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  1. #1
    Member rsps's Avatar
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    Default I am very confused by the tone of this site

    It has been interesting over the last few weeks to pop in and browse content on this site.

    I'm new here, new to bellydance (but not performance arts) but this place does not seem like a positive uplifting forum at all.

    Dance (like art and literature) is a living, dynamic thing. There are so many styles of 'bellydance' and yet it seems that there is so much rancor between hard core practitioners of certain styles and those who take pride in their dance being [B]rooted[/B] in the history and movement of 'bellydance' but do not claim to be Egyptian or Turkish in their style of dance.

    Honestly, that seems self defeating, a desire to stagnate.

    The art of performance dance isn't a formula based on precise music and moves. If a person claims to be Egyptian style dancer then YES they must know and embrace the history/music/culture and specificity of the dance to be true to that particular form. But even then not even the modern Egyptian dancers all follow da rulz. Honestly, I'd rather watch clips of Samia Gamal than most the Bd's I've seen on my friends Arabic Channels.

    With so many fusions out there to critique Fusion with the rigid ruler of Historical forms is just not doing justice to the Evolution of dance. And BD should NOT stay the same. It should Evolve.

    Is it lovely/dynamic?
    Is the movement rooted in the historical understanding of 'bellydance'?
    Does it move the audience to appreciate bellydance as an art form?

    Those are just my thoughts as a rather novice BD'er...but not a novice to the arts.

  2. #2
    Senior Member nightdancer's Avatar
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    Ok, thats how you feel. Some of us feel differently. How is that confusing?

  3. #3
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rsps View Post
    ...There are so many styles of 'bellydance' ...
    There are a lot of styles that people like to call bellydance, but it ain't necessarily so.

    The art of performance dance isn't a formula based on precise music and moves.
    I think most people would agree with you 100% on that.

    With so many fusions out there to critique Fusion with the rigid ruler of Historical forms is just not doing justice to the Evolution of dance.
    Examples? Judging fusion by traditional standards does sound a bit dumb, and people here are mostly brighter than than.

    And BD should NOT stay the same. It should Evolve.
    The thing everyone seems to forget about evolution is that a) after a while you get something different enough from the original for it to need a different name, and b) for the occasional innovation that's actually got something it generates a lot of unworkable mutants that are unfit for survival.

  4. #4
    Administrator Salome's Avatar
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    Hi,

    The atmosphere is what the forum members make it. As the owner, I could exert control over the tone, I suppose, if I wanted to ban/infract those that say something I disagree with/don’t approve of. But that would pretty much take the discussion element out of a discussion forum.

    My goal as an administrator is not to construct the guidelines in such a way as to achieve a “positive uplifting” space. It’s to maintain a, civil, platform that is open to all view points. View’s are not always going to be positive or uplifting. An example of that might even be your post here. It’s not really favorable of the forum, but you have a right to your opinion and a right to post it.

    Personally, I don’t find it a detraction that people say what they think here. While it can be edgy, even uncomfortable at times, I think more real dialogue occurs in these conditions than when the encouraged thing to do is general a** kissing.

    Yes, there is a tension in the global Oriental dance community on the topic of fusions/evolution and the like. This forum is kind of a microcosm and there has been a fair share of threads on this very subject.

    One thing I really balk at is the idea that it is the right or the responsibility of foreigners to evolve Oriental dance, to carry it forward into the future, shaping it, changing it... Oriental dance has evolved, is evolving in its countries of origin. Why should we think it’s up to ‘us’ to ‘save’ the dance from stagnation?! That somehow, without foreigners getting involved, native Turkish, Egyptian and Lebanese dancers aren’t capable of moving forward with their own dance? That attitude irritates me.

    Fusions/evolutions/etc.
    Talented western dancers, creating outside the box in the name of belly dance, or a form inspired by it, that have a vision, with solid training and education behind them *seem* to be in the minority. The majority seem to be folks working outside the box with not much more than a surface understanding . The prevailing attitude does not seem to be to train oneself, to educate oneself, to understand what you are working with before you start experimenting with it. And just a ‘why should I’? kind of attitude. The melting pot, hodge podge, 'I can do whatever I want because it’s art' type of work out there - I’m sorry but I just can’t get behind that.

  5. #5
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    However you cannot deny that without it's cultural origins and background, what we call bellydance, isn't bellydance anymore. With the type of dance belongs a tradition, a type (different per style ofcourse) of music, a way of dressing and moving that is inherent to this style.

