Shadow Dancing

Shadow Dancing

Illuminating the Darker Corners of the Psyche

By Ghanima Gaditana

Note on terminology: In this paper, when the words “dancer” and “dance” appear without modifier, they refer to the Oriental dancer and her dance. In the U.S., Oriental dance is commonly referred to as “bellydance;” only because the term has predominant usage and wide currency, it will also appear in this paper. Many Oriental dancers prefer not to use the word “bellydance;” they consider it an inelegant, inaccurate and demeaning label. No offense is intended: the author agrees with their position.

Ballet, the ballerina and the ballet dancer will be referred to by those terms only.


Repression in the Middle East

As a result of the spread of Islam, the tradition of female seclusion has prevailed for the past 600 years in the Middle East. What this means, in simple terms, is that no respectable woman could be seen by men outside her close family. This custom increased the social stigma upon dancers, but people still want entertainment, and to be able to dance, themselves. Thus, the practice of the dance, which long antedated the revelation of the Koran to the Prophet Mohammed, was impaired but not eradicated by the changes brought to Middle Eastern society.

In many societies, particularly traditional cultures, professional entertainers are not socially acceptable to respectable people in society at large. A certain proficiency in dancing is acceptable, if not expected of members of Middle Eastern society; girls are supposed to be better at it than boys, since it is a feminine form. In the amateur arena, dancing is regarded as somewhat of a social grace, like a well-bred Victorian lady’s being “able to sing and play a little,” it is improper to be too good at it.

Professionalism places one outside polite society, and with (for their culture) good reason. Not only do professional dancers violate the traditional Islamic values of feminine modesty and seclusion of women; in both old (pre-19th century) and modern society, dancers are frequently for hire to do other things than dance. Only the few great stars are above the suggestion that they are prostitutes as well — most dancers encounter and confront that suspicion constantly. Regrettably, a woman performing in public is considered, in conservative circles, the equivalent to being a prostitiute, whether or not physical sexual services have been performed; conservative society itself forces and enforces the cruel dichotomy of “good girls” and “bad girls.” (Westerners aren’t the only people who buy into the virgin/whore model.)

Projections in the West

Western attitudes and perceptions are very different from those in “native” areas. When Napoleon went on his campaigns in North Africa, the French saw a dance performed in the streets of Algeria at celebrations, and named it “danse du ventre,” or translated into English, “belly dancing.” Bear in mind that European women of that era were wearing steel or wooden corsets, and dancing consisted of narrowly limited movements of the arms and legs. The freedom of movement of the dancer’s bodies caused a sensation among every European who saw a performance, and was understandably popular among the troops. The French brought the dance into nightclubs and cabarets, where it has been misunderstood and almost destroyed at times.

The dance was first seen on a large scale in the U.S. at the 1896 Chicago World’s Fair. The pavilions where the Moroccans, Algerians, and Egyptians danced and played received little attention until a canny promoter posted signs calling it “belly dance.” This was a term carefully calculated to scandalize right-thinking Victorian morality: remember, this was an era when upper-class people were putting pantaloons on the “limbs” of their pianos, and asked for “light meat” and “dark meat” when served chicken, because it was improper to say “breast” or “thigh” or “leg.” The sexual aspect of the dance was emphasized upon its arrival in the U.S., and the air of scandal has been encouraged over the past century by promoters intent on making money from the dance.

As do humans everywhere, Americans see an unfamiliar thing in terms of what they do know. Thus we project our own fantasies, attitudes and understandings onto a phenomenon that is basically foreign to our experience, and transform it in our minds into something we think we understand. It is a commonly held human understanding that the kind of sex we have is not as sexy, exciting, dangerous, etc. as the kind of sex they have. For example, in Scandinavia, pornography is legal and freely available, prostitution is permitted, and great sexual freedom prevails, at least in the perception of Americans. I saw pornographic materials there conspicuously labeled “Direct from Americ!” Because the Middle East is very much terra incognita for most Americans, it provides a superior screen upon which to project that belief. (The sorry facts about the sexual realities of many Middle Eastern women, including “circumcision” of young girls, mandatory virginity at marriage, marriage at very young ages, arranged marriages, marital rape, divorcing a wife who produces only daughters, or no children at all, stoning or drowning accused adulteresses, lack of information about sex and feminine hygiene, scarcity of female physicians to attend to women, and so on, are far less sexually exciting to consider.)

