The Unveiling

by Shira

The Veiled One.
Who is the woman before us?
What secrets lie beneath her veil?

She personifies the Maid:
Fresh, appealing, yet unattainable.

She protects against the chill
Until her dance kindles her fire within.

She remains aloof from us,
Challenging us to prove ourselves worthy.

She chafes under the bondage
Of her patriarchal culture's demands.

She conceals her true spirit
Behind the veil of her smiling façade.

She fills us all with suspense,
Wondering about what lies underneath.

She contains her awesome pow'r
Lest its brilliance overcome us.

She is the virgin, the bride, the elder:
She is Goddess.

She is:

She is Woman.

She draws away the veil.
She invites us into her world.

The Unveiling:
It removes a barrier.
It brings us together.

The Maiden emerges from her concealment.
She warms our hearts with her dance.
She invites us to draw nearer to her.
She casts off the bondage of her society.
She offers a glimpse of her spirit.
She reveals that which was hidden.
She shares her power with us.

The Unveiling:
Feel the Power.
Feel the Communion.
Share the Dance.

© 1998 by Julie Anne Elliot, All Rights Reserved

Artwork By Shira, Of A Dancer With A Veil

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About This Poem

This poem was inspired by the beautiful art of Middle Eastern dance, particularly the style that has grown up in the United States that fuses Egyptian, Turkish, and other styles into a distinct art form of its own. In the American style, the dancer enters with a 3-yard veil tucked around her, hiding much of her costume, and proceeds to dance to fast music. About 3-5 minutes after the dance has begun, the music slows to a dreamy rhumba/bolero rhythm, and the dancer removes her veil and dances with it.

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

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About The Poet/Artist

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman, San Jose, California, 2001.

Shira, also known as Julie Anne Elliot 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.

After a lifetime of thinking she couldn't draw her way out of a paper bag (thanks to some unfortunate input by a nasty art teacher in 9th grade), she has finally let her wonderful husband convince her that maybe her doodles do deserve to see the light of day--or at least the light of your computer monitor!

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, The Art Of Middle Eastern Dance.

If you like, you can send Shira e-mail.

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The Inspiration, or,
Thank You, Delilah & Lorraine

Here is how this poem came to be written...

This poem is part of a seven-poem series that celebrates the American Restaurant style of belly dance. This style arose in the ethnic nightclubs and restaurants of the United States in the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's. Many of the dancers at this time were Turkish and Armenian, with a few Arabs as well. The uniquely American style that evolved blended these diverse ethnic influences, and added some touches of American show business. In the dance that resulted, the typical structure involved a 45-minute show consisting of 7 songs, alternating between fast and slow. These included entrance, veil work, fast or medium-speed section, floor work, another fast or medium-speed section, drum solo, and finale. Depending on the situation, dancers of this style didn't always follow this precise structure. Sometimes it would be shortened to 3 or 5 parts, and sometimes substitutions would be made, such as replacing the floor work with standing undulations. But the 7-part framework was still the starting point that many dancers used in planning their shows. I have written seven poems, one to represent each of these sections of the American-style belly dance performance.

In 1997, I was going through one of those dark nights of the soul. My day job in the high-tech industry had aggressively suppressed all creative thinking, requiring me to operate according to a rote formula. My dancing was feeling joyless and uninspired. At this time, I happened to speak with Delilah of Visionary Dance Productions at a festival. She told me of a retreat she was planning in conjunction with Lorraine Lafata whose structure was aimed at stimulating creativity. This retreat would use the myth of the goddess Inanna's descent to the underworld as a metaphor for the 7-part American Restaurant style of belly dance performance. It sounded like the sort of artistic spark I was looking for, so I enrolled.

Delilah and Lorraine's retreat indeed proved to be what I had hoped it would be: a new way for me to think about the dance, and a new way to view my creative journey. They created exercises associated with each of the seven gates Inanna passed through en route to the underworld, linking each to a stage of the dance. One of our exercises through the retreat process was to keep a journal, with a section for each of the gates of the underworld. Keeping this journal is what prompted me to begin this series of poems. I decided to write a poem for each of the seven stages of the dance. These were the first poems I had written in over 15 years, and it took about 5 years to finish them all.

So what happened next? Well, the retreat was a turning point for me. With new energy, I came back to my dreary day job and decided to update my skill set so I could equip myself to move on to something better. I set the wheels in motion to begin teaching belly dance myself, after 16 years of taking classes taught by other people. I decided to learn how to create a web site, and from this plan my Shira.Net web site was born. I left that horrid day job and took a 7-month break from the working world. I went to Maui for a vacation with my husband, and when we came back I had surgery to repair an injury to my nose that I had received as a small child and waited "for the right time" to take care of. For the first time since I was old enough to remember, I could breathe like a normal person with both nostrils. With my 7-month break from work, I indeed updated my skill set and Shira.Net grew from just a few pages of html experimentation to a real web site that started to get noticed. I started learning how to draw people, something I had never before learned, and created the cartoons that illustrate some of my poems. And I was writing, writing, writing, returning to a creative outlet that my day job had killed years before. I also experienced spiritual growth.

Thank you, Delilah and Lorraine, for providing me with the nudge and the inspiration I needed to reawaken my creative energy! Thank you for restoring my confidence in my own inner voice and bringing me out of the cave that I had retreated into to escape the corporate stresses. I emerged reborn, as not only a dance artist but also as a literary artist.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: The poetry and artwork on this page were done by Shira. Copyright 1998 by Julie Anne Elliot. All rights reserved. If you want to use it elsewhere, you must first get permission. To request such permission, contact Shira.

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