When I was asked to write a piece about the Life Force Arts Center’s latest offering, a class on sacred belly dancing taught by Cigana dance company’s Tatiana Fonseca, I was giddy with excitement. Dance is the embodiment of my identity: I breathe, live, and dream about dancing. Whether it’s an unguarded moment in my own living room with my inhibitions swept under the rug, performing live before a sea of loving eyes, or enjoying an enchanting performance that moves me to tears and leaves me in a breathless state of ecstatic awe and profound appreciation for this magical art form, dance remains my greatest love and my most precious healer.
Through dance, I find my way back to my center: it brings me to a state of profound joy and inner peace where my spirit becomes one with the Universe. It’s a moving platform for my creative self-expression and spiritual self-discovery. I feel invincible, empowered, inspired, and radiant. Like a powerful magnet luring me in, I let both the dance and the dancer embrace my entire being as I move beyond the limitations of my mind into a transcendent, mesmerizing, trance-like state where my imagination soars, my body begins to melt, my heart expands, and my soul sings a song of rapturous bliss.
For those who love dance, sacred belly dancing is a beautiful language of the soul expressed through movement. A fusion form of belly dance, full of passion, grace, and spirit, this ancient art celebrates femininity and exalts a woman’s essence: it helps invoke our inner goddesses and connects us with Mother Nature. The healing energies of this dance serve as a powerful gateway for igniting one’s divine spark and cultivating one’s inner and outer radiance by helping women of all ages and sizes feel comfortable and luminous in their own skin.
In chatting with Tatiana, I was surprised to learn about the origins of this ancient art form. According to Tatiana, one common theory is that women originally belly danced for other women because the dance played an important role in fertility and birthing rituals. In fact, contrary to popular thought, it was not meant for men to see at all. It was a very sacred dance whereby a group of bare-footed women, connected to Mother Earth, would gather around a pregnant woman and form a protective circle around her to support and guide her during childbirth. The undulating stomach movements and hip gyrations helped strengthen these muscles, thus easing the process of childbirth. Not surprisingly, this primitive dance form is also wonderful tool for strengthening the bonds of sisterhood.
A dancer since the third grade, Tatiana was 12 when she saw her first belly dancer. Soon, she was performing at the Bristol Renaissance Fair, surrounded by Mother Earth and free-spirited belly dancers. Since then, it’s expanded into a way of life for her through a rich background of training, performing, and teaching in the community.
With a hint of nostalgia in her voice, Tatiana relates her maternal grandmother’s influence on her as a dancer. Raised in a multi-ethnic household with a Mexican father and a Colombian mother, Tatiana’s ancestral roots trace back to the Spanish gypsies. Although she learned traditional Hispanic dances like meringue, salsa, cumbia, and cha cha from her parents, her fondest memories are of her grandmother, with whom she spent a great portion of her childhood.
Tatiana’s grandmother taught her to be conscious of everything around her, to be grateful for the air she breathes, and to praise Nature. At times, the two would go into the forest and dance, giving thanks to Mother Earth and to God. According to Tatiana, she owes much of those experiences to her great-grandfather (a gypsy from Spain), whose influence flowed down throughout the generations, allowing her grandmother to pass on an awareness of the unique movements and rhythms of belly dancing.
One’s dance always has a special quality that stems from knowing your own culture best, as if one can hear and feel one’s local music in the womb. In honor of her heritage, Tatiana created her own style of belly dancing. Much like a gypsy, Tatiana’s approach to belly dancing is a distinctive showcase celebrating the heart and spirit of her multicultural background and dance training, fusing together elements from a diverse mix of influences, such as Egyptian cabaret and tribal music and movements. There’s no one form, but rather a mosaic of many combined styles. She even named her business “Cigana,” which in Portuguese means “gypsy,” to describe her unique interpretation of this ancient dance, and to pay homage to her given name in capoeira – an Afro-Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, music, and dance, which she currently practices.
As a teacher, Tatiana integrates the spiritual into her creative art. Creating a soothing space to ensure her students’ ease and freedom of expression, Tatiana begins with a few transformational breathing exercises and meditations to teach women how to be in tune with their bodies. According to Tatiana, teaching her classes with a spiritual focus is a lot easier because she was raised this way. Her spiritual nature allows her to tap into the unique needs and sensitivities of each student so that she may gently guide and empower each one, thus honoring their individual rhythms and ways of learning.