Because of our American preoccupation with sex, and our deep ignorance of Middle Eastern culture and society, we tend to misunderstand Oriental dance. Americans usually perceive any movement between the neck and knees as sexual, hence adults tend to see bellydance as erotic. People also tend to project such scant understandings as they have of the Orient onto the dance, thus misinterpreting further. For instance, Americans commonly hold the misapprehension that this dance exists to tempt and titillate men, and has its historical origins in “The Harem” — and here we have a visual image from some Holly-wood movie with beautiful, sex-starved seminude women vying for the attentions of a jaded, corrupt, overweight, and turbaned potentate.


Audiences and Dancers

There are major differences in the behavior of Middle Eastern and American audiences. Middle Easterners respond very freely and happily during a successful performance: they clap in time with the music, call out encouragingly to the singers, musicians and dancers, applaud after especially brilliant passages, and are very open in their expressions of approval (including showering money on the performers). It’s more like Americans respond in a jazz club. Americans, at their most polite, may put on their best concert-hall manners: they sit quietly, with their hands folded, with perhaps an attentive smile carefully in place. Some women perceive the dancer’s “unbridled sexuality” as a threat to themselves or their marriages, and cannot conceal their feelings of discomfort and hostility. Some men see the dancer’s presentation as evidence of her “raging lust,” and experience it as a challenge to perform in some way, and strange behavior and “acting out” can result. In both cases, their primary response to watching Oriental dance is their perception of the dancer as a sexual object.

Some dancers, usually novice Americans who are still carrying around their Hollywood-harem fantasies, play up the “seething sexual passions” angle. Ethnic audiences are extremely uncomfortable with this, and are either embarrassed, or insulted and offended because of their conservative, family-oriented values. Mixed-sex American audiences are uncomfortable as well: the women often hate it, and the men are ill at ease because of the tension between their wives’ disapproval, and their own confusion about how to respond. If a dancer emphasizes the sexual aspects of the dance with a men-only crowd, she’s setting herself up for trouble.

Are the Movements Sexual?

Are the movements of the Oriental dancer sexual in nature? The answer to that question is in the mind of the beholder. Americans tend to see them as such, for reasons having to do with our culture, religion, and history. Christian culture and conventional morality tend to distrust the body, and find it the repository of the worst sins. Our dance traditions come from corset-wearing people, and dancing is itself morally suspect. When the waltz was new, moralists decried it as obscene, and declared it would corrupt the moral fibre of the nation. Indeed, even ballet, our society’s most-respected, “high-culture” dance form, was stigmatized as recently as a century ago. The notions of a woman dancing and displaying herself before an audience, or of making herself at all conspicuous, were as abhorrent in Victorian-era polite society as they still are in the conservative Middle East.

Historically speaking, our society is uncomfortable with dancing in general, so Oriental dance is already suspect, particularly because it is foreign. A century of bad press for the dance contributes to the mental “set.” Upon seeing the dancer’s body moving freely, clad in a glamorous costume (which may reveal far less bare skin than many cocktail dresses, and certainly less than any swimsuit), the mind of the Western viewer quickly confirms the suspicion that the dance is indeed sexual in nature.

To the people of the Middle East, and to the dancers who do the movements, mostly the movements are not explicitly sexual. Regarding the few specific movements which do carry clear sexual connotations, every dancer I know carefully avoids them, for the psychological comfort of both her audience and herself.

