Monday, November 12, 2012

It Almost Didn't Happen: Photo Shoot Four

Lidia Dalida
From: St. Petersburg, Russia

What started out as an idea, photographing belly dancers, turned into much more. Unbeknownst to me the project would turn into a story. The three dancers whom I met happened to be from very different parts of the world. This added a completely different dimension to my photography. It added both meaning and purpose to my self-imposed artistic endeavor.

Lidia Dalida
Through fellow photographer Russian born Elena Cone (also from St. Petersburg, Russia), I was introduced to dance instructor and recent Dallas Baptist University business graduate, Lidia Dalida. Lidia invited me to attend a rehearsal/class session in Plano and I agreed. My thought was that by observing, my shooting intuition would be heightened if I learned both the music and watched the dancers.

Vickylin Malak
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
That evening proved to be quite interesting. Things seemed ok and I shot for about two hours or so. In the process, I also met with Saritza Velilla-Jenkins (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and was introduced to Vickylin Malak (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Then it dawned me. My story: three women from three continents dancing on parallel journeys through belly dance. Belly dance, in fact, brought together three people from distinct and cultures and distances. Dance was their common denominator and their chosen form of self-expression and recreation. 

It was an epiphany for me. Suddenly the elements started taking shape in my head. This art form was not about the erotic, but rather the exotic. These dancers do not celebrate their differences but rather they embrace what the passion they share.

My enthusiasm quickly tempered. Lidia came up to me and handed me some bottled water. Later on she confessed that she could tell that I was not feeling well. At that moment nothing seemed wrong to me other than the typical aches and pains that accompany getting in awkward positions to shoot. In a matter of minutes it hit me. Panic struck me as I realized that I was going to be sick to my stomach. It was time to cut my visit short. My body was not going to allow me to stay. It was the most horrible sensation to know that I had a stomach virus and still had a forty-five minute drive ahead of me to get home.

Saritza Velilla-Jenkins
San Juan, Puerto Rico
After gathering all of my gear, it was time to drive home. Half way home on a high way the overwhelming torque of my stomach took over. It wasn't pleasant and this scenario wouldn't leave me during the drive. It was completely humiliating to lose control.

Once I got home, I washed up and through myself in bed but the virus wouldn't leave my body. The thought of being sick alone was almost as much anguish as the discomfort of my stomach. Kim had left for a long weekend with the girls. At times, I felt that what I needed was an exorcist not a doctor. Wave after wave hit me for most the night and the early part of the next day. The whole time the belly dance music would not stop. It played for nearly two days in my head, the same strains over and over.

Passion is a funny thing. At first, I thought that I would never be able to pick up the camera again and shoot another belly dancer.  A week pass but still the association between the dance, music, and virus overwhelmed. The truth was that I didn't think I would be able to proceed with the vision of the shoot. However, something beyond fear drove me to proceed with my idea. My love for photography transcended my deepest fears and motivated me to try what I normally would have avoided.

It's difficult to explain, but I am compelled and driven by its force within me. This is part of who I am regardless of what I do. My desire to create and express myself is greater than the sum of all of my anxieties and fears.

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