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  1. #21
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default How Far etc.

    Dear Group,
    I have seen even Egyptian dancers performing outside and weraring bedlah. For example Fifi Abdou coming out of the cherry picker and onto an amphitheatre... in a very frou-frou belly dance costume.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  2. #22
    Member Hadassah's Avatar
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    From what I understand, and I do not pretend to be an expert, but Fifi likes to bend the rules, and she's been arrested more than once. My teacher saw her one time take a man's prayer beads and shove them down her bra!

    Egypt may have relaxed their rules a bit, but as few as two years ago, my teacher was told she had to wear a tummy-cover when she performed. I love cabaret costumes, don't get me wrong! I'm wearing one in my profile pic. We all have them in our troupe. Just for some venues, they might be deemed inappropriate. Perhaps the Arabs in Yshka's crowd were Sunni, who would have taken offense more easily than shi'ite would have.

    Yshka - I didn't intend to insult your teacher by my comments. Perhaps the Arabs in our area are different, but as we also live in the Bible Belt, and people need to be educated about ME dance before we break out the bedleh, it's just safer for us to wear folkloric costumes. And tribal style is totally an American invention, which doesn't make it "bad", but some Arabs might deem it inapropriate. But you never know who is going to show up at a venue, either.

    The bottom line is, no matter what your art form, someone is going to find it offensive. That doesn't necessarily mean we should ignore their opinions, but go forth with sensitivity.

    Recently, we were the only ME troupe chosen to perform at our local art fair. I believe that it was not only due to our talent, but our choice in costuming. If we want to change people's minds about what we're doing up there on stage, we have to change the small-minded people as well. I still get the "stripper" connotation about 25% of the time when I tell people what I do. I explain, without getting defensive, the artform I cherish, and then invite them to a show, knowing full well we will present them with a unique performance that they can feel good about watching.

    Yes, ME dance is sensual, glamorous, and a good part of what attracted me to it was the glitzy costumes. I do believe they have their place, and I would love to own a million Eman Zakis. You just won't see me in one on the street. My choice, my troupe's choice, my teacher's choice.

  3. #23
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yshka View Post
    Our costuming IMO looked very nice for a troupe performance for the audience we were expecting to dance for, but I think the main reason the Arabs didn't like it was because it looked a bit tribal'ish and not quite what is expeced by Arabs in an Oriental dance performance.
    Could you explain how the costumes look like? All my costumes have tribal elements or fusion elements, not very much, but just some accents (can see in my website). So I like to know if that is acceptable in such circumstances. I normally never dance for these kind of audiences, but of course it does happen sometimes. I try to adjust with my costumes, but by now I don't really have 'regular' costumes anymore .
    Indeed you never know what your audience will be. In Holland you can be sure if it is an outdoor event there will be Turks and Arabs there, and here in Brisbane you can't be sure at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yshka View Post
    Me neither! I knew it was appropriate to cover up too but I didn't know about the outdoors thing. It's good to have all these lovely dancers from all over the place share their knowledge in this cool forum .
    I didn't know either, shame on me! OMG I did perform outside in bedlah a couple of years ago :eek: and there was Arab/Turkish audience, but no bad reactions at all. I don't even have any kind of costume that is covered. I do have folkloric dresses, but I really wouldn't want to wear those as I am not a folkloric dancer.

  4. #24
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default How far, etc.

    Dear Hadassah,
    All dancers in Egypt have been made to wear Shebekah, or stomach covers, whether inside or outside. This is since a fundmentalist movement in 1952 when this group influenced the government, who was still trying to build a tourist trade for economic gain. The dancers have followed the letter, rather than the spirit of the law, since the shebekah was supposed to hide the stomach, not merely cover it. ( What the Islamic group really wanted was for the government to shtu down all belly dancing in Egypt!). Anymore, you will see dancers at Ahlan Wa Sahlan, and other locations, where shebekah is NOT worn. They get away with it because of the amount of revenue dancers bring to Egypt.
    As for Fifi being arrested, so have many of the dancers. It is pretty easy to break the dance codes there, and end up arrested by the morals police.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  5. #25
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    Hello eveyone,

    I really enjoyed reading the comments of this thread. So many thoughts, ideas, and belief are in them and it makes me want to get to know each of you better as you each speak so passionately about the dance.

    I am ME and although I came to Canada young, I do have many ties culturally. I understand the need to MED to remain true to its form, but I must say I love to see how the dance progresses with each cultural hand that touches it.

    Do I agree with sexing it up? Depends. If you think of some of the roots MED has followed in the ME alone then I will say yes. I have actually been to a type of cabaret in Cairo with my male cousins (out of curiosity) not expecting it to be what I saw, and the dancing I saw was purly sexual, somewhat vulgar and crude, yet I must confess I was still quite taken as it was nothing compared to the vulgarity of strip joints (male and/or female) .

    As to the comment of Arabs offended.... man, that you will never change. Any culture be it Arab, Latin, Greek name it, when they watch any foreigner dance has an arrogance in which they act as if they have seen or can do better. Some may, but trust me most can't. But like with North America and our spoiled tendency with films, we all become critics.

    Personally I don't think any of these variations should be called Belly Dancing. They are what they are, Latin inspired belly dancing, Hip Hop with belly dancing flavour Hindi/Arab.

    To be honnest, and this has been on my mind for quite a while, i think new names should be created to describe the growth of these forms. Just like music has has multiplied in its genres so too should Middle Eastern dance.