For a shift in perspective, one might analyze the ballet on the same issues. Does an American or European go to a ballet performance with sexual excitement on his mind? We could consider it, at minimum, missing the point, and at worst, a prurient obsession should a ballet goer reveal he went to the ballet just for the purpose of ogling the performers’ bodies. Note that ballet dancers are indeed clad in tight-fighting, abbreviated costumes, emphasizing every contour of their bodies, including the men’s genitals and buttocks. The women’s (and sometimes the men’s) arms and shoulders are usually bare, their breasts just covered by the low-cut bodice of the costume. Both males and females constantly lift their legs to open and display the genital area. Further, the man touches, grasps, and lifts the woman overhead, touching and holding her in quite intimate ways. (It is relevant to mention that to traditional Middle Eastern audiences, the movements and poses of ballet seem immodest in the extreme.) Nonetheless, Americans manage to ignore these quite sexual aspects of ballet, or at least repress their reactions to them. (Perhaps, as ballerinas have become ever thinner, more serious, pain-ridden, and asexual, the sexiness of ballet has decreased to the point where it’s easier to overlook, helping to make the ballet a more “respectable” form!)Oddly, even the extremely and overtly sexual, vulgar, and unrefined movements of the various popular dance forms that have swept America over the past 30 years do not raise American eyebrows in the same way, and with the same persistence, that belly dancing does. This suggests that we are indeed seeing the projections of the audience working overtime. A comparison of Oriental dance, the classical, traditional “high-culture” dance form of the Middle East, with classical ballet, the “high-culture” dance form in Western society, is instructive.What is the Shadow?Each human personality encompasses a broad selection of traits and behaviors. Some are more desirable and acceptable than others in the eyes of society and the individual who inhabits that identity. People normally and naturally like some parts of themselves better than other parts. Because we like to think well of ourselves, and to have others think well of us, we encourage our better aspects and traits, and usually try to show our good side to the world.The famous psychologist, Carl Jung, developed the concept of the Shadow as a means of referring to the parts of the self that the individual or society in general dislikes, rejects and suppresses (See Appendix I: "Jung and the Shadow" and Appendix II: "Moses Meets the Shadow in the Koran"). The aspects of one’s identity that one denies, the “flip side” of one’s personality, do not simply disappear when one rejects them. They are, instead, forced out of consciousness, and constellate into the Shadow, the dark mirror-image of one’s good, well-socialized self.The more strongly it is repressed, the more the Shadow will seek expression. It haunts us in our dreams, and bursts forth at inopportune moments to embarrass us, spoiling occasions, sabotaging enjoyment, destroying relationships and ruining careers. Examples we all recognize include the moralistic “family values” evangelist who is caught with a prostitute, and the apparently trustworthy accountant who has a gambling habit and embezzles funds from his clients.The Shadow is, nonetheless, a powerful source of inspiration for the artist, and points the way to healing for any individual. Until a person is able to address the Shadow, admit its existence within, work through the conflicts embodied by it, and embrace the Shadow, true integration and deep psychological healing cannot be said to have occurred.The Oriental Dancer as the Shadow of the BallerinaTable 1 (see Appendix III) details the contrasting characteristics of the ballerina and the Oriental dancer. In a remarkable number of ways, the Oriental dancer is everything the ballerina is not.Upon examining Table 1, we see clearly that the Oriental dancer embodies the shadow of the ballerina (and vice versa). She is rounded, not thin. Her glamorous, ultra-feminine costume emphasizes the curves of her figure (many of the most highly-respected dancers in the Middle East are quite full-figured, albeit shapely). Her movements are rooted in the earth, and make intensive use of the space within and immediately surrounding her body. She is perceived as passionate and wild, with strong appetites. (Ironically, every good dancer I know is very disciplined, and works very hard at getting her body to do what she wants, when she wants. She then, in performance, must find ways to abandon herself to the music and mood of the moment, so she will look and feel spontaneous and passionate, in accordance with the expectations of the audience.) Thinness, airiness, rigid perfectionism, over-control, and asexuality are all severe liabilities for an Oriental dancer. She is (or is seen as) rounded, grounded, earthy/watery/fiery, sensual and sexual, warm, intimate, passionate and concrete, imperfect and very human, a completely physical creature. The ballerina is vanishingly thin, always trying to escape from gravity into the air, cool, distant, asexual and abstract, the essence of mind controlling body to achieve perfection and overcome pain, mortifying the flesh, perfect and superhuman, purely spiritual.Oriental dancers embody all the split-off characteristics of the ballet dancer’s personality, the parts that a ballerina rejects, denies, and tries to suppress and overcome. Oriental dancers are perceived as explicitly and implicitly sexual and physical; however, the dancers I know quite frequently speak of spiritual and metaphysical concerns, and many are very spiritually oriented.The Image of the Dancer as Whore As noted above, it is regrettably true that some dancers in the Middle East are prostitutes, but few Americans know enough about the Middle East, or the dancers who live and work there, to know this. The persistence of the stereotype comes from other sources, including the American love/hate relationship with sex. The American psyche is uncomfortable with women who enjoy their bodies and their sexuality, and hurries to categorize such women as immoral, hence prostitutes.Further, some men are titillated at the prospect of just seeing a prostitute and imagining what they might do with her. When they see a woman who fits, however awkwardly, into their preconception of a prostitute, they eagerly force her into their fantasy picture. Hence they assume that a dance performance constitutes advertising for more intimate services, and the tips tucked into the dancer’s belt are a down payment. They are pre-set to perceive the dance as sexy, and believing it a prostitute’s dance is a way of making it even sexier.Archetypes are autonomous and numinous images and symbols arising from the collective unconscious which can have a powerful transformative influence on the individual psyche. The archetypes are also at work here, and are largely responsible for the persistence of the Dancer-as-Whore image. The ballerina, it could be argued, represents an extreme form of our society’s Virgin archetype: cool and asexual, with prepubescent body type, the serious, ascetic, hardworking, obedient, good little girl, who (even in an occupation as intrinsically physical as dance) is in an adversarial relationship with her flesh, forcing it to obey her will. The Oriental dancer is the opposite in every way. It is because the Oriental dancer embodies the Shadow of the ballerina that the polarity of Virgin/Whore is evoked in the mind of the audience. The subconscious process runs something like this: the bellydancer is not a ballet dancer, thus she is not a virgin, therefore she must be a whore.

