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  1. #1
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Default How far can you go?

    Ok, I'll risk being called a bitch, but as I belong to the BOB I'll risk it.

    Yesterday I went to a Eastern music festival. It included ME and Indian music and some belly dance as well. Now the belly dancing was rather bad, other dancers agreed with me, but there was one thing in particular that I like to discuss.
    There were tribal dancers as well, but they were dressed up in such a mish mash it didn't look quite right. Next to me there were 2 Arab ladies sitting and they were all the time giggling and seemed very amused by it all. They were trying to get my attention as they seemed curious what I thought of it all, so I smiled at them and they knew what I thought. Worse they were most amused by a dancer who was brought from another state to dance to this festival and teach a workshop. This dancer had the most ridiculous way of teaching how to belly dance. The movements she did were rather strange and the way she explained it too (holding your navel, plucking apples). The other dancers who were there did think it was strange too, but it is such a pity that belly dance was shown like this to the general audience.
    This made me think: how far can you go with crazy made up combinations, where does it become funny or even insulting? I am all for fusion, I really like it, but this and a resent experience at a gig I had made me think. This gig was a Bollywood theme and the people at the party were dressed up so weird that my husband was greatly insulted.

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default How Far can you go

    Dear Amulya,
    I think there are people who would label you a BOB for what you described in your post....but I think you told the truth. I have spent so much time around Arabs who have the same exact response as the ladies that you describe, or even stronger, but many people will refute your observations, as they have done mine. It DOES get very frustrating when you are trying to make people aware that this dance has cultural roots and that people can get pretty embarrassed, insulted, etc, when it is misrepresented.
    In my mind, this does not make you a BOB, but a defender of the dance. If only people would understand how important it is to correctly label what they are doing!! wish there were thousands more like you, who are willing to speak up!!

    With great respect,
    A'isha

  3. #3
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Interesting topic! I’m relatively new to all this, and not having roots anywhere near the ME I’m very aware of being adrift in an alien culture, and a bit bemused by some of the arguments about “true” belly dance that I see on the web. People can get quite opinionated.:eek:

    But (as you always hear before someone displays their appalling taste and philistine opinions), I know what I like!... and why I love belly dance. It’s what happens in class when we stop concentrating on new moves and it’s just a bunch of women dancing around for themselves and each other, and we are all allowed to be glittery and gorgeous or feisty or mysterious or elegant – it just makes me smile. I can’t think of any other dance form that works the same way… don’t know whether it’s the universal nature of the moves or what, but I bet (or maybe would just like to hope…) that if you strip away the competitive showbusiness stuff and the primadonnas you are left with much the same spirit wherever you are in the world. Convey the same spirit to an audience and how can it be offensive?

    So, here’s me adrift in the alien sea, trying not to offend anyone, and hoping I am doing it right,

    Veiling my inner BOB as befitting a newcomer,
    Aniseteph

  4. #4
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    Good thread Amulya. I agree very much with A'isha that you are not really a BOB because indeed you tell the truth.

    I think it is difficult to say whether something can be insulting or not since this is different for everyone. However I feel it does become insulting when the dance is being ripped outif it's cultural context and used in not-so-flattering ways (like strippers who wear bd outfits, and things like that). I also think when ME culture is being misrepresented, THAT can be really insulting, or like when the cultural background is being mocked, made fun of (like Amulya described what her husband felt about the Bollywood kind of thing).

    Originally Posted by Aniseteph:
    Convey the same spirit to an audience and how can it be offensive?
    I however do not agree with Aniseteph, for MED is not only about a competitive, showbizz'ish dance that is just there for bringing the spirit the dance evokes to the audience. What about it's rich background? Sure, ofcourse ths wonderful dance brings us a lot of joy, feelings of sisterhood, it makes us feel great just dancing with and for eachother and it gives us so much freedom in expression and feelings, that I absolutely do agree with, but I strongly believe cultural context must not be left out. I will try to explain for I'm not sure how to say this right.

    It can be offensive, even if some people like what they are watching. It becomes offensive when culture is being mocked or misrepresented. If misrepresentation and/or mocking culture would be put in a performance that is brought to the audience in a lively and fun way would that still be ok? Just because it is put on a stage nicely and with the aim of creating a pleasant show which brings a pleasant atmosphere to the audience?

    For example, I saw/heard some awful things about Kaya and Sadie performance at Rakassah this year. They apparently incorporated sex positions into a MED piece:eek: There were still people who like the performance a lot, it was a showy thing and it was supposed to be pleasing the audience (I assume, as are most performances) but I find what they did extremely insulting to the ME culture and to the dance itself. They destroy what we are trying so hard and sincere to portray.

    I hope I made it a bit clearer.
    Forgive me for BOB'ing, but I just had to get it off my chest.

    Iris

  5. #5
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yshka View Post
    I however do not agree with Aniseteph, for MED is not only about a competitive, showbizz'ish dance that is just there for bringing the spirit the dance evokes to the audience. What about it's rich background? ...

