You may or may not have noticed on my Facebook and Instagram pages an image I made a few months ago with a silly app on my phone. It probably passed you by, the message and what is meant was over the instant you stopped reading; maybe it extended to when you hit the like button – but after that is was no different from any other of the 100 quotes you see a day on social media. But to me it was everything. It was actually a desperate cry from a world that was crumbling around me. My heart had been smashed into a thousand pieces. Pieces which until today lay broken. Some, a lot, still missing.
The picture read:
The pain makes me stronger.
The heartbreak makes me wiser.
Both make my dancer better.
It was a quote I adapted for myself and my dance, from a much more popular one which I had found circling the net. Often, in times of pain and upset I troll the net searching for quotes to let me know that others have felt the same or that I am not alone. To me this adaptive quote was a way of saying to myself that everything was not bad. And actually it wasn’t, because there was a sliver of positivity to all the pain. And when I say pain I mean it: both emotional and physical. For months I couldn’t sleep and constantly had a stabbing feeling in my chest.
THE PAIN OF HEARTBREAK – a positive
This positive aspect was actually this pain, because I had never felt anything like it before in my life. It was like a little box of emotions that I had stored inside me had somehow been opened. Emotions that for the previous 27 years had lain dormant. I was shocked that I could feel like this. Suddenly the whole world become that bit clearer. It was as if my senses had been enhanced. I can only compare it to something like having your nose cleared or hearing increased. Suddenly you can smell things you have never before and hear sounds that before were not there.
The world was now so different. I was looking at it from a whole new perspective and with a whole lot more understanding. Things people had once said to me now made more sense. I realised things that I didn’t understand before and had more empathy for others. Those who once may have seemed irrational or crazy - I could now rationalise with. I was the same.
The high wall I had to protect from such emotion had been bashed down and even though the pain flowed in - so much else of the world did too. Things you can only know once you have had your heart broken, once you’ve had a love such that only pain is inevitable at the end, it opens you and makes you vulnerable.
How Music Sounded Different
One of the biggest changes was with music. I had in the past listened to love ballads but in all honesty very few spoke to me, until now. The words in the songs, they now physically hurt, the tears were impossible to hold back. This music went deeper than it ever had before. This was true for both English and Arabic songs. Adele songs which I had once found cheesy, I now had respect for. Umm Kalthoum and Abdul Halim Hafez songs which previously made me a little goose bumpy now actually made me feel physically sick. I wanted to throw up with the pain.
More to give as a dancer
The thing is when you open your heart so much to someone, you open up to so much more, at the time it is overwhelming. It’s like you are drowning with no end in sight. I still don’t see the end, and have just learnt to stay afloat. But it is also a two way passage. You can now give so much more. This is why the last statement reads, “Both make my dance better.” And they genuinely do! I have so much more to pull on when I dance. I have more of a story to tell and share. New emotions to pull on and extract when expressing myself through movement. As I hear the music deeper, I pull more from it. My perspective is different. I have more to share with those I dance for. I feel my dance has more meaning, a deeper level of expression and genuinely feel it has improved.
Why do bellydancers get better with time?
It makes things clearer too. I have always believed that belly dancers get better with age. Watch any of the famous dancers who have catalogues of videos online and see if you can find one who hasn’t got better with time. Who is now easier on the eye, makes you feel more at one with them and moves you more with the music. It is something that I have always admired with belly dance and to me, makes it stand out from other dances as preferable. Bellydance (Egyptian Raqs) is a dance of deep emotion even above technical skills. With many other dances your career is nearly at a standstill not too long after you hit puberty.
It makes sense. If the artist has felt more emotion, then they have more chance of igniting that feeling in you. Otherwise, how can they get you to feel something they have never felt themselves? And age just increases the probability of experiencing these emotions and so with age comes more of a vocab of emotions to pull on and share in your dance. Experiences in life give you more to pull on. Examples that spring to mind are of course heart break, love, suffering a great loss, pure happiness, orgasmic sex, passion, anger, jealousy, pure contentment with one’s self, loving your body, giving birth, loving your child, fear of death, failure, success, grave sickness, loneliness, wanting to end your life, being overwhelmed with the beauty of the world … and many, many, MANY more, some I don’t even know exist as I have not been there yet. Age of course doesn’t guarantee anything either. You could easily go through life never having experience true love, or heartbreak it took me till the age of 27 for this to happen and it was only by fluke. Age just increases the probability.
So enjoy every day you are alive for with it comes more experiences and different perspective on the world. And the more you have lived, the more you have to give, the more life you have to dance.
Some more quotes: “Dancers, like wine, improve with age.”
“A woman doesn’t have anything to dance about until she’s over 35 years old.” Bert Balladine (thanks to Shira for this one)