Work like you don’t need money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody is watching.
Is Novel Erotic Fiction?
Is Daughter of the Dance a curiosa, erotica, erotic fiction, or literotica? In answering the question, in a roundabout manner, indulge the author’s under girding reason for dealing with sex as she did while seeking to tell the story.
There was a curious moment the author had about twenty years ago at a Buddhist retreat when a young man went before the lama, asking if he has to visualize himself as a deity with his consort in union. When he was told that it was essential to visualize them in union, the young man was alarmed and left feeling frightened by the prospect. It was apparent among those who understood the practice that the young man was experiencing a strong aversion to it. Curiosity left the author wondering what had just happened, for she was a novice on Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. She felt compelled to meet the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying when, what she read, rang true to her core. Beforehand, she did have an understanding of tantra, the art and skill of sexual bliss whose mystery, unfortunately, is lost by many because sex is still considered taboo with a titter or disgust or hypocrisy.
Tantra is highly misunderstoodYab-Yum Weaving Energy
Tantra is highly misunderstood because the energy surrounding it is subtle but also powerful. In ancient Sanskrit, the term means “to weave energy” that makes a web. The definition seems to rise to the level of the quantum realm of the Unified Quantum Theory. In practice, to be in union is to weave the energy in such a way that the bliss experienced transcends both the sexual and spiritual planes without attachment in particular. It becomes deeply meditative, spontaneous, and intimate. As such, the couple is engaged in immeasurable sex in a tunneling vortex. Ancient Sanskrit defines it as Maithuna, the Grand Ritual of Tantra, not to be confused with ritualized sex or the Grand Unified Theory (the duality of the fields into a single physical field). Our quantum physicists and neuroscientists have catch-up to do to understand how spirit (consciousness) and matter work together to bring harmony when the couple become “excellent or divine.” For cultures which did not consider that sex is the original sin, the minds of their scientific sages explored what, how, why, where, when, and how the sexual energy of attraction is weaved to recreate matter into a wave or to transcend its dualistic material away from the samsara realms of matter.
So, why did the author deal with human sexuality as she did? Was it for shock value? Perhaps. The historical nature and romance of the novel are counterpointed by the sexual relationships of love and rape, dignity and humiliation, partnership and slavery, pleasure and pain, reciprocity and domination. It is blatant as well as clever. The tension and drama sadly comes from one person dominating another.
When romance novelist Judith Krantz introduced her winning formula of mixing sand and shopping, she opened the door for other genre novelists to deal only with sexual and sensual subject matter. The author of Daughters of the Dance takes dancers of a spiritual tradition made erotic for the sole purpose of sexual arousal within the historical contexts from the 19th and 20th centuries. Five women are featured whose sexual struggles with high-powered men give a new dimension on how to heal sexually. But more importantly, the novel intends to arouse sexual desire to drive home how important, without substantially deal with the subject matter, it is to weave its energy that will break the wheel of birth-death-rebirth-death back into dualism that divides the sexes from knowing true harmony and bliss. The answer comes from the tantric Guru Rinpoche, a master of Buddhism during the 8th century. The union of his “divine parents” he described as “My father is the intrinsic awareness, Samantabhadra; and my mother is the ultimate sphere of reality Samantabhadri of non-duality of the sphere of awareness. I am from the unborn sphere of all phenomena and act in the way of the Buddhas of the three times.” The act once mastered breaks the chain of dualistic realms of rebirth.
Daughters of the Dance is not erotic fiction; it merely expresses sex in explicit language to prove a point and a goal–have neither attachment nor aversion toward the healthy sexual act.
Read the “Afterword” with understanding.
Birthing in water has a long tradition
South Pacific Islanders, legend has it, gave birth in shallow seawater. (It was Hi’laka who gave birth to the ceremonial and sacred Hula dance and who carried to Hawaii from Tahiti an embryo egg in her arms as a child.) Even Egyptian royalty was born in water. In certain areas of the world today, women still give birth in special aquatic places like rivers. This is true in South America, the Caribbean, and Antilles for example. A practice at the time of labor in some Middle Eastern cultures was for the tribal women to undulate in a circle before the laboring mother-to-be to remind her to sense her contractions like the waves of the sea as a way to surrender to the contractions, allowing their energy to flow through her body. Ceremonies after birth help the woman both physically and emotionally to reintegrate her back into society and to integrate the newborn into the tribal community. These activities were designed to help her from falling into postpartum blues, depression, or psychosis. In some cultures, pomegranates, rich in antioxidants, are eaten as a ritual to symbolize fertility, prosperity, abundance, knowledge, and wisdom—attributes bestowed upon women to pass on to posterity.