Dancer as Slave

Another aspect of the American Shadow can be seen in the common projection of dancer as slave-girl. Americans strongly identify with the notion of individual personal freedom; since popular notions of Middle Eastern culture and bellydance represent the opposite of conventional American values, the image of a harem-slave fits naturally in the Shadowy package.

Furthermore, it is a comforting fantasy for the audience, as they confront the dancer, to place her in slavery. Since no genuinely good woman enjoys her sexuality freely, the dancer must therefore be bad, and is punished for that crime by being made a slave.

The Shadow-image of a sex-slave appeals to the masculine psyche as much as it does to the feminine psyche, though for somewhat different reasons. The women can feel reassured that the slave-dancer is, in yet another way, less than fully human, and that the flood of sexual energy they perceive from her is safely under the control of a slave-master just off stage somewhere. The men’s fantasy is similar, except that they place themselves in the role of the slave-master who can turn the dancer’s sexuality on and off at will, and can order her to fulfill their sexual scenarios.

Dancer as Subversive and Outcast

But what if the dancer is not a slave, but a free citizen? At a deep level, a woman in a solo dance is participating in a subversive activity. The fundamental threat is to the established order of the patriarchal family, wherein women are prized possessions whose sexuality, particularly childbearing potential, must be kept under strict control. The solo dancer has no partner to protect her, or to limit and control her. In violation of the rule that a good woman is neither seen nor heard, she is displaying herself in front of others. The very sight of her is causing them to think taboo thoughts, which are themselves a further threat to established order. This dynamic is true in our society as well as in the Middle East, albeit to a lesser degree, because our patriarchal structure is less well-maintained. That threat is perceived by the audience, and contributes to their unease in the presence of the dancer.