    Evolution is great, and nobody denies that, and good fusion is great, nobody denies that either. It's just that bellydance is quite young as a performing art, and there is no strict 'cadaster' like in Ballet of Jazzdance. Anybody can put on a bedlah and say they are a bellydancer, anyone can come up with their own mix of dancemoves, throw in a shimmy and yell "hey, it's bellydance fusion"! This is however not the way it works. In order to evolve, one MUST know the tradition and the background of the dance, one MUST know the rules in order to be able to push them. Creating a dance of your own without knowing the backgrounds, cultural origins or the styles you are fusing is not fusion, it's just.... not knowing what you're doing and will be seen as ignorance by artists who know their stuff.
    Creating a mix is even fine too, but take away all traditions, music, costuming, and the underlying culture inherent to the dance, it will mean the dance is not bellydance anymore and should be labeled something different.
    I'm sorry, but any performing artist (or bellydancer for that matter) of any kind i've spoken to untill now agrees with that in order to evolve a performing art, one must know what lies at it's roots.

    As a ballet dancer, can you dance salsa with a few arabesques, turns and rond-de-jambes and still call it ballet just because you're wearing a tutu? I think the answer is quite obvious. You can give it any other name in order to correctly label what you are doing, but it will still not make it ballet. This is not a case of 'tone' or hostility, not at all, but this is a danceform that IS young as a performance art, and is still getting a lot of crap today, even in the Middle East and North Africa, where it originates. Even there people often view this dance as low class entertainment, since many dancers dance because they have to pay the rent, and do have 'extracurricular activities' that are not so classy. Because there is no valid cadaster, certification, proof that one is actually a good and knowledgeable dancer, dancers today have to prove they are stageworthy and do know their stuff. Unfortunately because of the absence of such a proof or certification, many can just put on a costume and present crap.

    This is, wether we like it or not, the reality and the only thing professional bellydancers and artists true to this form of dance can do is to educate the masses and preserve dance traditions, in order to do it justice in both traditional and fusionist ways. This goes for both Middle Eastern and Western dancers. This is not a case of "historical understanding", but one of being knowledgeable enough to know where the dance came from and is going. Tribal Fusion for instance doesn't have a long history, but in order to create 'tribal fusion' you must know either ATS/Tribal style very well, or at least one of the forms you're fusing. If you don't, it's simply not fusion anymore. And to answer the question

    Is it lovely/dynamic?
    Is the movement rooted in the historical understanding of 'bellydance'?
    Does it move the audience to appreciate bellydance as an art form?
    It is lovely and dynamic, it is evolving in many ways wherever it goes and with every able dancer who KNOWS her stuff. The movement is rooted in a vast cultural background, as is the case with movement in say, salsa, hula, or any other dance form. This is a dance that started out as social dance and has evolved into performing art. The dance comes from the people and knows many different forms, but to just take the movements and dance to, say, a popsong by Akon or Shakira doesn't make it bellydance. The audience will know the difference between a good dance act and a bad/incapable one. The audience will see wether somebody is just running around like a headless chicken (sorry, this is a Dutch expression, I can't find the English one right now that means the same) or knows their stuff. Especially audiences from the countries of origins, and even foreigners. To underestimate the audience in this way is a no-no to me.

    I think you cannot flame people for wanting to preserve a dance that is still quite vulnerable in it's way to becoming a fully recognised performing stage art. Yes, things might get nasty sometimes, but log onto any other discussion forum and there will always be people who agree, and others who don't.

    That was the long version. In short: this is a forum, which serves the purpose of discussing different viewpoints. You may see it one way, the next person may see it another. That is what we love about this forum: so many people from so many styles of bellydance with so many different views. If you are really for a place that discusses dance and worships every artistic outing in an "oh how beautiful, lovely, great, fantastic, oh this is ART!" kind of way, I think this is not the place to be.

    This forum is wonderfully loving, uplifting and a great place for anyone who loves discussing bellydance. Read around the boards and see for yourself. Welcome to the forum by the way .

    This has become long. I think I had too much diet coke
    Last edited by Yshka; 03-09-2010 at 12:25 AM.

  6. #6
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    Dear Salome, you beat me to it . I can honestly say you've done a great job at creating an openminded, international forum that holds many views in a civil way. Much more so than in many dance forums around. I think I'm not alone when I say I love coming here and am uplifted by both discussions and 'smalltalk'.

    Big rep. to you for that!!
    Last edited by Yshka; 03-09-2010 at 12:25 AM.

  7. #7
    Member rsps's Avatar
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    A lot of what you are saying makes sense.

