By Sherry Brier “To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and don't
worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest. Always do what you are afraid to do.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
I saw her standing off to the side of the stage while we were performing. She
was alone and stood absolutely still—an odd thing to do with the air thick with
infectious melodies and the rhythmic beating of the drums. Most people are affected by the music, their bodies pulsing and swaying with the beat. Though her face looked sad and withdrawn, I saw a riveting curiosity in it, her eyes searching the faces of each dancer. After the performance, I changed into my street clothes. I came out of the dressing room and saw that she was still in the same place.
Sometimes when I finish a show, I’ll wander around in the audience and
thank people for coming. This particular night, the young woman wouldn’t take her eyes off me, so I finally went up to her and asked if she enjoyed the show.
Her face lit up for a moment and she said, “It was so beautiful. I wish I could
dance like that.”
I told her that there was never anyone who wanted to dance that I wasn’t able to turn into a beautiful dancer. I asked if she would like to come and take lessons with me.
“On no, I couldn’t do that!” Her face had a look of fear.
I never pressure anyone, so I reached in my purse and gave her my card.
“Come whenever you’re ready,” I told her.
Several days later, I drove up to the studio and saw her standing by the door. She was glancing nervously around and seemed in a hurry for me to open the door and get inside.
Inside the studio, she just stood there listlessly. I considered asking her about
herself as I usually do to get to know a new student, but I knew intuitively that
words were not what was needed in this moment. Instead, I put on the music and
said, “Let’s dance, follow me.”
I thought she would be stiff and gangly, but she matched my movements. Her
body followed mine, but the expression on her face never changed. It was blank, as if no one was home.
I continued dancing, losing myself in the music as the rhythms changed. She
mirrored whatever I did.
After teaching for as long as I have, you get a feeling of how to approach each
student differently. Some learn verbally, so I speak to them and tell them exactly
what I’m doing. Some learn by watching, so I allow them to observe me and then
execute. She needed me to keep moving. When I would stop, she would stop. I’d
begin again and she was right there with me.
She kept returning every few days for several months. We never said a word.
One day when I stopped moving, her eyes closed, and she continued on with the
most expressive dance I’d ever seen. Her movements were magical. Sacred. Evoking feelings that I had longed to see in my students. I was so excited I could hardly breathe. This was the student I’d been waiting for. The one I could turn into
When the music ended, her stillness was profound. Her lowered lids flashed
open in surprise. She saw that I was watching her and dropped her head. She was
I knew not to talk about this, or she would retreat further, but we both knew
that a light flickered in the darkness. In my mind, I named her Zia—the Arabic word for self-luminous, the light from within. I envisioned her on stage, her hair loose and wild around her face, her arms beckoning as she called in the Spirit. With her feet deeply rooted in the earth, her undulating movements were an invocation holding the audience spellbound.
As time went on, there were more moments of breakthrough. I had to hold
myself tightly in check to keep from trying to push her. Her dance became even
more radiant, almost incandescent. More and more, she would allow me to watch as she offered her dance as a prayer.
Then one day, she did not come: nor for several days after that.
My heart broke as if I had lost my own child. I had felt as if I was raising a
daughter who would bring light to the world. I realized I had no way to find her. I
didn’t even know her name.
I did not see her after that, but several weeks later, I got a letter in the mail.
Dear Honored Teacher,
You brought so much light and joy into my life. As you did not judge me, I got
strong enough to break away from my family, but I have to leave so I don’t bring
shame to them in their very religious community. I couldn’t believe you would
continue to allow me to come and not pry into my personal life. Now I will tell you
that I come from the culture of origin of this dance. I am not allowed to dance
outside my home and even there, not in front of my male relatives. My soul yearns
for the freedom to bless Allah in the way that I am most good at. I have moved to be with my sisters who have broken away from the family. They will support me in following my passion for dance. I wish it could have been you who would continue to guide me on my journey of sacred expression through dance. I ask Allah to bless you every day.
With love and great respect,
(I looked up her name in the book of meanings of Arabic names. It means God’s Light.)
Sherry Brier is a lifelong successful artist/entrepreneur who is passionate about inspiring women to reach their highest potential. In her desire to inspire and teach other women to pursue their own creative paths, she founded and directs Inner Rhythm Movement Arts Institute in Marin County, California which just celebrated its 30th anniversary. She created and directed 5 dance companies over these years. As a champion for beauty and a warrior against wasted potential she created WomenRockProject.com, the largest online video library of women’s wisdom. She spends her days dancing, teaching, choreographing dances for her students and dance companies, writing, and playing hooky with her husband and cat. Frequent journeys to exotic lands and ancient cultures inspire her writing and choreographies. She is the author of DOORWAY TO ECSTASY: A Dancer's Initiation, a book about her 30 years teaching, choreographing, performing, and directing her dance companies. Her latest book, DARING DAZZLING DIVINE: Secrets to Rock Your Life is a treasure chest of women’s lives, stories, hopes, dreams and wisdom. https://womenrockproject.com/ https://sherrybrier.com
DARING DAZZLING DIVINE: Secrets to Rock Your Life
DOORWAY TO ECSTASY: A Dancer’s Initiation
Both at Amazon