” “Well, how was I going to stop her? [And I loved every second of it, you frigid, hateful bitch!]”)In a stag crowd, she must be even more careful. Men in groups, even a cluster of men at a table in a restaurant, generally feel the need to prove themselves sexually to the others. If she emphasizes the sexual aspect of the dance, she is very likely to evoke unruly and undesirable behaviors. Most of this acting out is not a pleasant experience for the dancer, and the men usually don’t really want to do it anyway. (If the dancer addresses a group of would-be miscreants from a stance of personal power and authority, they usually control themselves quite promptly and effectively.) In such cases, the dancer’s responsibility to draw clear boundaries and protect herself (and by extension, other dancers) is as important as her responsibility to entertain her audience in a nonprovocative way.Ghanima Gaditana. Photo: Romaine”]My touchstone for detoxifying the dance for others is my own initial experience with the dance. When I was a student at Cal Berkeley, the rite of passage upon one’s 21st birthday was to be taken to the fleshpots on Broadway in San Francisco’s North Beach, having drinks, and watching the topless dancers. This was the most dissolute, grown-up thing my rather conventional crowd did (!). I therefore went, and watched the familiar, safe, good-ol’, clean/dirty-American-sex projected by the topless dancers bouncing boredly atop the bar, and felt officially celebrated, although I can’t say I had a wonderful time. (Consciousness-raising was a ways into my future, yet.) I hurried past the Baghdad and Casbah, the Middle Eastern night clubs, fearing even to stop and look at the pictures of the dancers in the display windows in the front, lest I would be importuned by the barker and forced to go inside and witness God knows what sort of embarrassing, corrupting, filthy sexual show.

Perhaps three years later, a very straight folk-dance friend of mine suggested I should go with her, her husband, her three-year-old daughter, and other friends to Zorba’s, a local Greek restaurant in San Jose. We would enjoy the Greek music, folk-dance, and watch the bellydancer! I was insulted: “What kind of girl do you think I am? I don’t go to dirty shows like that!” I heard myself thinking. I quizzed her a bit, and she insisted that there was nothing inappropriate about bellydancing; and the dancer was funny, down-to-earth, had a master’s degree in Comparative Lit from Berkeley, a regular person. Well, if she said so…I went, ready to bolt at the first sign of anything disgusting; but it was all as she had said. Habiba (Angela Romano) was striking, her show dynamic and challenging, looked like a lot of fun to do, didn’t look too terribly hard — when the opportunity arose to take lessons, I went for it. I took class for years from Jamila Salimpour, one of the best dancers and teachers in the country, whom I had carefully avoided seeing earlier on Broadway during my 21st birthday outing!

What made it possible for me to shift my perspective? First, one of the most conventional and conservative women I knew was taking her little girl to watch the bellydancer, so the dancer must not be doing anything dirty. (The cognitive dissonance contained in that was stunning for me.) Second, the dancer was real person, not a whore. ( I had not, at that time, considered the possibility that prostitutes might be human beings.) She was indeed funny, down-to-earth, intelligent, and a regular person, as well as being beautiful, talented, and an accomplished dancer. Given reassurance, and a nonthreatening reality, I was able to see, enjoy, and come to want to emulate what I saw.

Dance as Healing Process for the Audience

Some of the people are present by free choice; some are in the restaurant because the group dragged them; some come to the party not knowing there will be a dancer: the members of the audience all come to a show bringing their misconceptions. My first task as artist is to re-mold their idea of what they think they’re going to see. (Note that any other kind of artist can simply walk out on stage and start the show!) Initially, I must get them comfortable so they can see what I do, because if they’re stuck in their preconceptions they won’t be able to see. People who are ill-at-ease cannot have a good time and be entertained. Entertaining the audience is my fundamental goal; having a good time myself is a close second. I want to succeed at both goals.

Therefore I do everything possible to diffuse their anxiety. I costume glamorously (because that fulfills their expectations) yet modestly (because that is less likely to provoke tension). I artfully invoke the Child archetype of artlessness. I put on my best corn-fed, Iowa, girl-next-door smile. I mug innocently, and play little games with them, including that old toddler’s favorite, peek-a-boo. By my ingenuous smile, I make it clear to the women that I don’t want their husbands. By behaviors that are in fact quite little-girlish, I dispel the men’s hopes and fears that I might be available. I flirt harmlessly with everybody, kid around, and work hard to charm and relax even the most resistant (all of this while I’m interpreting the music, doing complicated technical moves, and playing a musical instrument [finger cymbals] at the same time. Some dancers do acrobatics and/or balancing, too.) Once the audience relaxes and accepts the dancer, the next part of the process can begin. Physiological studies show that when a person concentrates on doing a movement, there are tiny electrical signals in the nerves that control the muscles, identical, but not for scale, to the massive electrical impulses that occur when the person actually does the movement. (Alan Richardson, Mental Imagery, NY, Springer, 1969, as cited in Samuels &L Samuels, Seeing With the Mind’s Eye, NY, Random House, 1975)