Tatiana’s approach can be characteristically maternal, exuding a comforting and patient demeanor that engenders trust among her students. In her classes, each woman feels safe to explore their sacred, sensual natures. The music and dance are specially designed to help them experience and express their emotions, improve their confidence and self-esteem, and embrace their divinely feminine curves of pleasure.
A true devotee possessing a deep sense of pride and integrity for her work, Tatiana is passionately committed to helping women understand the sacred nature and historical underpinnings of this beautiful art. Moreover, Tatiana truly strives to convey to her pupils the same feelings of freedom and joy that she personally experiences when she dances.
When I asked her to describe her experience as a performer, Tatiana said the best part about performing is the energy exchange that occurs – a circle of sorts between the dancer and the audience – each one feeding off the other’s excitement, delight, and appreciation for this gift. It’s very liberating and self-empowering to completely let go in the moment and express oneself fully. Through dance, one has the opportunity to search one’s soul and discover who one is as a performer, while also making a universal statement about the marvelous beauty, love, and bliss that can emerge from one’s creative spirit.
The vulnerability of a dancer celebrating her authentic spirit before an audience allows us to bear witness to and vicariously experience the genuine passion one has for their art. The performance is a magical synthesis of sorts, where the dancer lends her body as a conduit for inspiration – putting us in touch with the deeper parts of ourselves, and inviting us to embrace our own unique splendor and the divine, creative possibilities inside each one of us. It’s a spiritual and secular expression that is transformative in nature for the dancer and the viewer alike.
As a passionate patron of the arts, I immediately related to Tatiana’s words, recalling that feeling one gets when you’re sitting there muted and dazed, experiencing a brilliant display of spirit, and you invite the dancer to come inside and affect you on a very profound level. Each performance becomes a sacred moment of connection and communication with that which is greater than oneself.
As a dancer, one has the power to reveal one’s essence and life experiences through the dance; as a viewer, there have been many times when I’ve watched my own story and heard my soul’s inner music echo throughout the scene unfolding before me. Dance stirs the very depths of my being: it transports me to sublime realms – exquisite worlds of wonder and enchantment filled with infinite possibilities.
Belly dancing, in particular, is richly steeped in myth and ritual: the dance becomes a divine stage for communicating a story, for healing, entertaining, empowering, and bringing about cathartic experiences. Sultry, serpentine movements create a kind of hypnotic thrall as the dancer’s undulating body shimmies and sways from side to side, mimicking the graceful ebb and flow of the ocean’s waves.
Punctuated hip thrusts and isolations, which mirror the dynamic, tribal beats, evoke a raw sensuality that beckons us to explore and connect with our feminine spark. Like a lotus flower unfolding, we heed this siren’s call to dive inside our wombs and release our primal, sacral, emotive energies. This magical dance stimulates our senses, ignites our imaginations, and expands our mind-body awareness. Belly dancing is a wonderful tool that helps us shed light on the dancer within all of us and recognize that we are the dance.
As Rumi once said, “Dance until you shatter yourself.” With that in mind, I invite you to immerse yourself in the fluid rhythms of this resplendent, undulating landscape. Let’s swirl our hips and passionately move our bodies to the uplifting energy of sacred belly dancing. Come share the fun and feel your spirit glow as we ecstatically dance our way towards universal bliss.
Tatiana Fonseca, founder of Cigana L.L.C (Dance Company), has performed at many weddings, delivered plenty of Belly Grams, and performed for the Philippine Dagupan City Association U.S.A. She teaches belly dancing for all ages, including classes at Columbia College and Bright Pink Cancer Awareness. Tatiana also makes and sells belly dance costumes and accessories.
Shantal is a creativity and transformational life consultant, event and program manager, Reiki Master practitioner, Raindrop Technique facilitator, and holistic marketing consultant for individuals and organizations. Her passion is to empower individuals to transform their lives and nourish their creative dream-making process by providing creative and holistic “soul-lutions” for personal growth and healing. To learn more about Shantal, please visit her website: www.evoyoution.com.