Thursday, January 31, 2013

Holy Communion through a Child's Eyes

 The Last Supper

Beezy's religious education class is currently preparing for their first sacrament of Holy Communion, which will take place at Mass on April 28.  "I can't wait to have the bread and wine, can you?" she asked me.  I will receive my First Communion at the Easter Vigil at the end of March.  I know that she will be bummed that she has to wait longer than me! Why the excitement? Is it because she will get to taste wine? No, she has already tasted wine, and she didn't like it.  It's because Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist; that is, the bread becomes Jesus' body, and the wine becomes his blood. This is called transubstantiation, and it is understood literally.

When I was in my 20s, I scoffed at a young Catholic woman who tried to explain transubstantiation to me. "That's just silly!" I remarked. "It's only a symbol," I said with confidence.  "But that's what we believe," she answered in exasperation.  I show you my lack of humility and my arrogance, dear reader, to illustrate that we often fail to believe in things that we can't logically explain and understand.  But why believe that the bread and wine are really Jesus' body and blood at all?  Because Jesus said so, that's why.  I give you John 6: 52-58:

"The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.' "

And that's what Beezy told me.  Communion is so exciting because it makes you live forever! But this is a parable, the non-Catholic might argue.  First of all, from a literary standpoint, this is not a parable, and you will just have to take my word as a Bachelor of English for it.  Also, when Jesus teaches in parables, he always explains the metaphor. He says that this is like that, specifically using the simile language of "like" or "as" to clear up the listeners' confusion. He doesn't do that here.  In fact, "After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer walked with him (v. 66)." He doesn't call them back. He doesn't say, "Wait, I was speaking in parable! It was a metaphor!! Let me explain!!!"  He lets them go, for they have no faith.

Jesus always explains his parables, so this is evidently not a metaphorical story.  There is no plot; this passage is labeled as a discourse. And Jesus repeats himself five times in a row to make sure we get this!  This is of the utmost importance, a teaching not to be missed or brushed off as merely symbolic.  He expected his true disciples to believe even if they did not understand, yet he does eventually tell the twelve how, exactly, they will be able to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood.  I give you Matthew 26: 26-29:

"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.'  And he took the chalice, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.' "

Did Jesus say that the bread and wine were like his body and blood? No, he said, this is.  Again, no explanation of a parable, because this is no metaphor.  Holy Communion is the center of Catholic faith and worship.  It literally provides spiritual sustenance and eternal life.  It is Jesus abiding in us, and we in him, body, soul, and divinity.  And it is of undisputed historical record that the earliest Christians believed and practiced this, in the very first century of Christianity.  This is why I am joining the Catholic Church and raising my child Catholic.  She deserves this gift from the hand of our Lord and Savior, and this is Organic Mothering at its best!  I wish I could find that Catholic woman that I laughed at and apologize to her.  I thought I was right, but that was no excuse for my disrespect of her beliefs, and I rejoice that I was wrong after all!!  As Jesus' mother Mary said, "Do whatever he tells you."

Wedding Feast at Cana

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Belly Dance: the Meaning of Tribaret

 Carrie Konyha

From what I have read online, it seems that Tribaret belly dance initially referred only to choices of costuming and music. For example, wearing Tribal style costumes but dancing with Cabaret movements, or vice versa. Or it could mean using a combination of costuming elements for a glitzier Tribal look, or an earthier Cabaret style. It could also imply using Tribal music but dancing Cabaret, or vice versa. At any rate, Tribaret did not seem to point to the fusion of Tribal and Cabaret movement vocabulary, perhaps because this category was called Tribal Fusion. Confused yet?