When people watch a dancer, then, in a way they are dancing along with her. The audience is having a physical experience that quietly echoes the dancer’s experience of movement. The movements of the dance are physically challenging, but deeply satisfying, because they are so intimately personal — many of the movements occur inside the body’s space. The dancer’s experience of her own body, moving to the music, provides the opportunity for members of the audience to experience and enjoy their own bodies, albeit usually at a level below awareness. (I have seen a dancer, Aida Al-Adawi, make an entire theater breathe with her; Jamila was reputed to leave the audience gasping at the end of her show.)

As the performance continues, the audience gradually discovers that the danger they were braced for is nonexistent. I can play a bit with the sensual/sexual aspect of the dance, and let them in on the joke, that they were guarding against a little child. I address them as one child to another, redeeming innocent desire and naive pleasure; I have fun, and invite them to join in. They can themselves become childlike in their enjoyment of the sensual experience. I provide rich stimuli for all their senses. They see my colorful, sparkley costuming, experience my movements in their own bodies, sense the warmth of my smile, hear the melody and beat of the music and the sound of my cymbals, smell my perfume, want to make closer contact by touching me respectfully, and feel the magic of it all.

The sexual component is present — it is, after all, an integral part of human existence — but in due proportion, so it doesn’t overwhelm them. The sensuality of the dance is pleasurable, not threatening. The women are not corrupted, the men are not enslaved, marriages remain intact. Nobody has any demands made on them, except to have a good time. The dancer detoxifies the Shadow, and transforms it so the audience can receive it and integrate it.

They can look into the face of Medusa (an ancient Goddess who got some very bad press) and not be turned to stone.


Self-Healing for the Dancer

We dancers work so much with these toxic projections, these Shadow traits, that we must find ways to embrace, detoxify and integrate them within ourselves and become whole, else we lose ourselves. The dance has a terrible power. I am personally acquainted with countless dancers who have, in their immersion in the world of Oriental dance, lost husbands, lovers, homes, and children. Regrettably, most forms of support are absent for dancers, and there are many professionals in the Middle East who turn to drink, drugs, or God. Some famous dancers in the Middle East have retired to a life of religious or near-monastic pursuits (Shareen El Safy, personal communication, May, 1994).

In this country, most dancers are dancers first and foremost because they love the dance, and find it in some way rewarding and satisfying. If they get in over their heads, their livelihoods do not usually depend on staying in the business. They may elect to leave dancing and go back to straight life and a day job. Having the possibility of escape, of limiting one’s involvement, or of temporary withdrawal makes it a little easier on American dancers. (I have carefully limited my involvement with the dance for over twenty years, and have succeeded in keeping my husband, my home, my security, and my sanity. It’s been a tightrope act, sometimes.)

A dancer friend who worked her way through UC Berkeley came to know many of the Oriental dancers, go-go dancers and topless dancers who she regularly encountered on Broadway in North Beach, San Francisco. She reported that with very rare exception, every dancer working on Broadway had experienced an abusive childhood; and the more outrageous the abuse, the more outrageous the show (Hillary Lorraine, personal communication, 1988). This suggests that for these women, dance is a way of processing, or perhaps compulsively re-enacting, the abuse; for some, it may be a means to heal the wounds.

Oriental dancers deal so much with the sexual Shadow, both in themselves and in their audiences, that those who stay in the business perforce become comfortable with it. I suggest that an inversion develops: we are so involved with the fleshly, and embrace it so completely, that the spiritual side becomes the split-off, neglected, rejected part, and we must reclaim that aspect of ourselves to become whole. I think a lot of American dancers have a strong spiritual streak, though they may not be conventionally religious. In the end, they integrate the sexual and spiritual — if they are fortunate enough, and strong enough.


