2014 brought me loads of these treasures, the ones no one (but me) caught – the foundation of my resilience, faith and on going passion for life. Here are just a few of them:
– Knock, knock! – Said the postman´s warm hand on my door. A box was delivered and I opened it as if I was a a child opening her Christmas presents. The first copies of my first published book (“The Secrets of Egypt – Dance, Life & Beyond“) shone like diamonds. A soft and a hard cover, smelling of Spring.
Seeing my book, holding it, smelling it for the first time was not less exciting than child labour (allow me to presume 😉 ): indescribable joy and pride. There was no big fuss about it in my personal inner circle – family and friends kept quiet about it, as they usually do regarding every success in my career. I hardly remember hearing a “congratulations” but that´s all right because the fuss was the book´s existence in itself – materialized, real, palpable, full of possibilities – and the way it would inspire readers all over the world.
The book is now exclusively sold through the author (orders via email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and keeps opening magical doors in readers´lives.
My mum finally convinced me to get way out of my comfort zone and apply for one of those popular television singing contests. Yes: you read it well: me, Joana Saahirah, have been convinced to stay in line with more than 1000 people in order to enter a famous singing contest. Why would I do that – right? I asked myself the same question and came up with a reasonable answer.
My mother – and a few close friends who have heard me sing – always told me I should aim for a singing career; I sing constantly and as naturally as I dance; my early childhood shows (you don´t wanna know!) never failed to include a quite… err….ahmm…. original singing-dancing vaudeville act where nudity could be included without any shame, in case the audience seemed to be asleep.
I´ve always thought about it as one of the many things I love to do but can´t pursue because there´s only 24 hours in my day and I can´t focus on everything and master every craft.
A soft spot was hit and there I was, dragged into the lion´s mouth: between a work trip to Israel and another to Ukraine, I´ve stood in line, waiting for my turn to audition for a jury composed of television and musical producers. I didn´t really want to win but I wanted to see how far I could go in an area I love but have never invested in. Not surprisingly, I also wanted to feel like a beginner for a change: being judged (instead of judging) by professionals who know more than me about this particular art form, checking how tough my bones are and how many roads this abundant life can offer.
I was chosen in the first selection phase – wow! – and had to remain at the auditions´venue for the rest of the day, waiting for a second – tighter and harder – selection phase. It never crossed my mind but it could have: what the hell am I doing here? I don´t need this. I have my own successful career and life direction perfectly established; why am I putting myself on the hot spot and for what?!
I was chosen in that second selection, a member of a small group of wanna be singers who would soon compete in the television show – wowza 1000 times! I didn´t see it coming. When they called my name – the last of the list – I ignored it, as if that name was the echo of a dream I couldn´t call my own. Then they repeated it: I was chosen from more than 1000 aspiring singers and, although I knew that was not my destiny, I don´t remember feeling as proud of myself as I felt in that moment.
I headed home singing, dancing and jumping in the streets, on the train, in the air and everywhere.
Just as I thought, the call for the next stage in the competition happened while I was travelling (several months of uninterrupted trips around the world) – no way I could move forward due to my absence. It didn´t matter – in my head, I had won that competition and I knew I could venture into foreign lands and nail them like a pro, no matter how uncomfortable they might be. Nothing can beat that certainty.
Trip after trip – teaching, performing and lecturing; one more happy return to Russia where a little girl made my heart sing. A group of orphaned children was invited to join the show in Astrakhan, Russia (sponsored by the truly wonder*ful Olesya Efremova and her queen mother Galina); there was a little girl who rose up from her chair and leaned on the stage, staring at me – like I was magic – while I performed. Noticing that girl´s look and the enchantment on her face made me remember why I do what I do.
Finishing the lonely editing of my upcoming book (volume I – there´s also volumes II & III) after more than one year of distance from the material. The excitement, the weight of responsibility and the pride were undescribable. Only someone who has written a book – and means to publish it with full conviction and purpose – knows what I´m talking about. If I drank alcohol – which I never did – this would have been the perfect time to get violently drunk and celebrate till oblivion.
