A One Act Play

Snakes and Ladders —
Belly Dance 101

By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2003 Geralyn Horton

see video of monologueThe DANCE INSTRUCTOR who is teaching the class is attractive, but in a matronly fashion rather than one that conforms to the Hollywood image of the "seductive exotic" belly dancer. PYTHIA need not execute any really difficult dance moves, but she should convey the impression that she is a competent professional dancer.

The class PYTHIA is teaching is a workshop for women of varying backgrounds to introduce them to a New Age version of Middle Eastern Dance. PYTHIA wears a rehearsal version of "priestess" garb and controls-- or appears to control-- the accompanying music from a boom box. We are to imagine that the class members are in the part of the dance studio that extends into the audience, and are following her instructions. ELENA, the STUDENT whose stream of consciousness reactions to PYTHIA's instructions are in italics and overlap PYTHIA'S may be a recorded voice-over, or done live on mic....in which case an ad hoc ad lib policy for interspersing the reactions with PHTHIA's instructions and movements is best. If the director wishes to cast extra live students that's all right, too.

Good morning! My name is Pythia. (HINDU BOW) Some of my publicity is under my old name of "Sensuala", which I do still use for secular engagements, but when I dedicated myself to this spiritual practice, I took the name of the ancient Greek prophetess Pythia, associated with Delphi's sacred snake. Now, if you'll take your places I'll lead you in a warm-up-- Hands up in steeple, stretch.... (DEMONSTRATES) I'm very pleased to see such a good group. So many new faces! Arms out: stretch left, left, then right.... Especially such a range of physical types. We can worship with our bodies, whatever size or shape or ages or color! So good to see you again, Elena! Shoulder high arms, left....

ELENA: She knows my name! Uh-oh. Does "whatever shape" mean me?

PYTHIA: Then right.... Is that your friend Marge you've brought?

ELENA: How does she know?

PYTHIA: Welcome!

ELENA: Smile back, dammit-- don't look like a slug.

PYTHIA: Circle wrists forward... (DEMONSTRATES) Elena has the most beautiful wrists, so supple and expressive.

ELENA: I knew there's a reason to take this class...

PYTHIA: --and back.... But every body is beautiful, the Temple for a woman's inner Goddess.

ELENA: Yeah, right.

PYTHIA: Move your upper body to the left, lifting your chest cavity, and keeping your hips motionless, move your bosom to the left....

ELENA: Bosom?

PYTHIA: --and back.

ELENA: Boobs Left... How does she DO that?!

PYTHIA: left..... Every body, every womanly shape or whatever size, can move beautifully in praise to Her.

ELENA: I'm gonna try...I I'm gonna try...

PYTHIA: To the right...and back. To the right.... This morning, right here, we are going to create a new ritual and dance.

ELENA: We are? Sorry, Marge.

PYTHIA: Completely new, out of the inspirations and the bodies each of you bring, right here, this very morning.

ELENA: Oh, Jeeze-- I never got my coffee.

PYTHIA: A very beautiful morning, praise to the Goddess! Now, move your lower body to the left, shifting just your pelvic cage, and keeping your chest motionless, circle your hips down and around clockwise....and around...

ELENA: I think I can actually---Hmmm, ooooohhh, that feels good...

PYTHIA: I wish we could be outside, in one of the Goddess's sacred groves, barefoot on her grass, crowned with her vines and blossoms, enjoying this beautiful morning. Now tuck it and tip it and reverse: Counter: to the right.... and around...

ELENA: Ouch! Oh. Oh my God! -ess. oo....oo...oo

PYTHIA: --Or at least if we could have the windows open and feel her delicious air. But we're stuck inside where it's stuffy, the windows shut. Because we have to keep out the noise-- those kids playing next door.

ELENA: Hey! That's my kid! He's having fun.

PYTHIA: Alternate!.....left.....right .... left....

ELENA: Or at least he's not in pain....like me.

PYTHIA: Our music, our concentration-- you'd think they'd understand-- well, at least it's not a drum class over there!

ELENA: Drum class! I should have taken drum class!

PYTHIA: Now shake it all out! Just move freely, shaking away the tension, get in touch with your self. From your fingertips to your toes, establish communication.

ELENA: My tailbone says "Ouch!"

PYTHIA: By the end of this class you will be dancing for the Goddess,

ELENA: I'll be lucky to walk.