Integration of my Shadow’s Shadow in my Dance

A well-known Arab-American teacher of Oriental dance states that everything from the waist down houses the physical qualities of the dance; the waist to the neck holds the spiritual or emotive qualities; and the face and head complete the expressivity that brings a full dimension to any movement (Ibrahim Farrah, quoted in Habibi, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 6-7). When I originally began taking dance classes, my first teacher (who shall remain nameless) projected an extremely sexual persona, and danced with the upper body collapsed and hips thrust forward. It was an embarrassing and ungraceful style, but I knew no better, and had no other alternative, so I held my nose, went to class, and learned what I could. I began my involvement with Oriental dance by dancing from sexual Shadow.

Within six months I changed teachers (to Jamila) and my body posture and projection shifted. I learned to stand erect and to minimize the sexual aspect of my dance persona; I took myself very seriously, and worked hard to learn and perfect the steps. I costumed very traditionally, with a minimum of skin showing. I repressed the sexual Shadow.

After about ten years, I began taking classes from a number of other teachers (particularly Dahlena) who strongly emphasized lifting the chest still higher, and carrying the arms in a more balletic style. I began to allow a bit of flirtatiousness and humor into my dance, and to take myself less seriously. I changed my costuming style, and began wearing sparkley, glittery, glamorous costumes, with a bit of leg showing through transparent pantaloons. At the same time, I had begun reading seriously about the Great Goddess, and started the healing of psychosexual wounds that went back to my childhood. Over time, I integrated the sexual Shadow and the spiritual Shadow.

Appendix I: Jung on the Shadow

“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge, and it therefore, as a rule, meets with considerable resistance…

“Although, with insight and good will, the shadow can to some extent be assimilated into the conscious personality, experience shows that there are certain features which offer the most obstinate resistance to moral control and prove almost impossible to influence. These resistances are usually bound up with projections, which are not recognized as such, and their recognition is a moral achievement beyond the ordinary. While some traits peculiar to the shadow can be recognized without too much difficulty as one’s own personal qualities, in this case both insight and good will are unavailing because the cause of the emotion appears to lie, beyond all possibility of doubt, in the other person. No matter how obvious it may be to the neutral observer that it is a matter of projections, there is little hope that the subject will perceive this himself. He must be convinced that he throws a very long shadow before he is willing to withdraw his emotionally-toned projections from their object.”

Carl G. Jung, “The Shadow and the Syzygy,” Aspects of the Feminine, p. 165-6, 1982, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Appendix II: Moses Meets the Shadow in the Koran

“If the shadow figure contains valuable, vital forces, they ought to be assimilated into actual experience and not repressed. It is up to the ego to give up its pride and priggishness and to live out something that seems to be dark, but actually may not be. This can require a sacrifice just as heroic as the conquest of passion, but in an opposite sense.

“The ethical difficulties that arise when one meets one’s shadow are well-described in the 18th Book of the Koran. In this tale Moses meets Khidr (“the Green One” or “first angel of God”) in the desert. They wander along together, and Khidr expresses his fear that Moses will not be able to witness his deeds without indignation. If Moses cannot bear with him and trust him, Khidr will have to leave.

“Presently Khidr scuttles the fishing boat of some poor villagers. Then, before Moses’s eyes, he kills a handsome young man, and finally he restores the fallen wall of the city of unbelievers. Moses cannot help expressing his indignation, and so Khidr has to leave him. Before his departure, however, he explains the reasons for his actions: By scuttling the boat he actually saved it for its owners because pirates were on their way to steal it. As it is, the fishermen can salvage it. The handsome young man was on his way to commit a crime, and by killing him Khidr saved his pious parents from infamy. By restoring the wall, two pious young men were saved from ruin because their treasure was buried under it. Moses, who had been so morally indignant, saw now (too late) that his judgment had been hasty. Khidr’s doings had seemed to be totally evil, but in fact they were not.