    *And I do still qualify this with the fact that I am a NOVICE in BD. But what I brought to BD was my own past history of dance (latin) and other performing arts (theatre etc.)*

    But just like cultural influences are adopted over long periods of time and fuse themselves into the identity of a new culture in a new way...So does BD.

    It's funny because much of what you said in your last paragraph was said of the Beat Poets in their early days, or for that matter most any form of art that evolved beyond its cultural understanding at the time. Then people looked back and said 'wow, that really breathed some life into genre'. And the history books then note the shift and the inovators...

    I do think that you can be a young bellydancer and not a master and still pull off a perfectly artful fusion. And even if it is lacking and worthy of critique in some areas if the over all effect is a decent reflection of bd fundamentals and entertains a crowd and draws their interest to the art of bd that does WORLDS for those who teach...perform...etc to create constant interest.

    I agree that one must know the tradition and the cultural implications behind Bd in order to respect and reflect that tradition in any fusion they attempt. But, imo that Doesn't mean that the person needs to reflect that understanding in their fusion. It also doesn't mean, imo, that they need to study bd at a master level, or have mastered every possible combination of choreography.

    I agree, the boards should not be micromanaged. That would be very unpleasant. I have been a member now for about a year. Maybe I just have very bad luck and happen upon discussions that are not quite nice or that are heavy on the tone of 'If not X then it isn't Bellydance'.

    Mostly in my everyday life I don't worry about it. I just dance.

  8. #8
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    I was primarily talking about the 'age' of the dance itself. Age of the individual dancer has little to do with being able to create good dance or fusion, but one must know their stuff in order to fuse well, either way it will reflect more in one of the styles being fused, no matter how much it reflects in your fusion, you should know what you are fusing.

    It's not about being master level and knowing every possible combination or step.
    Even this will not make you a good dancer per se. It is about understanding a dance for what it is and where it came from. Understand the dance itself, and you can fuse. You can definitely bring new input into the dance and it is many times, succesfull. It is was brought this dance to the stage in the first place, but knowing what you are doing is key.

    If the Egyptian dancers who brought ballet into their dance had not been trained in ballet, nobody would have acknowledged the influence is there. If you call your dance bellydance while bringing latin or modern elements into it, but retaining the essence of bellydance you are doing a fantastic job. The dancer who puts a latin choreo to Oum Kalthoum however, is doing the opposite. Both must be acknowledged, not always equally, but they are definitely there and that makes a good fusion. I've recently done my first fusion bringing contemporary dance into bellydance by studying with a contemporary dancer. It was an interesting path and a nice show altogether.

    Thing is fusion can breathe new life into an existent artform. But in order to breathe new life into that artform, part of the original artform will always be retained, be it combined with something new and 'exciting'.

    As for the forum, I think their have been some discussions lately that have gotten unpleasant and came to attention. I feel this might fluctuate from time to time, but the majority of the forum consists of both novice and master dancers who love sharing their time and knowledge and discuss these things. I feel discussions about labelling run the risk of becoming ickey from time to time, but it also shows people are passionate about the dance and willing to help it evolve/keep it on the right track. It also keeps 'us' interesting!

    Lol, I should've been in bed two hours ago, have a good night (or day) and see you around on the boards!
    Last edited by Yshka; 03-09-2010 at 01:21 AM.

  9. #9
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    much of what you said in your last paragraph was said of the Beat Poets in their early days, or for that matter most any form of art that evolved beyond its cultural understanding at the time. Then people looked back and said 'wow, that really breathed some life into genre'. And the history books then note the shift and the inovators...
    The Beats were North Americans breathing life into North American culture. A lot of the belly dance fusion community are North Americans who think they are "breathing life" into Egyptian/Turkish/etc culture. Can you see the difference?

  10. #10
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rsps View Post
    But just like cultural influences are adopted over long periods of time and fuse themselves into the identity of a new culture in a new way...So does BD.

    Here's my thing -- having BEEN a ballet dancer, I would really really like it if people would realize that the Golden Age dancers (for instance Samia Gamal) were not "fusing" ballet into their dancing.

    If you compare Su'ad and Kayriyyah Mazin to Samia Gamal, yes you can see that Samia obviously has had some instruction in western style dance. Her traveling and use of space, her arm positions, her pointed feet, and the line of her body -- it all says to me that she's had a few ballet lessons.

    But having a few lessons in ballet DOES NOT imply fusion.

    Masabni's dancers DID borrow concepts in stage dynamics from western dance. But the essence of Egyptian dance was still very much there. The Egyptian culture was still very much speaking through this dance and this music, even though the music was also exploring western approaches.

