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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

The Descent


By Shira



The music unwinds:
A few experimental notes,
A tingle of maqam
To set the tone.

The lights dim,
Conversations hush.
Only one musician continues to play.
One musician
To lead the dancer
Down this path:
The path of descent
To the floor.

The taqsim begins.
The music undulates,
Taking the dancer with it.

It slows,
It softens,
It ripples to the low notes.
The deep notes.
It descends,
Taking the dancer with it.



The dancer has passed through the Gate
into the underworld,
into a land of dreams,
into the mysteries of her inner power.
She is a thing apart,
and yet the music binds her to this world.

The music progresses.
It reaches her
and guides her through this place.
It is the tie
That draws her through this realm.

She commands a stillness,
a power.
And yet,
that stillness compels her
with a power of its own:
the Music.

It leads her
Through the inner places
And onward.
On to the next Gate.

The voice of the music calls her,
Reminds her that she must not lose herself
To this lower world.

The dance must go on
for now.
The taqsim ripples to a close.
The next Gate awaits.




About this Poem

This poem was inspired by the beautiful art of Oriental dance (often called belly dance), particularly the style that has grown up in the United States that fuses Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish, and other Middle Eastern styles of Oriental dance into a distinct art form of its own.

"The Descent" refers to the part of the dance where the performer sinks to the floor and does floor work; usually the fourth song of her show.* The music for this is generally very sinuous, very meditative, and it's easy for a dancer to lose herself in it. Sometimes the dancer will use the segment to showcase her ability to work with a prop such as a sword or tray; other times, she will dance without one.

If you are not familiar with the terms maqam and taqsim used in this poem, see the Glossary on this web site for definitions.

If you would like to read the other six poems in the series, they include:

The inspiration to write these seven poems came from attending a belly dance retreat organized by Delilah that was structured around the theme of the 7-part dance routine. Delilah encouraged all retreat participants to do journaling as part of the experience, and the journaling process brought these poems into the world.

*NOTE: The seven parts listed are in the order that typically dancers in my community in California did them, though sometimes individual dancers might mix up the order to suit what they wanted to do for a given show. Also, dancers rarely performed all 7 parts in a single show. Most people would perform just 3 or 5 of the parts, depending on the length of show the client wanted. Also, dancers in other communities have reported that they arranged these components in a different order from that shown above. The order of the poems reflects my personal experience, but there are certainly other equally valid ways to arrange the contents of a dance set.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.




About the Poet

Shira has been writing poetry ever since she was about 12 years old. Her poems have been published in several "small press" poetry journals. At age 21, she wrote her first French-language poem, "Le Voile De La Nuit".

Shira first started learning Middle Eastern dance in 1981. Dance has been her inspiration, her creative outlet, her avenue to making friends in a new community after relocating, and her escape from her "day job" of being a professional Silicon Valley computer nerd.

Shira is your hostess, the webmistress of this award-winning web site, "All About Belly Dancing".

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.




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