Dancing with Georgia

Dancing with Georgia

By Linda Swanson

For the past three years I have gathered together my most “inspiring” women friends for a “Moroccan Tea Party” that both celebrates their remarkable energies and provides me with a supportive showcase for my amateur bellydancing efforts. Some of these women I’ve known for decades and a few are new friends. This year my seventy?five year old mother and a friend’s newborn baby daughter rounded out the circle of women in my life.

Linda Swanson and daughter Georgia

At the very center of that circle is my own ten?year old daughter, Georgia. For years she has been bemused by her mother shimmying through the living room on her way to the laundry, or camelwalking out of her bedroom at night. All this she has taken in stride; only recently have my gestures elicited a slightly exasperated, “Oh, Mama!” So imagine my surprise when Georgia agreed to accompany me in an American Tribal Style dance at this summer’s Moroccan Tea Party.

I suspect the seeds for her acceptance were planted months ago with the gift (or was it a bribe, Gwen?) of a beautiful “little?girl?sized” turquoise brocade skirt and black choli. But the real generosity of Georgia’s acceptance was herself—a child with an abundant delight in life that she wholeheartedly shares with others.

Imagine my reciprocal delight: Here was a chance to dance with someone I deeply love, a “partner” on profound levels. How effortless to exchange our energies back and forth. How well we know “the dance” and how practiced our mother/daughter bodies are in this give and take. Since Georgia was conceived, we have been subtly “checking in” with one another. Now, after ten years, there is more space between us, the connections more elastic. Still communication is subtle and all?encompassing.

American Tribal Style provided a perfectly relaxed framework for us, in which the obsessive mother (that’s me) could rehearse until her feet were raw, and the “but, I want to play” daughter (that’s Georgia) only needed to run through it two times the day before the party. I planned out a few intro steps and a few closing steps; in between Georgia could dance along to any parts she wanted and be “chorus” to the others. Since “Egyptian” is her favorite step, we accented the dance with sequences of circling and twirling around each other.

That August evening guests gathered in our courtyard garden, chatting and sampling North African cuisine. An Oriental rug had been unrolled on the terrace; large Moroccan lanterns cast shifting geometries of light across the lawn. Inside, Georgia and I prepared for our entertainment. We relished the game of dress?up, and as I put a touch of eyeliner and lipstick on her suddenly serious face, I glimpsed a not?too?distant future. In contrast, the challenge of securing a tassel belt around my daughter’s hipless child?body reminded me of the past and present of Georgia’s journey to woman.

That evening, through the dance with my daughter, I sensed the profound possibilities and joys of Dance. The pleasure of moving with another individual (regardless of our combined [in]abilities) was so delicious that deliciousness couldn’t help but be conveyed to the appreciative audience. In addition, our dance together marked a seam in our relationship. Brought together in a deliberate way, we unconsciously acknowledged the possibility of fashioning anew our joined lives. And the intimate circle of women on that summer evening gently supported the grace of my daughter’s gift to me.

Linda Swanson, M.F.A., is a visual artist and professor of studio art and art history (specializing in feminist art history) at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where she is chair of the Art Department. Her own work takes the form of painting, prints, and installations and deals with the connections between gender/identity and exotic/domestic. Her work has been shown extensively in the New York metropolitan area and appears in the collections of major museums. Email: Linda.Swanson@santafeuniversity.edu.

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