Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Dance Your Blues Away

(Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash)

Dance Your Blues Away

by Dawn Pisturino

Most of us remember the romance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers gliding “cheek to cheek” across the stage; the high intensity of John Travolta in his white disco suit gyrating under the strobe lights; and the graceful pirouettes of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker ballet.

Dancing has always been popular entertainment in the United States. And since the 1940s, it has been used therapeutically, as well.

Dance movement therapy is a recognized form of psychotherapy which uses movement to encourage free expression in people with emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical problems.

Recognizing that the mind and body work together, dance therapists use the rhythmic movements in dance to promote relaxation, wellness, and social interaction.

Dance therapy is often used to help victims of rape and sexual abuse to express the trauma of their experiences. People with physical disabilities improve their balance, coordination, and self-esteem through movement exercises. Chronically ill and terminally ill people find temporary distraction from their pain, fear, and anxiety. Even children and senior citizens benefit from the unrestricted movements.

Dance is a form of creative expression which integrates body, mind, and spirit. In Asia, it developed largely as a form of sacred expression. The Hindu god Shiva, in the form of Nataraja — the Cosmic Dancer — is shown in ancient statues and engravings dancing the rhythm of the universe and its ever-revolving cycles of birth and death, creation and destruction. In quantum physics, he beautifully symbolizes the ever-changing energy of the universe in its many forms.

Dancing is a great form of aerobic exercise which anybody can do. Just put on some music, and let yourself go! It strengthens the muscles and improves flexibility and coordination. It reduces muscle tension and stress, increases circulation, and opens up the lungs. But most of all, it’s just plain fun!

“Dance till the stars come down from the rafters,

Dance, dance, dance till you drop.”

W.H. Auden

Published in The Kingman Daily Miner, June 12, 2007.

(Vera Ellen was one of the most energetic and phenomenal dancers in Hollywood, but she was overshadowed by more famous performers, like Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, and Gene Kelly. This clip from White Christmas showcases her talent. I can’t even imagine dancing like this in high heels.)

Dawn Pisturino

2007; December 14, 2022

Copyright 2007-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All rights reserved.

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Sufism and Islam

(Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash)

Islam is a living religion because Muhammad was a living man who lived in the world as husband, father, business manager, politician, negotiator, mediator, religious leader, and warlord. He became a model of behavior for all of these human roles. With all of its emphasis on a Day of Judgment, Islam is really about everyday life and how human beings conduct themselves in their relations with each other. Muhammad, as both Prophet of Allah and social activist, used his Prophethood to create a more just society for the people of Arabia.

The Qur’an, as revealed to Muhammad, provides divine guidelines for living a life that brings believers into constant remembrance of God (dhikr). Right behavior is modeled on the examples given by the Prophet and his Companions. If any questions come up, religious and legal scholars can consult the Qur’an, study the examples of the Prophet (sunna), and the collected sayings and events of the Prophet as reported by others (hadith). Legal rulings can be made according to the precedent set by Muhammad and his revelations in the Qur’an. This ensures that legal rulings remain in conformity with the religion and social order established by the Prophet.

Sharia Law is based on all of these components and developed to counter the corruption that was slowly undermining the Muslim Caliphate. Islamic life became a set of laws that believers were obligated to accept and follow. It was believed that if all believers ritualistically followed the same rules, society as a whole would become more just and equitable. Conformity, however, leads ultimately to nonconformity. Believers who craved a more spiritual fulfillment began to form spiritual philosophies and communities that rejected the emptiness of a life oppressed by religious and governmental control.

Sufism is a departure from the empty rules and obligations imposed on daily Islamic life. While Sunni Islam rejects monasteries and asceticism, Sufism embraces them. While the Qur’an condones violent jihad against others for self-defense, Sufism emphasizes jihad of the self (fana, which means overcoming the ego and the self (nafs) in order to dissolve into a complete union with Allah). Sufism was meant to be an ecstatic experience that rises above mundane daily life.

The central tenet of Sufism is the divine union between the lover (the believer) and the beloved (Allah). This individual relationship with God automatically excludes others, which contradicts the social nature of Islam. It emphasizes the exclusive authority of God over the individual. Many Sufis and Sufi communities came into conflict with governmental authorities because of their bizarre behavior and rejection of orthodox Islam and government authority. Some, like al-Hallaj, were executed for heresy.

Sufism developed a mystical philosophy that elevates Muhammad to a saint with mystical powers – something Muhammad fought against. The mysticism of the Night Journey, in particular, has been expanded on by Sufi philosophers. For Sufis, inner experience is more important than outer knowledge. And practices developed that cultivate the divine experience, such as chanting Al-Ghazali’s 99 Names of God; reciting mystical poetry that enhances the believer’s drunken, erotic union with God; and performing the mind-altering dances of the whirling dervishes. For Sufis, union with God IS the Divine Reality that trumps ordinary life.