According to folklore, one can construe that belly dancing is synonymous with the celebration of having a healthy birthing experience for the mother and child. Through observation and experience, women came up with a sacred, birthing wisdom (prenatal and postnatal) that was passed on from generation to generation. In the novel, Ayana’s mother, Dara, brought her tradition with her from Algeria to the New World.
Habika became annoyed and told Dara, “Shoo . . . shoo! I control.”
The story of DAUGHTERS OF THE DANCE (pp. 167-169) lends itself to having a main character, Ayana, give birth to her daughter in a shallow cove. The midwife, Habika, lovingly talks her through the natural process Ayana is to undergo. There was no traditional ritual and ceremony to be had; however, Habika took it upon herself to tell Ayana to dedicate her newborn to the transplanted male and female spirit deities of the Yoruba tribe of Africa. The whole birthing event is to be a part of nature, sanctified by the visiting cloud over the crater of dormant Mount Quill of St. Eustatius. Ayana, is the cloud, adding to the experience of connectivity to life.
Usually, the first experience of a woman’s labor can be terribly arduous and long. Being placed in lukewarm water, however, seems to gently speed up delivery and to reduce discomfort, which helps to deliver a happy baby, without all the trauma that modern birthing techniques can offer. Less likely to cry than babies born into the air, water-birthed babies are found to be calmer, eager to have eye contact with mother, and to breastfeed easily, according to doctors, doulas, and midwives. Going from womb (uterus) into the hands of a midwife and then into mother’s arms provide a peaceful journey. A newborn goes from a water environment (the amniotic fluid sac), through a moist birth canal of her vagina, into another water source, H2O, as it is then freed from his/her mother’s umbilical cord. These conclude stages one and two of giving birth—labor and delivery, respectively. And, it is amazing how a newborn does not inhale until exposed to air!
Moreover, timing is essential to the rhythm of separating the newborn from the placenta and the mother’s cord. It should be noted that it is erroneous to think that the baby comes from the placenta. The placenta exists outside of the baby and in the uterus. The final stage of labor, after birth, is the passing of the placenta, which happens between 15 minutes to an hour after the baby is born. It is checked thoroughly to ensure that it is intact, making for a healthy baby. If a piece of the placenta is left in the uterus, it could lead to serious complications for the mother and could even be toxic and lethal.
Nonetheless, if the baby experiences stress in the birth canal or if the umbilical cord becomes kinked or twisted, the baby might gasp for air with the possibility of inhaling water.
In Ayana’s case, she has an advantage over other women. All her life, she was engaged in strengthening her ventre (her womb), her pelvic area, and her legs. She danced, which involved doing slow, undulating, and rolling motions—such as hip circles, figure-of-eight movement, and the “camel” that facilitates the stomach to undulate. Such moves develop the fetus to move in a clock-wise fashion. With all this exercise comes proper deep breathing, which should be a daily habit. In any case, during pregnancy, a belly dancer is encouraged to move in slow motion and is discouraged from doing shimmies until she is near the time of delivery.
Muscular contractions that are strong and flexible are needed enough to expand and lengthen the muscles so as to help the labor along and to ease the birth. Placental blood flow is increased with such moderate movements, allowing the growing fetus to get more oxygen and nutrients delivered throughout its uterine life.
The birthing journey requires us as women to get back to a sense of life basics where intuition and instinct are normal (rather than abstract) means of expression. When implemented in pregnancy and labour, the birth dance enables a woman to connect to her feminine source without fear or shame. | Maha Al Musa, a Middle Eastern woman and belly dancer
Sadly, women with medical problems such as thyroid disease, heart disease, hypertension, pre-eclampsia, placenta previa, a history of premature labor, and gestational diabetes should not have a water birth.
Also sad is that many women throughout the world are still exposed to abuse and high levels of disrespect that do not help a woman in childbirth and that do not ensure a positive psychology to bring up a child. In fact, such treatment can heighten the amount of pain experienced in childbirth. Just imagine what women, who are raped, forced to give birth of an infant by rape and/or incest, must endure! These events are unbearable to a woman, and her pain and trauma can psychologically impact the rearing of the child.
A new mother should be given her rightful place in her society as a goddess and deliverer of life. A quote from an educator on a proper birthing experience tells it all. Marie F. Mongon says—
All natural birth has a purpose and a plan. Who would think of tearing open the chrysalis as the butterfly is emerging? Who would break the shell to pull the chick out?
Cultural sensitivity and awareness are a must to have a healthy society. By way of example, an immigrant woman needs to feel very special during this time; her cultural beliefs need to be taken into consideration by western health practitioners instead of being frowned upon (another form of abuse). For example, there are various rituals surrounding the umbilical cord of the new-born and the placenta. The novel points out this needed respect and certainty. One of the simplest rituals that can be adopted is to practice full-body massage on both the mother and infant for well-being. Most important is to keep the mother and child together—from birthing channel into arms and breasts for maximum bonding purposes.