    When one culture is exposed to another one, it is only natural for each culture to explore the other. Sometimes they will borrow from each other. Sometimes one will swallow the other completely. But this doesn't necessarily mean there is a "fusion" or blending of cultures, or that either culture is significantly affected by the other.


    I do think that you can be a young bellydancer and not a master and still pull off a perfectly artful fusion.
    I suppose a lot depends on what you mean by "fusion." For example -- I have YET to see an artful "fusion" of Turkish and Egyptian style belly dance. For two cultures that share such a similar musical background, I think this is a significant issue and might be an interesting talking point in discussing what we're really talking about when we try to talk about fusion.


    And even if it is lacking and worthy of critique in some areas if the over all effect is a decent reflection of bd fundamentals
    What exactly are bellydance fundamentals? This too is a troubling question.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again because I believe it is the crux of the problem:

    There are 2 basic beliefs:
    A. Belly dance is simply a movement vocabulary.
    B. Belly dance is more than a movement voacabulary.

    If you are in camp A, then you will never understand what people in camp B are talking about, when we say "there is a cultural application or essence that needs to be there for it to be bellydance."

    And of course, if you're in camp B, you will never understand the "fusions" based on throwing some "bellydance moves" on top of a Punk rock or Country-Western song, or whatever.


    and entertains a crowd and draws their interest to the art of bd that does WORLDS for those who teach...perform...etc to create constant interest.
    I have no issue or problem with students coming in wanting to dance like the Indigo. I have SERIOUS issues with students or teachers who pretend that the Indigo style dancing is in any way whatsoever any type of "authentic" Middle Eastern dance. It's American bellydance. It's not traditional or authentic Middle Eastern dance. I concede that it's bellydance, but it's the American interpretation of bellydance. It is NOT any type of "evolution" of any authentic or traditional style of Middle Eastern dance. Do you see the diff there?

    I agree that one must know the tradition and the cultural implications behind Bd in order to respect and reflect that tradition in any fusion they attempt.
    Unfortunately too many young students do not.

    But, imo that Doesn't mean that the person needs to reflect that understanding in their fusion.
    I have to disagree -- true understanding and I mean TRUE understanding of traditional and authentic Middle Eastern dance WILL be reflected in the fusion dancer's performance. It is what happens when TRUE understanding occurs. I cite Alexandra King, Ansuya and Jeanani, Aziza, Elena Lentini, and Delilah as examples.

    It also doesn't mean, imo, that they need to study bd at a master level, or have mastered every possible combination of choreography.
    Again, a lot of this depends on definitions. What do you mean by "master level" ? Someone who has seriously studied Turkish or Egyptian dance will have also studied the music, and how native Turks and Egyptians HEAR their music. And how THEY hear the music is fundamentally different from how Westerners hear that same music. I think far too few newbie dancers understand that fact.

    In my opinion, until you understand how (for example) Egyptians HEAR their music, then you have no business trying to "fuse" their dance with anything. Once you learn how they hear their music, and you can also hear it the same way, then you can start actually trying to fuse that with other musical and dance genres. Until then, most of what you're going to come up with is just an insipid and uninspiring sequence of "moves" set to some unassociated piece of (usually) western music.


    I agree, the boards should not be micromanaged. That would be very unpleasant. I have been a member now for about a year. Maybe I just have very bad luck and happen upon discussions that are not quite nice or that are heavy on the tone of 'If not X then it isn't Bellydance'.

    You have to understand that DESPITE what a lot of little American students want to think, bellydance IS a cultural expression of a people who are very much alive and still expressing! Egyptian dance HAS evolved, but not because of Rachel Brice. It has evolved because the people themselves have evolved. The culture has evolved and their music has evolved. But this has really nothing to do with America or England or New Zealand.

    Tap dance is NOT bellydance. I don't think there is anyone on the internet who would argue that it is. Ballet is not bellydance. At some point all these western "fusions" have diverged and become NOT bellydance. There is nothing wrong with divergence, but once it has diverged beyond a certain point, it acquires different "rules" and different expectations. What we argue is that these divergent dances DESERVE a new name. They have moved beyond the expectations of the cultural practice that is bellydance, and it is unfair to THOSE PERFORMERS to continue to limit their performance by calling it bellydance.

    Also -- there is no value judgement implied in thinking divergency deserves a new name. MANY of us here also perform other dance forms and our own "fusions" or inspired dances. Don't assume that simply because we define and discuss the boundaries of "bellydance" that doesn't mean we don't respect true fusion or dances that challenge those boundaries.
    Last edited by Aziyade; 03-09-2010 at 02:43 AM.

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