The Jataka Tales, The Bhagavad Gita and what’s inside Pandora’s Box

It’s time to break out the Martinelli’s crisp apple cider! I have hit the submit button and my final paper for my school term is complete! Paper exhaustion is real. Over the last few weeks I have been consumed by the Bhagavad Gita and the Jataka Tales. As challenging as it was, it did provide a nice little mini-vacation from Western thought. This is what I got out of it:

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Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com
  • Inaction is an action. Oh how powerful that seems! One may think that by doing nothing that is all there is to it. So, how can doing nothing have an effect on any outcome? The answer is-that it can. An entire course of events can be changed by choosing to simply DO nothing. Didn’t Hamlet also learn this lesson?
  • The laws of Karma are a given. Whether or not one meets the repercussions of Karma on this day or another day is of little consequence. It will happen.
  • It is wise to utilize restraint and intellect without being emotionally reactive when dealing with adversity.

These are profound thoughts for someone who has been struggling with the energy dynamic of recent midterm elections (that would be me).

While I am on this tangent that has swayed from the Western cultural dynamic,  I have a confession about myself that involves my Halloween box. For me, opening up the Halloween box is like opening up Pandora’s box. The vast bulk of my costume box consists of Middle Eastern dance costumes, and various garb pieces from my days spent in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms).

In the heart of Provo, Utah there is this wonderful place called The Covey Center for the Arts. It is on my list of happy places. On Wednesday nights, I used to meet with a small group of women at the dance studio there and we would work on choreographies and techniques in Middle Eastern dance.

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This was somewhat of a scandalous undertaking in Mormon country not far from Brigham Young University. I believe we got the approval to utilize the Art Center because we kept things modest, and for that I am grateful.

Now, I wasn’t much of a performer. We generally had one performance every couple of months and for the most part they were rather intimate and private. For some dancers, it is all about the performance, but for me, I really liked my Zen time at the studio with my ladies.

Come on, the most interesting women you will ever meet are drawn to alternative dance forms. I value the friendships I have had with these women to this day. It was much needed therapy after a divorce which sent my sense of self worth plummeting. Another secret…yikes! I was a domestic violence survivor who had been going to support meetings and classes with other survivors, but for some reason, I found my dance time to be FAR more therapeutic.

Middle Eastern dance is kind to all body types and ages. It is also a dance that is inherently feminine and has been for thousands of years. The last thing I needed at that point in my life was a bunch of masculine energy. The Baklava was tasty and the haflas were fun. I loved the music. Percussion was my thing. I loved the dum-beks, the zills, the Baladi, Maqsoum, Chiftetelli, and Malfouf.  I reveled in Saadi and Shaabi music. I made a crossover into Bollywood music and other cultural forms of music and dance.

I studied old Hollywood and was intrigued by the Egyptian influence in Cinema. In recent times, I have learned a great deal about colonialism, orientalism, and misappropriation. I’ve also had to reconcile dance forms that I love with where to draw the line when it comes to misappropriation.

I believe there was a time from the early 90s onward when Middle Eastern dance took a riveting turn. I bless the day I took a dance class from a rather scholarly instructor who really put it all into perspective for me. I was turning a wrong corner and I will be forever grateful to this instructor for pulling me back.

Middle Eastern dance had a huge emergence with The World’s Fair, early Hollywood, the 1960s, and again in the 1990s with the success of Miles Copeland’s Bellydance Superstars. The hype has dwindled once again and what remains are the dedicated loyalists and the purists. I read a recent article about this and I had to agree with the author. There’s definitely been a new dynamic that has emerged from all of this and it feels somewhat refreshing.

I moved away from Provo and have since remarried. Some of my other ambitions have taken precedence over the commute to dance class. Many of my former troupe are very much like me and life has taken them away but we still visit the dance community from time to time. Others are still going strong. I can’t say that I have any regrets.

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

One of my former “sisters” is a lawyer who recently gave me some valuable links to researching judges for the ballot, another of my sisters survived breast cancer and we were supporting her all the way. I run into her occasionally at women’s events and we are both anti-plastic, earth loving, zero waste crusaders.

I was a standby Doula for another dance sister who had reconstructive surgery on her jaw due to a facial deformity. While we were dancing she was pregnant. She gave birth to a son who has had developmental delays, and many surgeries primarily on his fingers and toes. As a mother of two children on the autistic spectrum, we understand each other. She was an incredible resource to me when I had five oral surgeries in a year and intolerable nerve pain.

I met with another former dance sister on Friday. She had four boys and I recall the day when we all supported and prayed for her because she was pursuing unconventional methods to have a girl. She ended up with TWIN girls. Two years later, she had another set of twin girls!  Over the weekend, she called me frantic because she had found herself in WAY over her head with her family themed costumes.

We spent the night pinning, sewing, and trying to figure out the geometry on one of Queen Amadala’s dresses. I realized I was in the midst of a true cosplayer when she showed me her “hair bags” and a child’s Ewok costume she had converted from a dog costume and merged with a panda costume. She had plans to mix three different shades of Rit dye and she’d braided an intricate hairpiece from a wig tutorial. She had also sewn some type of tusk pieces out of nylons.

Now that is dedication! As a friend, I did not want to tell her that she had buried herself because we both knew it. As you can see, the friendships that were forged through dance have run deep. I don’t regret a thing. When they say Middle Eastern Dance is about sisterhood it is truly about sisterhood.

This is what I am reminded of when I open up my Halloween box. When I go through it and start compiling my former dance pieces I miss it. Some of my pieces came in handy with my daughter’s Percy Jackson mythology costume from last year. This year, my dance pieces will serve me well with my fortune teller get-up.

My former garb pieces from the SCA remind me of how I became interested in folkloric dance forms and music in the first place. Here’s a candid photo of my time spent in the SCA. It looks posed because the sun was in my eyes. It gives the impression that I’m casting a spell here. It seems sort of magical to be hanging out in the forest like this.

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My daughter and I just recently completed a folkloric Day of the Dead felt project. We are going to make a garland out of these and hang them above our self-made Halloween altar on the piano.

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The other bulk of my Halloween box consists of an excess amount of tights. I have a thing for tights: Striped tights, Edgar Allan Poe tights, Skull and cross bone tights, cat tights, skeleton tights, tights with flames, layered tights with fishnets…I love them all! Some decisions are hard. I could not decide which ones to go with, or maybe the shoe laces were off.

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Lastly, I want to thrown in this item from a future cosplayer in the making. My daughter’s 13 year old friend made this dog “Zero” from fabric, wire, and a styrofoam ball. She even concocted a light up nose. Rather impressive for a 13 year old girl!

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Thank you for reading! I will continue to obsess about Halloween until Oct. 31st. Fall recipes are on their way!

 

 

 

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