The whole point of giving birth is to bestow the knowledge that a woman is the power source to birthing. She may need, and deserve, help; essentially, it is the childbearing mother who has had that power. Welcome her and her child; embrace and empower them! Equality for and between both sexes (both opportunities and rights) will likely promote good health for most of humanity. Until then, there will only be anger, anxiety, shame, cruelty, fear, sadness, distrust, war….
Why not opt to help change the world, beginning with the source (you and us) for a fulfilling, helpful, and happy life for all homo sapiens with a sense of certainty, expectation, contribution, love, connection, and growth to name a few needs we all have in common.
As a species, let us learn all the ways to nurture each other.
Not everyone will glean from the novel that the matriarch Dara, a fictitious granddaughter of Ferdinand de Lesseps (a French diplomat and developer of the Suez and Panama Canals), has Sephardic roots
In reading The Path between the Seas, by American historian David Gaub McCullough, it became more apparent to me that one of the reasons the reputation of Ferdinand and Charles de Lesseps was tarnished was due to their Jewish (Sephardic) origins. Édouard Adolphe Drumont, the French propaganda journalist, spread antisemitism via his “elephantine tract” of over 1,000 pages—La France Juive (Jewish France)—at the Universal Exposition of 1889 in France when antisemitism was rare. He claimed that “the sickness of modern France…was [caused by] the nation’s most treacherous human foe..the Jew”. His conspiracy theories of financial thievery by the de Lesseps family led to investigations, distrust, and perpetuated the persecution of Jews throughout Europe.
In 1854, Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo, secured an agreement with the Ottoman governor of Egypt to build a canal across the Isthmus of Suez. With a team of engineers, the Suez Canal Company was formed in 1856. In 1859, construction began and was completed in November 1869. In an attempt to repeat this success, he ventured to build the Panama Canal at sea level during the 1880s, but the project was devastated by epidemics of malaria and yellow fever in the isthmus, as well as beset by financial problems due to unforeseen delays. Consequently, the planned de Lesseps Panama Canal was never completed; and Drumont was partly responsible. Eventually, the project was bought out by the United States, which solved the medical problems and changed the design to a non-sea level canal with locks. It was completed in 1914.
The Sephardic bonding between Dara and Andres can thus be seen as almost inevitable.
As a reader, only you can imagine what Dara would have looked like at the turn of the 20th century.
A Lost Factoid in History
The U.S. Statue of Liberty was formally presented to the United States by Ferdinand de Lesseps, At a banquet, on June 11, 1884, given in honor of the Franco-American Union, he, as head of that Union, gave the following speech, saying:
This is the result of the devoted enthusiasm, the intelligence and the noblest sentiments which can inspire man. It is great in its conception, great in its execution, great in its proportions; let us hope that it will add, by its moral value, to the memories and sympathies that it is intended to perpetuate. We now transfer to you, Mr. Minister, [Levi P. Morton, the Minister of the United States to France] this great statue and trust that it may forever stand the pledge of friendship between France and the Great Republic of the United States.
De Lesseps traveled to the United States to speak at the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty, attended by President Grover Cleveland in October 1886.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The characters were well developed and I felt a good understanding of each. It is obvious the author did research into history of dance,and especially history of Jews in the Islands which I found most interesting. The romances were interesting and did lend themselves to the story line. The author’s descriptive passages were well written. There was nothing I disliked about this book. I picked the book up because I liked the cover. I enjoy dancing, including belly dancing! The author did a wonderful job, and the book is unique in its historical content. I was pleasantly surprised. I do recommend this book highly!
I finished the book. Very good. I was right about Nona, I think.
By the way, you did capture the journey of life, its intricacies, its ups and downs, feelings, etc. Well done. I loved the inclusion of dance, history (including of Jews in the Netherlands Antilles), and philosophy (Buddhism).
For an author to seek the review of a web site that offers an independent review of her novel is risky business but welcomed. Following are two reviews:
Following is the official OnlineBookClub review of Daughters of the Dance that received four out of four stars! (reprinted)
“Hardly had I come across a book that combined history, love, war, slavery and spirituality into one beautiful story. Daughters Of The Dance by Armida Nagy Rose is one of them. The story is about a family of female dancers Dara, Ayana and Nona living in Curacao Island.
