Dancing to Moonspell’s Breathe:
How do you fuse seemingly two separate genres without obscuring their intrinsic characteristics, without one eclipsing the other?
“Invitation to Dance-
It’s a Dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom.
But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the Dark. Especially in the Dark.
May I have the pleasure” ―Stephen King
Middle Eastern Metal from Portugal to be represented in Turkey
I am a professional classical oriental dancer from Istanbul’s oriental dance scene. I have lived in Sweden, France and Greece and moved back here. Oriental dance is my main branch. I truly love it and find it beautiful in its traditional form, and it also has connected me to my cultural roots while I was living abroad.
I was studying Dance Movement Therapy and doing a part of my intern while I was getting prepared for this performance. I intended to prepare for Breathe in a way that utilizes concepts from Dance Therapy. There is no doubt that dancing can be an incredibly therapeutic experience. Therapy is treatment for problems. It is clinical. Therapeutic defines producing good effects on your body or mind. I will explain the difference between Dance Therapy and therapeutic dance later on.
Firstly, let me elaborate on oriental metal dance in the Middle East and in the West.
In the West, what they call metal belly dance or gothic belly dance are types of culturally appropriated dances danced to gothic and metal music which generally does not even have Middle Eastern tunes.
In the Near and Middle East Oriental dance is a traditional dance form. Even though it is a tradition, it does renew itself just like any other dance form. Just like Flamenco is danced to flamenco music, Oriental dance is danced to oriental dance music. It is very well liked and appreciated; but it is also looked down upon, sometimes from a patriarchal moralist point of view, sometimes from an internalized orientalist point of view.
I have been a metalhead since adolescence, been practicing experimental dance to Heavy Metal music since I was a dance student. As a dance teacher, I sometimes get my advanced students dance to metal music in order for them to experience adapting themselves to an uncommon music style to dance to. I have some contemporary dance and classical ballet background, however technique is not enough for creating a new blended aesthetic between metal music and oriental dance. I saw one problem fusing Oriental Dance and Heavy Metal:
Oriental Dance is a tradition in the Middle East; dancing in oriental dance style to a kind of music which is not “oriental enough”, and movements casually adapted will not be perceived as anything more than a far-fetched gimmick, and it will distance this cultural dance form from its very roots.
While I believe in freedom of expression in arts as well as everywhere else, I don’t want to eviscerate my own cultural dance. I want Oriental Metal to become a proper dance form, to be passed to new students with a reliable system, because I find it so suitable for Turkey’s identity. I have been carefully thinking about how to structure it, while keeping it “oryantal”.
Then again, when there are no resources to stage it, how can we make this happen in a studio, in a country like Turkey where some of the people who are able to understand the value of Heavy Metal as an art form are also the same people who are quick to laugh off “Oryantal Dans”?
Then came the opportunity to perform with the Portuguese metal giants MOONSPELL on an excellently orchestrated Middle Eastern Metal song; Breathe – Until We’re No More.”
interdisciplinary creative movement
Imagine a movement practice to be a journey into your inner or under world. You use imagery; symbols and metaphors to discover new feelings and ideas; embody them, experience them in movements, in your body, with authentic movements not traditionally considered dance; sometimes you draw a movement or you dance a drawing, you associate movements with emotions, images, and linguistic or literary devices; and build on this interdisciplinary exchange to create.
Moonspell is a poetic, intense Gothic Metal band.
I have been ardently listening to Moonspell for many years. Theirs is a kind of dark music that oxymoronically shone on my aesthetic perception since adolescence.
Where to start? I started off from the symbolism of Gothic Metal for inspiration, and played with etymology and word-formation.
Raven and wolf symbols often show up in Moonspell lyrics; both of the animals are well-known archetypes in Gothic literature. I don’t identify myself as a goth, but I love Gothic literature and most of its dark archetypes are no foreign to me. I am fascinated by wolves and have drawn many werewolf pictures in my own psychotherapy sessions. And I have a raven tattoo on the right side of my head.