Popular culture gradually embraced Sufi saint worship, pilgrimages to the tombs of saints and holy places, and items such as prayer beads and icons. When Sufi communities began to get rich off of the public, however, their influence gradually faded away. Sunni Islamic leaders have always been skeptical of Sufism and regarded Sufi practices as innovations that detract from the example of the Prophet Muhammad and pure Islam. But the remnants of Sufi practices still exist among Sunni Muslims and Sufi communities still exist today.

Sufism added a spiritual dimension to Islam that helped it to grow and develop as a living religion that would survive into the modern era.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 14, 2019; November 30, 2022

Copyright 2019-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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A Tribute to Native American Culture

(Oraibi Hopi Village, Northern Arizona, now abandoned. Public Domain photo.)

I was blessed with the opportunity to work with the Native American tribes in Northern Arizona when I worked in Flagstaff: Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and Supai. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Not only did I work with them in a medical capacity, but also as a psychiatric nurse. I met a lot of wonderful people, a lot of talented artists, and learned a lot about Native American culture.

Hopi/Tewa artist Duane Koyawena. Photo from Arizona Daily Sun.

Duane was one of my co-workers. He is not only an incredible artist, but a beautiful human being. Here’s an example of his work:

This painting won 1st prize in Fine Arts, Tahisma Art Show.

In 2017, I commissioned Duane to create a painting for my daughter for Christmas, which she loves. If you are interested in Duane’s work, please visit his website:

Duane Koyawena Arts

http://www.dkoyawenaarts.com

He also paints fabulous murals for community and corporate interior and exterior design.

A musical tribute to Native Americans all across America: a blend of Native American instruments and voices with western instruments and music. This clip features Gods & Heroes, Dela Dela, and A-La-Ke. Length: 9:55 minutes and worth watching for the music and the artwork.
Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A National Geographic video by Keeley Gould. 700 tribes gathered over 3 days to celebrate Native American cultural heritage. Length: 4:10 minutes and worth watching for the information and dancing.
(Havasu Falls, Havasupai Indian Reservation. Photo by M. Quinn)

Dawn Pisturino

November 22, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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The Time Warp

In the early 1980s, before our daughter was born, my husband and I decided to attend the local revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. At midnight sharp, we were sitting in the audience at the old, art deco Millbrae Theatre in Millbrae, California, anxious for the movie to start. It was fun to look around the theatre at the many strange costumes worn by Rocky Horror fans. But, watcher beware! Once the movie started, we were pelted with candy, rice, and popcorn, and squirted with water from squirt guns, as fans reacted to various scenes in the movie. That was the fun of the revival – interacting with each other and the movie.

That couldn’t even happen nowadays because the Fun Police would be out trying to shut it all down. Kids are missing out on a lot of clean, harmless fun!

At that time, there were old, art deco theatres in just about every town along the El Camino Real, the main business artery that courses down the San Francisco Peninsula. I remember the red plush seats and elegant, red velvet stage curtain in the old Millbrae. I was fascinated by the gold gilding on the intricate art deco interior designs. Sadly, most of these theatres have been demolished or closed down.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) has always had a large cult following of people who just want to have a good time. The story is quirky, the characters and costumes bizarre, the music lively and entertaining.

Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors) and Susan Sarandon (Janet Weiss) play a naive, “square,” straight-laced couple whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Forced to take refuge at Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s house, they are reluctantly exposed to the twisted, bizarre characters who live there.

Tim Curry plays the transvestite scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is experimenting with creating the perfect male sex symbol (Peter Hinwood). The theme of the movie is pursuing “absolute pleasure,” which reflects the overriding social theme of the 1970s.

One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is the musical number, The Time Warp. Here’s where the audience gets up out of their seats and starts dancing in the aisles!

Enjoy! And don’t let the Fun Police spoil your fun! They are already trying to shut down Christmas this year.

Dawn Pisturino

October 11, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

Puttin’ on the Ritz

I’ve read that performer Michael Jackson was a big fan of Fred Astaire and studied his dance techniques. This became obvious in the style of some of his costumes, and in his own dance routines.

One of my favorite dance numbers by Fred Astaire is “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” The song was written by Irving Berlin in 1927 and published in 1929. In 1930, it became the central theme of the musical, Puttin’ on the Ritz. (See video below.)

The phrase “puttin’ on the Ritz” meant dressing fashionably in the slang of that day. The “Ritz” referred to the Ritz Hotel in London, England.

Fred Astaire performed his famous dance routine in the film, Blue Skies (1946). (See video below.)

Mel Brooks included a dance scene using Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in 1974, in the movie Young Frankenstein.

The song and the dance were revived by the Dutch singer, Taco, in 1982 and became an international hit – MTV even aired the music video.

The music is still catchy, and makes you want to get up and dance!

Fred Astaire version (1946), courtesy of Drive-In Movie History on You Tube (includes a short clip from Young Frankenstein):

Taco version, courtesy of Taco on YouTube:

Harry Richman version (1930), courtesy of Addehiovy on YouTube:

Ritz Hotel, London, England

Dawn Pisturino

September 29, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

7 Comments »

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