“Ayana woke up after two years of suspended mental state. She suffered from severe depression after getting departed from her husband, Stefan. Sandor, who was the complete opposite of Stefan, always had sexual intentions towards Ayana. He separated the two lovebirds at the time of World War 2. Ayana, who was bearing the child of Stefan, went back to her mother Dara and gave birth to Nona. Time passed, and Nona grew to be a beautiful young lady. She fell in love with a handsome young man, Ariel. Sandor became a powerful barrister and a candidate for a judgeship in the Dutch Antilles. However, his days of happiness were soon going to be over. Awiti, who was the slave of Sandor, was often sexually exploited by him. She couldn’t tolerate more when she came to know that her daughter had a relationship with Sandor. She made a plan, and with the help of Yellie, she taught Sandor a lesson. After completing her PhD in Art History, Nona soon married the love of her life and gave birth to a child Myra. They moved to Trinidad and lived happily thereafter.
“The life of Dara, Ayana and Nona were captivating. The story was heartbreaking but also inspiring. The plight of slaves, especially women of the mid-20th century was disheartening to read. Also, the mass murder of Jews during World War 2 was covered very well. Stefan was one of the victims because he was a Jew. The Geopolitics of different European nations during that time was elaborately discussed to make the story more relatable. Even though the story is transpiring at the time of a war, it has a strong spiritual dimension to it. Ayana is portrayed as a very spiritual lady. According to Ayana, her dance is a way to experience the divine. Even sex is a tool for her to experience bliss and ultimate union. I think Ayana was the most well-developed character in the book. Other characters such as Dara, Nona, Sandor, Stefan and Ariel were also developed well. The book was very informative. It had everything such as Art, History, Politics, Eastern Philosophy, Religion and Spirituality. The author must be an expert in History to write all those things. There are different languages used in the book such as Dutch, German, Ladino, Papiamentu and Spanish. However, the meanings of these words are given at the end of every chapter. I struggled to understand those words because I was reading a Kindle version of the book.
“There is a little about the book that I disliked. It felt that the ending was overstretched. The story could have ended earlier because Sandor was punished and almost everything was sorted out. But it’s entirely my opinion and other readers can differ on that aspect. The book was mostly error-free. I spotted minor typos here and there that hardly affected the reading experience. I found some unusual bold letters in the book. Overall, the book was enjoyable and informative.
“I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The minor typos didn’t really affect the quality of the book. Hence, the score must be 4 out of 4. The book is recommended to those who like art, history or love stories. There is a lot of sexual content in the book. So children should stay away from it.” ONLINEBOOKCLUB
A member reader submitted a comment on the review, wishing to remain anonymous, wrote the following:
Having read this novel in November 2018, I was pleased to see Daughters of the Dance, a Mosaic of Seek & Find (316 pages) featured when I was looking for historical novels to read. As a boomer, I’d like to offer additional perspectives from that of younger generations. The reviewer is right that “the story is heartbreaking but also inspiring.”
The beginning chapter about Ayana being in a state of limbo for two years and waking from a dream state is a metaphor for suffering that suppresses our minds from the simple fact that we intrinsically exist. Ayana suffered such deep depression veiled as catatonia (a psychomotor disturbance); and when she came out of it, she was a transformed person. In the first chapter you learn about the family of three women dancers. In the second chapter, you learn about the three Sephardic Jews of the Dutch elite of Curaçao. Afterwards, the book becomes a look into the past, back to the present, and then into the future.
The early historical context of the Ladino Jews from Spain and the Spanish Netherlands, migrating to the Caribbean, to the Netherlands Antilles, and coastal Latin America was new to me. I also learned about how refined oil from the refineries in Curaçao helped the Allies actual victory in the Mediterranean theatre during World War II. Moreover, the Nazis were everywhere, including the Americas, waiting to take over the world’s resources.
In telling the story, the reader is introduced to five beautiful and struggling romantic encounters. Every bit of the characters’ lives can be interpreted in terms of existential psychology that the author’s artistry manages to broaden one’s mindfulness. I must admit my favorite romance was between Andries and Dara; their intimacy silently engulfed them completely for decades. Andries, the principal male character, is an intelligence officer skilled in maritime trade for the Crown Queen of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles and was not mentioned in the official review.
As for the ending, the symbolic daughters of the dance evolve over three generations in search of meaning. It had to end with Ariel’s bond to Nona, the one who cracks the code of non-dual existence.
Successfully ambitious, the novel is daring and caring in its complexity and mindful to the very end. One of my favorite authors, Rebecca Goldstein, wrote, “art is supposed to increase our mindfulness.” Daughter of the Dance; a Mosaic of Seek and Find, does just that, especially piercing dualistic sexuality in search for the ineffable experience of Oneness. Somehow, the mystical undertones of the novel are contemplative and Kabbalistic in seeking authenticity and truth. If I understand the author’s boldness in treating sexual content, which permeates our mental energy, sends a message—one cannot and should not be attached or adverse to its divine energy. Nature’s Half Acre