The birth of another Road is calling me and I follow every siren that appeals to my soul*
The plan was to take a proper vacation but, somehow and being faithful to myself, I ended up in Oxford (UK), studying Creative Writing at “Corpus Christi”, one of the oldest and best colleges in the world.
Bye, bye, rest…hello, serious work and life changing discoveries!
Those damp, older than memory walls (Harry Potter style) reassured me I was at home and the pleasure of not being taken as a dumb blond was priceless. Having a tutor who taught me, challenged me and trusted my intelligence and talent were more than I could have asked for – gifts I´ve rarely enjoyed in my life.
Being respected as a human being capable of doing great things and not as a stupid sexual object (a wild one but still an object) was pure heaven; weeks of absolute immersion in study, self-discovery, contact with a major Creative Portal called Oxford were just what my soul was searching for. Ah: the thirst that was killed…
P.S: I never left Oxford, for reasons I will certainly find out in the near future.
Tube ride with my dearest Rocky – aka Morocco – in New York. She sponsored me (amazing workshops and show) in the Big Apple but she was not the regular professional super cool sponsor – she was like a mother.
We´re riding towards 5th avenue; she´s reading on her Kindle and I´m reading on my old fashioned paper and ink book; we suddenly look at each other and smile for no apparent reason (she says she loves me and I answer I love her back – we both mean it from our hearts).
Waking up, opening the window and remainging open mouthed for half an hour, dizzy with Nature´s overwhelming beauty.
P.S: Alaska is a perfect writing retreat.
***Being present at the Chicago Bulls game at their home town stadium; trembling with excitement at their bombastic presentation video and suffering for their victory until the end of the game.
This was an old dream – I´ve been a NBA fan since Michael Jordan rocked the globe and fantasized about watching the bulls, live, in their town. Opportunity crossed my path and I grabbed it.
***Meeting Mr. Erbert (from whom I just received a lovely letter), a very special guide at the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway (Oak Park, Chicago). He made me fall in love with Hemingway and with his own presence (what a fabulous character!).
I´m in Petrozavodsk (near St. Petersburg, Russia) and hugs, tears and pure love are being thrown at me without restraint, contradicting the general opinion that classifies Russian people as cold and emotionally distant.
We´ve just finished my workshops at the “Northern Oriental Festival” (sponsored by Tatiana Dubrovina, another amazing woman) and dancers who have taken them are trying to express how they feel. One of them held me by the shoulders, looked deep into my eyes and said “spasiba” (thanks, in Russian) with tears rolling down her face. A steady, authentic, warm hug followed and both of us, I´m sure, experienced a bit of Eternity in each other´s arms.
The word that comes to mind is Sisterhood*. Enough said.
A sweet “baladi” kick started my last performance shoes at Ldb festival (Thessaloniki, Greece). I opened the performance at a balcony – aka “Evita Perón” balcony – and held the silence in the ballroom with my own hands: it was so thick I could touch it with my fingers: not a fly could be heard: pure expectation, anonymous and known heads holding their breaths, waiting to be entertained. And how they were indeed entertained! Not only entertained but taken to a world where every possibilty exist and we´re free to dream and be widly in love.
Truth be told: these were not the only high points in my year – there were many more, too many for a blog post. Yet my memory´s filter retained these ones and I don´t question its criteria. What´s going on backstage is often more interesting than what´s going on stage.
Friends, family, lovers and students have heard me saying it: life is a game played between our will power (and action) and Life: 50% on my hands and 50% on Life´s hands. I can only ask Life plays its 50% as kindly and generously as possible and that I have the health, faith, power and inspiration to play my part.
A few hours before entering 2015, this is what I ask for: justice. Let the fruits of the seeds I´ve been sowing for so long be totally reaped. Thanking the new year in advance (because I can see what is coming and it´s so beautiful…).