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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Belly Dance in Poland

On October 22, 23, and 24, I had the pleasure of teaching a series of workshops in Bochnia, Poland.  The weekend concluded with a performance.  During my trip, my hostess, Amar, also treated me to a day of sightseeing.

Having lived for many years in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a Polish enclave in New York City, I thought that I knew a bit about Polish culture, and expected to be in a somewhat familiar environment.  My initial impression of Poland, changing planes at Warsaw’s airport, was that I had come to an entire country of Greenpoint.  The terminal is filled with Citibank advertising and liquor stores (albeit duty-free), and the pale pinched faces of my fellow travellers would not have been out of place on Nassau Avenue.  Fortunately, to my profound relief, things were very different when I touched down in Kraków, and by the time I arrived in Bochnia (about 25 miles to the east), I felt like I had arrived in a storybook.

Bochnia is absolutely lovely.  This small city sits nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, and, although a touch of fall was definitely in the air, the landscape was still very green.   As is so often the case in Europe, and so infrequently the case here in sprawl-benighted USA, the area immediately outside the city is quite rural, and the rolling hills are cut into a patchwork of long narrow agricultural fields.  And of course the appearance of the occasional castle or commuter railway made it quite clear that I was in the Old World.

With Amar at the Chakra spot
In Kraków I visited the market square, St. Mary’s Basilica, and Wawel castle, and I also had a tour of the salt mine in nearby Wieliczka.  Amongst all of the cultural treasures, Amar also pointed out to me another point of interest, one of the world’s seven “chakra energy spots,” in a grubby, unmarked, and otherwise unremarkable corner of the Wawel castle courtyard. Although we could not discern any tangible energetic effects, perhaps our pass through the chakra’s energetic field helped to prepare us for a very busy weekend of dancing.

Sunday's show
Polish dancers are to be commended for their stamina.  It was a very full program – 15 hours of teaching over three days—and nearly every single participant remained on her feet throughout each class.  I taught in English with only a little translation assistance here and there for theoretical concepts and anatomical nomenclature, and I have great respect for the dancers’ ability and willingness to expend the extra mental energy to follow along in a foreign language.  Many of the participants also spent the weekend putting the finishing touches on their own dances for the show, but somehow managed to find enough room in their brains to quickly learn an entirely new (and not easy!) choreography during Sunday’s workshop, and then perform the dance later that day along with me.  

Thank you Amar, and thank you to everyone who contributed to the festival.  It was a pleasure to teach, and I wish you all the best of luck in your dancing careers.

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