    You may call me a Bitch but from many of the dancing I have seen, as I always seek out Arabic events anywhere in the world I go, the majority of what is now out there is a mix or genres no true Balady.

    My last comment re: the arab audiences will be based on an event that took place just recently at my cousin's wedding. They hired a belly dancer who was not of Arab decent (imagine if you will 200 arabs and 50 Italians) that poor thing never had a chance.

    Me and my cousing both dance professionally... Well when the girl came out, she was technically very strong, enthusiastic and you could tell she loves what she does. Well wouldn't you know the entire family began to push my cousin and I forward onto the dance floor so that we could "Show her". I got quite angry as I understand how hard it is to perform. The girl too pitty on us and pulled us to dance (real classy if you ask me) and we danced together to the joy of my parents and my cousin's parents (and the grandparents). After appologizing to the dancer she told us she was greek and she got it. We were so shocked by the next thing she said. She told us that our parents just wanted to show up their relatives, you know the style "see our girls how fabulous they are". She was right.

    The moral of this tale is that sometimes you find that the reason Arab audiences are so uninvolved or mocking is usually because they are commenting on something to one up each other. And like the Noura told us (the dancer) it is cultural.

    Quite long, thank you for reading.

    Assal

  6. #26
    V.I.P. da Sage's Avatar
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    Ya Assal,

    What a great post! I agree, the wedding dancer was very classy - and smart, too!

    I am surprised that anyone would be offended by bare bellies at an outdoor dance event in the West. Yshka's story of the Arab audience staying to watch, while calling out "haram", reminds me of my grandmother.

    We used to always watch the beauty pageants on TV when I was a little girl...and the contestants all wore those over-the-top eighties dresses with the slits, deep necklines, and cutouts. Watching the pageants was Grandmother's idea, but she would continously criticize the contestants for showing too much skin. Only when I was older, did I realize how odd it was that she felt equally compelled to watch the show, and also compelled to criticize the competitors.

  7. #27
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ya_Assal View Post
    Quite long, thank you for reading.
    Thank you for posting it, many wise words!

    We are all critics aren't we? Everyone has an opinion. I guess that a performer just has to hope that there are some people in the audience who can keep an open mind for long enough to appreciate anything that is good in the performance. And when we are the audience we should try to be the ones with the open minds.

    (and only then, if they are awful, should we tear the performance and the choice of music and costume to shreds.... no, only joking, help help my inner BOB has escaped!:eek: )

    Saludos
    A xx

  8. #28
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Too far, etc.

    Dear Ya Assel,
    LIke the song?? "Ya Halowa ya assel"??
    I have for many years been saying that all of the fusion and just plain made up stuff needs to have another label besides belly dance. It is an ongoing debate on this and other forums. Nice to hear it from the mouth of a Middle Easterner since many westerners will not believe that this is important or that belly dance is a dance with specific ethnic roots and essence. Though I find that the untrained person in either culture usually ends up not being a technically great dancer, it is true that the untrained Egyptian, for exammple, still retains that cultural essence that is the soul of the dance. Western untrained dancers, on the other hand, most times never had that to begin with. Dance is only partially about good movement.
    I have very few problems with Arab audiences and in fact they are my preferred audiences, along with seasoned dancers. There is the occasional snotty little person who does a decent raqs shaabi and thinks she knows it all, but that is really rare.
    Belly dance definately has a sexual quality, but this is sort of scary for some westerners. I think the problem is that sex is not looked at wholistically by either culture, but that somehow, most Middle Eastern women tend to be more free on some levels in their seuxality than western women. For example, I have seen Middle Eastern women talk in detail about sex in front of their kids, so it probably is a more natural process in the family dynamic from an early age.
    Welcome to the forum!!
    Regards,
    A'isha

  9. #29
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ya_Assal View Post
    Personally I don't think any of these variations should be called Belly Dancing. They are what they are, Latin inspired belly dancing, Hip Hop with belly dancing flavour Hindi/Arab.
    Well I think with the more traditional styles you can call it raks sharqi or Egyptian dance, belly dance is already a western invented word so I think that can be used too for belly dance with fusion in it. If it is too different I think it needs a new name.

  10. #30
    Member Hadassah's Avatar
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    A'isha - Yasmine has a large Arab following as well, because, like you, she has tried to respect and hold the Dance up as a culturally rich artform. We always have Arabs at our Haflas, especially an Egyptian contingent, and they are very warm and welcoming to us.

    They get up and dance with us, there are always several assayas floating around the room and we have so much fun! Her Palestinian friends(who gave her their surname - Al Abbasi) always lead us in an energetic debke, and it's just a time of good feelings. From "our" Arab friends, there is no hostility, only a feeling of mutual goodwill and joy.

    There have been several events where other more "westernized" dancers have been shunned by the Arabs in the crowd, yet my teacher and her students are nearly always lauded by the Arabs, with zaghareets and shouts of "Aiwa!". Not trying to sound bragadocious, but Yasmine is true to the Egyptian style, and only studies with true Egyptians or students of Egyptian dancers. She has passed this asthetic on to us, and it is so valuable.
    Not to say other forms of ME dance aren't valid or wonderful, but this is just our chosen style.

    IME, I think Arabs like to see Americans moving to their music, as long as it is done with dignity and sensitivity. And as far as the bias toward Arabic dancers, of course. That's just human nature, to be competitive and want to show the other"how it's done". I don't think it's always hostile, just part of the culture and familial pride.

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