PYTHIA --whose temple is your body. The Goddess is within you,

ELENA: .... should at least try..

PYTHIA: so I won't be giving Her orders, and you shouldn't either

ELENA: Go with the flow...

PYTHIA: No orders, No demands. Listen!

ELENA: I'm listening...

PYTHIA: Listen to your body with love. Your body will tell you what to do.

ELENA: My body tells me: "Lie around! Take a Nap!"

PYTHIA: A spontaneous movement will well up, a vision from the Source.

ELENA: If only...!

PYTHIA: With Gaiea, and Isis, and Hecate. In Greek mythology-- in other religions, too-- Sacred inspiration is symbolized by the Snake.


PYTHIA: As Pythia, I am a snake priestess.

ELENA: and that means....?

PYTHIA: Next week you will meet my serpent companions, and see how they dance with me. If you are one of those people who are afraid of snakes, you'll have a gentle non-threatening opportunity to make friends with my friends.

ELENA: O, my god!

PYTHIA: If you are already a snake friend, you can be part of our dance.

ELENA: Sorry, I won't be here--

PYTHIA: Now that you are all loose--

ELENA: Snakes! tightened me right up again--

PYTHIA: --shaken free from your troubles and aches: time to prepare your minds. Lie down.

ELENA: Good idea.

PYTHIA: You! Pick a place to lie down! Close your eyes. Relax, deeply relax and listen to the suggestions of my voice.

ELENA: As long as you don't bring up snakes!

PYTHIA: You are going inside, into your temple.

ELENA: (yawns) Ummm...

PYTHIA: You'll meet your inner Goddess, and ask Her what it is you need to do to ascend the ladder--

ELENA: Says I need a better body.

PYTHIA: So that you may dance in Her honor.....

ELENA: Or ten hours of sleep.

PYTHIA: and in honor of all that's deep and earthy and womanly.

ELENA: ... so tired....

PYTHIA: Trust her. (ELENA yawns, falls asleep and begins to snore) When Her answer comes, it will rise from your depths....... Bringing beauty and joy.

ELENA: (snoring)... zzz....zzz..

PYTHIA: When I was an entertainer, when I danced in vulgar night clubs for the male gaze--

ELENA: (WAKING) Male what?

PYTHIA: I judged myself by how I pleased men,

ELENA: Did you?

PYTHIA: and how much money I got.

ELENA: How much?... (YAWNS, SNORES AGAIN), zzzz... (STEADILY)

PYTHIA: I was at war with myself...... with my deepest womanhood. I hated parts of my body-- for being too small or too big, or different. For refusing to carry out my shallow demands! But when I surrendered, when I went within to learn what my body was made to express, and that what I am is perfect, an expression of the Source that flows through all--- then, She sent me Her ladder to happiness! I became a daughter of joy! (TINKLE FINGER CYMBALS)

ELENA:...(SNORT) Wha...? ... zzzz....zzzzzz....zzzzzz.....

PYTHIA: Feel the earth press up, the sky press down. Warmth of the sun, magic of the moon, the tide of your life force, cycle of your womanly courses. (LOUD, TO STUDENT) Where you are in your courses now?

ELENA: (SNORT) My wha....??

PYTHIA: At the waxing stage of the moon, building up to the flood? Or are you now bleeding, -- in testament to this miracle, this gift of fertility?

ELENA: O shit-- I think I am. Did I bring tampax?

PYTHIA: Celebrate our Life Force.

ELENA: Dancing. With blood running down--

PYTHIA: See yourself in the Goddess' grove.

ELENA: Damn I wish I'd gone to drumming!

PYTHIA: Praising the Goddess with your uniqueness.

ELENA: Never meditate... jus' fall 'sleep.... zzzzz... zzzz...

PYTHIA: You see your movement now, as I see and dance mine (DANCING) Goddess, grant us a vision! Come, all of you! Dance it now, your vision dance! Drawing down the power of the moon! Virgin, mother, crone, where ever you are within her cycles. Come, come up! Climb her ladder! Dance! (DANCING) You will dance perfectly, as I do: (SPECTACULAR MOVES) Show the Goddess! Share your dance! Give praise! Share joy! Elena? Get up and dance! Up! Celebrate! Share! (STOMP, YELL) Elena!?!?



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