the performer’s inner vision.

One of the best uses of art is to capture the audience’s imagination and lead them to contemplate a higher Reality - to take them OUT of their normal, everyday world into an expanded consciousness that recognizes eternal values. This describes MY “inner vision” - yours may be different; but I do hope you have one, for without it your dance is an empty shell... and though shells can be very beautiful, when you need sustenance, it’s what’s inside that counts!

Here’s an interesting thought on “empty art” from Vilayanur S. Ramachandran (“The Neurological Basis of Artistic Universals” http://www.interdisciplines.org/artcog/papers/9):

“I am reminded of patients with right hemisphere stroke who, when asked to draw an object (say, a horse) will create a reasonable likeness, often containing all the required details. But what’s missing is the essence of the horse; the drawing seems almost too detailed but lifeless. This suggests that what we call "the artistic sense" is normally in the right hemisphere — which is damaged in these patients — and the left hemisphere doesn’t quite "get it" even when it tries hard.”

Yes, we've all seen dancers like that. There's great technique, but no heart in their dancing.

Get Your Brains (Actually, Minds) Together

So let’s continue where we left off in the last issue, in which we explored a routine that helps align your conscious and unconscious minds so they can work together for better problem-solving. Now we’ll add a modification called Symptom Scaling (from Rossi’s “The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing”), that specifically pinpoints the connection between the left and right brain.

Refresh your memory of the self-hypnotic procedure in the last issue. I hope you’ve tried it by now; also remember it works best if you also take advantage of your natural energy rhythms and do it during one of the “quiet” phases of your daily rest/activity cycle.

As you know, before you start, you’ll need to re-examine the particular problem you have, and also the resolution you want to have happen. (I’ll take a recent example from one of my private students. Her issue was improving her finger cymbal playing while dancing, in particular, while improvising. She could play cymbals fairly well, and was comfortable dancing, but she needed additional work on putting the two skills together.)

So now  think of your particular problem or issue, and rate it on a scale of 1 - 10 (1 being the worst, 10 the best).

  • what number is your ability at this point in time? Clearly see it in your mind so you can rate it accurately. (Perhaps you rate it at “4")
  • then imagine it is worse (again, clearly see it in your mind), what number is that? (If you could barely play finger cymbals at all, your ability could be rated at “1")
  • then imagine it is better, what number is that? (If you were pretty good at playing cymbals while dancing, you could rate your ability at “8")

Repeat this process a couple of times, clearly seeing yourself playing cymbals and dancing at each “rating”. 

If you make this process as vivid as possible, feeling it in your muscles and emotions while you imagine your problem (whatever it may be), your right brain is involved; and then when you rate it on the numeric scale, you activate your left brain. This process of switching back and forth helps develop left/right brain communication; and according to experts, this process can program your mind up to go - all by itself - into problem-solving mode.

Of course you could go sweat it out in the studio - but fortunately there’s always “more than one way to skin a cat”!

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On to Brain Development in Dancers