PURE: Putting it together, Part 1

By Naraya

A seemingly eternal line of dancers stretches out in front and behind me as I step out of the N-R subway exit and begins to glide towards Astor Place, New York City. The warmth of this mid July day pours into me... I breathe in. Entranced by the sound of the drums, I lift my arms with my sisters as we process towards the first destination on the map. The ritual has begun.

On July 17th, 2004,the performers of PURE took to the streets to share their love of dance and music with the public and to pay homage to specific sites in lower Manhattan. PURE, an acronym for "Public Urban Ritual Experiment," is comprised of 29 dancers and fourmusicians. The goal of this event: to bring a message of healing, peace and the power of community through ancient traditions of dance and ritual.

Facilitated by Kaeshi Chai of BellyQueen (New York City, USA) and Darshan of Gypsy Caravan (Portland, OR, USA), a new Tribal fusion is born. Tapping into theirindividual backgrounds ofCabaret and American Tribal Style (ATS) and incorporating in elements of Chinese, Romani Gypsy, Israeli Folk, Flamenco and Indian dance, they blend together a new movement to represent the ideal of world solidarity central to the PURE philosophy.

"Dance and ritual create community, drawing people together both emotionally and physically into a shared sense of the divine. As the community participates, no one is a stranger any longer," says Kaeshi. Taking place in one of the most diverse cities in the world, PURE touched thousands of people of all backgrounds and ages as they processed for four miles along the performance route.

Initially, Kaeshi and Darshan had simply been drawn together through a desire to explore dance with one another. Kaeshi had been exposed to ATS during her tour with the Bellydance Superstars, when she witnessed the power and community of ATS through the performances of Rachel Brice, Domba, Fat Chance, The Circle, Urban Tribal and Gypsy Caravan. Darshan, a renowned dancer from Gypsy Caravan, had temporarily moved to the East Coast to perform in Dalia Carella's off-Broadway show "In Search of a Goddess."

After a few conversations it became apparent that they shared a common desire to explore Tribal principles with others in New York City (NYC), a city that had historically been associated with the solo cabaret dancer. What began as an mutual desire to simply dance with one another led to a vision. A project that expands belly dance out of its usual paradigm of late night clubs and restaurants into the daylight.

Performance for audiences of all ages ranging from toddlers to grandparents. As an extension of this, belly dance can be used to foster peace, healing and empowerment. The name PURE was chosen as a name to refer to going back to the source. Middle Eastern dance started out as a communal ritual that was shared with one another and this was an event paying homage to those roots.

The effects of PURE has proved to be far reaching. Since July 17th emails of support from all over the world have poured in, and dancers in other parts of the country have expressed interest in creating similar events in their hometown. Reflecting on the event Darshan says, "I learned how wonderful it is to work with a large team for a greater cause because it brings out the best in people." PURE percussionist Brad MacDonald continued, "We want to inspire individuals to take a moment and reflect on what they can do or give in the spirit of peace." On July 17th, New York City did just that.