The lights dim and expectation rises; suddenly you feel a surge in the music, its beat and rhythm creating a contagious prelude of anticipation felt throughout the room. Finally, she appears, floating effortlessly as if her feet aren’t really touching the floor, but rather hovering just above it. Her body moves in a sensual, fluid motion, controlled, yet simultaneously free and easy, swaying with the music. Mysteriously, her eyes transport you across time to the places where ancient sisters of old danced for joy, for celebration, for pleasure, for their men, for each other, for themselves. It’s inexplicable, yet somehow she takes you there. Her veil hides and reveals and then encircles her in a breeze of motion as she expertly conforms it to her will. She emits an aura sensed by all, one of timeless celebration recalled from deep within her soul. She dances the oldest dance in the world…the Belly Dance.
With ancient beginnings dating back to the oldest recorded history, belly dance has its roots firmly grounded in celebration…of life…of freedom…of happiness…of entertainment…of artistic expression.
For twelve months I photographed American belly dancers, privileged to have a “front row seat” through my camera’s viewfinder in individual photo sessions and live performances. Prepare your mind for a visual and educational experience created to cultivate a newfound respect and appreciation for the art of belly dance.
Not long ago, a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with a serious illness. He shared the sad news with many of his friends in a long email that described the battle ahead as well as his thoughts and attitudes concerning his unfortunate situation. Toward the end of the email he disclosed a carefully considered to-do list describing his future priorities. Occupying a prominent position on the list was his intention to spend a considerable amount of time daydreaming. The idea of consciously setting aside time to daydream was a revelation to me. I too am prone to daydream, but not intentionally. It just sort of happens. I see something that triggers a pleasant memory, a wishful thought or a fantasy of being somewhere or even someone else and my mind is lured away to faraway imaginations. Daydreamers don’t need a reason to disengage, just an opportunity. Simple every day scenes, often unnoticed by others, can trigger minutes or even hours of pleasurable reverie. It’s like a car pulls up to the curb and the passenger door magically opens, inviting you to get inside and go for a ride. A spontaneous road trip, only it happens in the mind.
For years I photographed these scenes but the images were one-offs and had no particular relationship to the other photographs I was making at the time. Like daydreams they simply appeared and I advantageously recorded them. Dogs running along the side of a hill made me envious of their freedom; they had no worries or responsibilities. What would that kind of freedom feel like? An old truck with a camper winds down a curvy mountain road. I watch until it rolls out of sight. What would it be like to sell out and hit the road? Just point the truck west and go. These are the imaginations of a daydreamer where the world is vast and fully able to accommodate all the “thinks you can think”.
For years, I never knew what to do with these photographs; I simply hoped their purpose would one day be revealed. On a whim, I decided to print and casually edit the pictures to see if, or how, they related to one another. This process presented a cohesive body of work, but the question still remained, what did it represent? Then I remembered my friend’s conscious decision to daydream and how the scenes in these images triggered my own forays into the imaginary. Although I can’t remember every detail of creating each photograph, I do remember how each scene caused me to pause and disconnect from what I was working on.
I see no end to this work and I enjoy making these types of photographs. Why stop? They give me more reasons to daydream.