“Looking at this story naïvely, one might assume that Khidr is the lawless, capricious, evil shadow of pious, law-abiding Moses. But this is not the case. Khidr is much more the personification of some secret creative actions of the Godhead…

“When dark figures turn up in our dreams and seem to want something, we cannot be sure whether they personify merely a shadowy part of ourselves, or the Self, or both at the same time. Divining in advance whether our dark partner symbolizes a shortcoming that we should overcome or a meaningful bit of life that we should accept — this is one of the most difficult problems that we encounter on the way to individuation…”

M.-L. von Franz, “The Process of Individuation,” Man and His Symbols, edited by C.G. Jung, p. 169-176, 1964, Aldus Books, NY.

Appendix III: Table 1.

The Oriental Dancer and the Ballerina: Complementary Shadows

Characteristics of:

American Classical Ballet Dancer and Ballet |    American Oriental Dancer and Oriental Dance

Thinness, anorexia   |   Rounded, even generous figure

Airy   |   Earthy, fiery, watery

Escaping gravity   |   Grounded

Cool, distant, impersonal, abstract   |   Warm, passionate, intimate, concrete

Superhuman    |   Very human

Light (pale-skinned, and weightless)   |   Dark and heavy*

Ascetic   |   Luxuriant, sensual

Essentially a spiritual creature   |   Essentially a physical creature

Focus on arms, legs, footwork   |   Focus on torso:  hips, abdomen, chest

Taut “pulled-up” body   |   Posture erect, yet flexible

Uses distant space, away from the body; lots of traveling steps   |   Uses near space, immediately surrounding and within the body;  minimal traveling steps

Never comes down from stage into audience; not available for personal interaction   |   Normal to move among audience, to touch and be touched by them

Serious, perfectionistic   |   Playful, fun-loving

Asexual   |   Sexual*

Controlled, disciplined   |   Abandoned, strong appetites*

Obedient, long-suffering   |   Independent, willful*

“Good little girl” psychology   |   “Dangerous woman” psychology*

Virginal projection   |   Womanly projection

Personal style, expression and great emotion restrained   |   Distinctive individual style, personal expression, and emotion highly valued

Strict choreography normal, improvisation rare   |   Improvisation normal, choreography less common

Formal, defined standard steps and repertoire   |   Individualized steps and repertoire

Frequently a storytelling performance   |   Very rarely a storytelling performance

Usually supported by partner and/or corps de ballet   |   Usually solo, occasionally with a corps, very rarely with a partner

Done for exhibition only, by specially trained persons (no “social” form exists)   |   Social form common, and is familiar to essentially all members of society

Strong institutional support (ensembles, schools, performance seasons, fund-raisers, government grants, etc.)   |   Institutional support almost non-existent

Large, impersonal performing venues:  theaters, concert stages   |   Small, intimate performing venues: cabarets, nightclubs, private parties

“Glass wall” between dancer and audience   |   Looks individual members of audience in eye

Assumed to be of limited intellect   |   Assumed to be of limited intellect

Has a “body-part” name (toe-dancing) used by the ignorant   |   Has a “body-part” name (belly-dancing) used by the ignorant

*Items marked with an asterisk are, in the personal experience of the author, more a matter of popular perception and projection than of the reality

As Ghanima, Melissa Miller has been dancing for over twenty years. She studied ballet for seven years, and has also studied movement analysis and notation (Labanotation), modern dance, tap and traditional hula. Her other major obsessions are Balkan dance (30 years), Balkan music (20 years) and Scandinavian dance (10 years). She has taught a weekly Oriental dance class for twenty years in the San Jose area, and has taught workshops around the United States. Ghanima was a member of Jamila Salimpour’s legendary Bal Anat Ensemble in the 1970’s. She performs at restaurants, nightclubs, and private parties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, as well as around the U.S. and overseas. She has made several research trips to Greece, Turkey and North Africa.

She holds a BA in Russian from the University of California at Berkeley and a California Standard Secondary Teaching Credential. She will graduate from Santa Clara University in June, 1995, with a master’s degree in counseling psychology; she is currently working as a psychotherapy intern at a community mental health clinic. In addition, she leads tours to Turkey focused on women’s spirituality: “On the Trail of the Great Goddess.”

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