Unfortunately, neither the word Tribal nor the word Cabaret tells us much about what dance form we can actually expect to see. At one time Tribal referred to Jamila Salimpour's troupe, Bal Anaat, which I have discussed in previous posts. Then it was used in Carolena Nericcio's lead and follow, group improvisational format, dubbed American Tribal Style, or ATS. Other troupes developed their own Tribal formats, usually called either Tribal Group Improvisation (TGI) or Improvisational Tribal Style (ITS). Paulette Rees-Denis of Gypsy Caravan calls her format simply "Tribal", as opposed to ATS. All of these variations could be known under the umbrella of Classic Tribal. But as I have written before, the Tribal umbrella has swollen to such vast proportions, to include any sort of "fusion" under the sun, that I am loathe to use the moniker "Tribal Fusion" in relation to belly dance at all.

"Cabaret" has similar issues in that it is usually used to refer to any type of Oriental, or non-Tribal, belly dance, and it leaves out Folkloric forms entirely. Instead, Tribal has come to stand for Folkloric, which is erroneous, even if classic forms of Tribal do incorporate some Folkloric elements. The word "cabaret" also has low-class associations in some countries, so it is not the best choice, to say the least.

Tribaret belly dance has evolved to become the "new" American Vintage Oriental (a.k.a. American Cabaret or American Restaurant), which harkens back to the classic night club and Renaissance faire styles which mixed various forms of Middle and Near Eastern dance and emphasized the use of props such as zills, veils, and swords. It had a distinctive 5 to 7 parts and was particular to the United States while being firmly grounded in the cultural roots from which it derived. Tribaret belly dance today is distinctive from Tribal Fusion.

While a Tribaret performance may use less of the classic 5 to 7 sections, it sticks to the American Vintage Oriental roots, with the addition of classic Tribal vocabulary and presentation from Bal Anaat's direct descendants (ATS, ITS, and TGI). There is no infusion of hip hop, burlesque, break dancing, gothic, or other modern dance interpretations in either movement vocabulary or musicality (though some "funky" or electronic Middle Eastern music fusions may pass inspection).

As an American belly dancer, Tribaret seems to me an "authentic" form of belly dance, except for the unfortunate blending in terms of the meaningless "Tribal" and "Cabaret" language. So what to call it? "Tribaret" is fine if you like it and have a firm grasp on what it means, but I am currently using the term, Classic Tribal Oriental. I may come up with something better and will keep you posted in that case. At any rate, inspired by Carrie Konyha, I am developing my own "Tribaret" combinations, incorporating movement vocabulary and technique from the Egyptian Baladi, Golden Era, and classic Tribal, with an undercurrent of Gypsy romance.

Carrie Konyha is a trailblazer in Tribaret belly dance, having come up with her own format for use in either group improvisation or for solo enhancement. The final performance of her Tribaret video is earthy and elegant, nothing akin to most "Tribal Fusion" disasters. It looks much like classic American belly dance! And if you watch her Tribaret troupe, White Lotus, on youtube, the effect is distinctively Tribal but is richer and more nuanced than the typical Tribal group improvisation. The moral of the story is that belly dance can indeed evolve beautifully, but historically, time and again, we see that going back to the cultural roots is always necessary to be able to move forward with integrity, dignity, and preservation of the authentic spirit of the dance.

Carrie Konyha

Monday, January 7, 2013

Girls 7 to 14 Belly Dance Class

Beginning Belly Dance Series with Rita Helena

Girls ages 7 through 14

Tuesdays--January 15, 22, & 29

Time--4:30 to 5:15 p.m.

Cost--$18.00, payable by check or cash, total due on Jan. 15

Location--321 Empire St., Montpelier, OH 43543

*Must pre-register by calling 419-485-0524 or at by Jan. 13.
Class size is limited, so do not delay!

*Please arrive at 4:00 p.m. on Jan. 15 for registration and paper work. Doors will be locked at 4:25 each week, so please do not be late.

Students will learn the history, correct posture, and basic steps and combinations of the dance, enhancing rhythm, grace, and body image. This is a fun, feminine art form and exercise! Movements will be age appropriate. Each class will include a full body warm up and yoga cool down. No prior dance experience is necessary.