As my work was to be a fusion of Oriental Dance and Heavy Metal, I wanted to brainstorm about taking two separate beings and bringing them together. Raven and Wolf… Movement and Music… Oriental dancer and Gothic Metal band… A oriental dancer with a raven tattoo on her head and a metal band who is known as the wolf pack.
Playing with these ideas back and forth;
- – I imagined an unearthly, gynandromorphous creature, half-wolf, half-raven, a kind of demon.
- – Inspired by Lucifer and the Hebrew term heilel ben shakhar for Lucifer, son of the dawn, I decided to make up a new name for this creature. By adding Hilal – Turkish/Arabic for crescent moon, Alpha – a fire-demon character I created in the past… fire illuminates…Sahar/seher – twilight, aurora, I coined the name Hilalphasahar for this imaginary Muse.
I started to write stories about Hilalphasahar.
Where did it come from? Who is it?
I visualized it.
I drew pictures of it.
I experimented with movements.
I moved in the shapes of the paint strokes to feel this creature in my own body.
I walked like Hilalphasahar would walk.
I fell over and got up like Hilalphasahar would fall over and get up.
* * *
Seriously, what would a half raven half wolf creature move like?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having raven and wolf characteristics fifty fifty?
* * *
Imagery is a great a source for uncovering new feelings and ideas that can lead to discover new physical expressions. Our bodies respond to the way we think and feel.
With intent, and by focusing, by directing a bodily inward attention with a specific intent, we might get a bodily felt knowing of some sorts. Feeling implies an inner pre-verbal dimension. Feeling is not knowing. This bodily felt something is something between a feeling and a knowing. It is a kind of inner awareness experienced in the body without being consciously thought about. It projects our way of relating to a situation. It can lead us to an a-ha moment.
In creative dance, we are interested in this process as a creative source. Our goal is to experiment with movement tapping into our unconscious mind. We like to uncover and discover. Maybe we create a dance piece at the end.
Dance Movement Therapy, however, is a clinical intervention that uses the client’s movement repertoire.
* * *
A muse is a source of inspiration.
“In-spiration”, from Latin inspirare – literally “blow into, breathe upon” figuratively “inspire, excite, inflame”
breathe a spirit in
“Spirit” directly from Latin spiritus “a breathing (respiration, and of the wind), breath; breath of a god,” hence “inspiration; breath of life,” hence “life”
You breathe in a spirit, a kind of spirit you created from your own personal symbols.
This process of creating and working with a muse made it easier for me to get in touch with darker emotions and obscure memories through symbols and representations that I put together in the Muse. It is similar to creating a servitor in chaos magick or a character for role-playing, and invite it to a dance. I danced with this muse. Sometimes I danced the muse. I experienced their experiences in my body in my movements. I talk about them as if they are an external separate being, but they are a part of me. I continued building the Muse at every new step of uncovering a new layer of my underworld, meeting my long forgotten fragments. I use gender-neutral pronoun for the Muse here because they are a gynandromorph.
The raven-wolf creature’s own integration, which also signified the creation of the oriental metal dance, happened reciprocally and simultaneously as creating and relating to this hybrid muse enabled me to make connections between my fragments.
On the professional front, however, the dancer does not have to represent the Muse, or vice versa. It all depends on the artist’s choices and the stylistic framework of the dance.
* * *
At the end when I knew I was ready, I had my final supervision from my dance coach Aytül Hasaltun, and brought my personal topics to a closure. Then, I set about choosing my favorite moves and brushing up some of them for style. I planned the final version of the choreography aiming for simple, clean, big movements as the stage was big. Moonspell’s frontman Fernando Ribeiro stayed in close touch with me maintaining an encouraging steady communication throughout the preparation. The festival day was a free-flowing miracle.
You can do a similar interdisciplinary creative movement practice to any kind of music, with or without music. It stimulates the mind-body connection. It enriches our physical and emotional experiences.
In conclusion, this interdisciplinary creative process for me came to be a journey into a bi-polarity. It materialized the probability of two polarities existing in peace. Before, I had had the feeling that my polarities were only obstacles for each other. Through this process I experienced that polarities can indeed strengthen one other, realizing, honoring, celebrating their separate individualities and their co-existence.