When Kajira asked me to teach a "gothic" workshop at Tribal Fest this year, I didn't really know what to offer. I don't consider myself just a gothic bellydancer, although that seems to be the label that others often put on me. I don't mind, really; I do tend towards darker themes and costuming, so the label is understandable. However, despite being attracted to the darker side of things, I think my style encompasses more than "gothic". And as far as teaching any sort of authoritative workshop on gothic styling, costuming, or music, I could name several dancers and artists who are much more qualified to do so. I think the reason Kajira asked me to teach a "gothic" workshop is because my performance at Tribal Fest 8 last May was quite dark.
That performance was rooted in a lot of personal anger and frustration that I had been dealing with as an artist and as an individual. In order to perform that piece, I did a lot of introspection and soul-searching. The specific meaning behind the piece is, of course, personal. I had to face my fears, my insecurities, and my ever-present and often destructive Ego in order to work up the gall to share that with the world. I often describe that piece as "One girl confronting and conquering her demons."
The concept of personal demons has fascinated me since high school. Personal demons are the aspects of our own selves that we fear, that we don't want to accept, and that we don't want the rest of the world to see. They are our ugly parts, our sources of shame, anger, and fear. They are remnants of our past that we'd rather not remember, that we'd rather just push away. All of us have them, but only some of us choose to face them, and even fewer use them in our art. And the more you push them down, the stronger and less controllable they can become.
I believe the best art is made from the deepest and darkest demons. So, just as I had to reach deep inside my psyche to present my TF8 performance, maybe I can help others face, confront, and tame their darker sides, their Jungian Shadow archetype. I've also confronted (but by no means have I fully reconciled it--I'm not sure one ever does) my Demons and Shadow face-to-face several times in Suhaila Salimpour's workshops, particularly this past August during the Level III weeklong. I think I have some insight on how to use the darker aspects of ourselves to create a more powerful, more emotional, and more honest performance.
If we can't face the dark sides of ourselves, we will continue to never fully recognize our complete emotional range... and if we can't recognize our emotional range, how can we ever present a compelling performance to an audience who, whether they know it or not, are desperately seeking a connection with the artist on stage. The more you can face your demons, the more you can not only connect with yourself, but with every single person who sees you perform. And isn't making that sublime connection with others something that makes art ART?
Today, I'll leave you with this excerpt from Jung's writings on the Shadow.
We know that the wildest and most moving dramas are played not in the theatre but in the hearts of ordinary men and women who pass by without exciting attention, and who betray to the world nothing of the conflicts that rage within them except possibly by a nervous breakdown. What is so difficult for the layman to grasp is the fact that in most cases the patients themselves have no suspicion whatever of the internecine war raging in their unconscious. If we remember that there are many people who understand nothing at all about themselves, we shall be less surprised at the realization that there are also people who are utterly unaware of their actual conflicts.
"New Paths in Psychology" (1912). In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.425