    It can be offensive, even if some people like what they are watching. It becomes offensive when culture is being mocked or misrepresented.
    Oh no, sorry Iris, I must have come across all wrong :o ! The showbiz competitive stuff I don't like. OK, for any professional performer it is part of the deal, but I've had too many experiences doing amateur theatrical stuff where you're supposed to be doing it for fun and it all gets bitchy and nasty. I'm too old to be bothered with that.

    What I was getting at was that there is something underneath the showbizzy performance stuff that the rest of us ordinary mortals can touch (unless it's just me being delusional. It just makes me happy..). And I thought that that aspect/spirit would probably be recognised by the ordinary mortals of other countries and cultures. Conveying that is not offensive and I think if you can do that, or are trying to learn, it does show respect.

    But... that is of course not all there is to it! The wish to convey any sort of spirit or artistic vision doesn't give you licence to cause offence or make yourself ridiculous with any other cultures' art forms, neither in private nor (especially) in public or in a performance. Nor does the fact that some of the audience might like it - I absolutely agree with you on this. By making yourself offensive (or ridiculous), apart from being objectionable and giving others a bad name you will fail to convey anything to that section of your audience other than your lack of taste/respect/knowledge.

    I really must go to bed now!
    Dancing regards and hoping to have made myself a bit clearer
    A xx

  6. #6
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Glad to see there are people sharing my opinion . I do like experimental belly dance, but we have to be very careful not to offend anyone. For example the pierced wings performance or Kaya and Sadie's performance, I think that has gone too far.
    I really like tribal* and the costuming, but some part in me tells me that it can look very strange to some people. For example if my mother would show random avarage tribal dancers costumes (of dancers like we have here) I know she would burst out in laughter (so I better don't show her any pictures :p ) So that is probably how it looked for those Arab ladies.

    *not the old school, but the thing Rachel brice is doing

  7. #7
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    Hi all,

    Aniseteph, thanks for clearing that up, I must have misunderstood a bit, I just get all "don't mess with bellydance" when it comes to cultural aspects of it Guess it's just my BOB instinct lol.
    I does show respect that we are trying to learn the dance and trying to convey the wonderful spirit it brings us, but I think this also has it's limits, for example in case of Kaya and Sadie performance, they also learned and try to come off as a pleasing performance, but then again it was also very much offending. Ofcourse this is not the case on most occasions, but I'm just saying it IS possible to do both at the same time.

    Anyway, ofcourse it is a wonderful dance and we should definitely try to convey all the happiness it brings us to other people, but also in a non-offending way. If we are sincere about our beloved dance, that is not an issue at all .

    Amulya, you're right. I think performances like those are really just offending, however I have my doubts about the pierced wings thing. I think Kaya and Sadie were totally off, totally wrong in what they were doing, but I still feel the pierced wings performance was not "completely" offensive, can't make clear why, I do think it was kind of inapropiate, even for what is called 'experimental bellydance', but still some part of me says it wasn't as insulting as the Kaya and sadie sex thing.
    When I find out how to explain exactly I'll post back here

    Iris

  8. #8
    Moderator Yshka's Avatar
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    * by the way, I love Rachel Brice:p , but I agree tribal can look weird to Arabs or any ME people.

    Talking about Arabs, I once performed with my troupe for a mostly Arab audience. I had a cane dance solo in which I wore a long dress and headscarf. Before that, the others in our troupe performed a group dance.
    They did ok but they were not properly dressed for a performance like that (will not go into details). People in the audience were visibly uncomfortable with it and at some point I heard some people yelling "Haram".
    After that is was my turn to perform and they were a great audience. I'm not trying to say I dance better than the rest of my troupe, or that I'm trying to brag in any way, but I think the issue there really was the costumes.
    Which brings me also to the fact that we must be careful in our choice of dance wear not to insult or offend anyone. This is IMO a very important factor, especially when it comes to audiences that are familiar with the dance, folkloric dances that require a certain type of folkloric outfit, family venues etc.
    Last edited by Yshka; 07-18-2006 at 01:10 PM.

  9. #9
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yshka View Post
    They did ok but they were not properly dressed for a performance like that (will not go into details). People in the audience were visibly uncomfortable with it and at some point I heard some people yelling "Haram".
    I feel really sorry for anyone put in a situation like that - what can you do if you are part of a group and have to go along with someone else's costume choices? It would have been nice if someone with a better understanding of the prospective audience could have educated them and explained how their costumes might appear
    Last edited by Viv; 07-18-2006 at 09:37 PM. Reason: fixed quote coding

  10. #10
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default How far, etc.

    Dear Aniseteph,
    This is just one of the many problems that arise when people start teaching or performing the dance before they have enough experience!! The person who perpetrated the situation that Yshka described was either not educated enough to know what the audence expected and knew to be right, or she did not have enough respect to care...either way it is awfully arrogant.
    I was on another List where we discussed how soon people should consider teaching and we mostly felt that 6 or so years of dance experience is a good place to start as a general rule.
    This gives people time to move beyond the dance as mere movement and begin to understand some of the finer points of both performance and instruction.
    Regards,
    A'isha

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