by Naomi Zeitz
From July 28th to August 16th, 2016, the Shang Shung Institute of America and the Tsegyalgar East Dzogchen Community were fortunate to host the visit of two wonderful Khaita dancers and recently authorized and excellent instructors, Salima Celeri and her daughter Yangcen. Both came to us from Merigar West, Italy, for a first time visit to the US, which included a few days in NYC and a grand finale visit on the way to the airport to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. Yangcen is a skilled basketball player as well and aficionada of the sport, so we were very pleased to be able to offer her a final (this time) American burger and a visit to the place where basketball was invented on the way to JFK airport!
What we offered Salima and Yanchen was quite limited compared to what they gave to us. Each day during the week long Dzogchen Community festival on the land of Khandroling at the Vajra Hall, Salima and Yangcen spent two and sometimes a little more hours singing and dancing with us and with great precision, patience, and compassion, explaining all the dances, their meanings, the mudras and steps. Following the festival on the land, those who felt the pull and magic of Khaita, spent four hours a day at the Vajra Hall continuing the training and deepening their experience.
The Khaita experience culminated with a performance of three dances in the small city of Northampton on one of the hottest days of the year. This was the testament of the capacity of the instructors who formed a very joyful, cohesive and even somewhat graceful group of dancers out of an interesting mix of capacities and willingness. In English we have an expression of someone who can “make a silk purse from a sow’s ear”. They succeeded!
Salima and Yangcen have a charming mix of joy, humor, discipline and great skill, as well as a lot of patience and kindness. They are also so lovely to watch when they dance, and that alone becomes a powerful inspiration to learn and perfect the dances. Also their love for Khaita, for Rinpoche and his beautiful creation, for the meaning, mudras and movements of each dance, shine through and also create a very fertile ground from which their students can grow and blossom.
For them both, I am sure this praise will be too great and embarrassing, but for us the gratitude for their time with us and the gift of Khaita, as well as their devoted and special presence in a place that can become a little frozen like its long winters, is somewhat inexpressible. Khaita became the living, breathing, joyful expression of the value and meaning of the land of Tibet and the wish of our Master to carry on this culture and its teachings through movement and song. We only hope that this small and dedicated bunch of Khaita dancers in this out of the way corner of the globe can continue on the legacy of our precious Master.
Other photos by F Dallorto and L Ottaviani
Following are the words of one of the dances performed in Northampton. Recently at Merigar West, Rinpoche said this about the song, La sog gi drod kho, THE WARMTH OF OUR LIFE FORCE. “It’s a beautiful song. If I had to leave a testament to the Tibetan people, I would choose this song.”
THE WARMTH OF OUR LIFE FORCE
Tibetans of the land of snow!
Learn the KA KHA GA NGA,
The warmth of our life force!
Our ancestor is the king Songtsen Gampo.
The opener of the door of knowledge is the teacher Thonmi.
The language and letters are the jewel of our family generations.
Do not forget KA KHA GA NGA, offspring of the snow mountain!
Do not forget them, sons of the snow mountain!
Tibetans of the land of snow!
Speak the pure paternal language
That shines on the summit of the world!
The thirty-four consonants and vowels are the bone of our hearts.
The pure language is the warmth of our life,
The sunlight that shines on the top of the world.
Do not forget Tibetan culture, offspring of your mothers!
Do not forget it, offspring of your mothers!
Tibetans of the land of snow,
Preserve your glorious fatherland
That formed naturally untainted.
The red fort is the ancestral castle of the Tibetans,
The military strength of the armies of the early kings,
The trace left behind by our ancestors.
Do not forget our strong fatherland, offspring of the land of snow!
Do not forget it, offspring of the land of snow!
It is the trace left behind by our ancestors.