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  1. #1
    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Default Helping students defeat the stereotypes?

    Should belly dance teachers include suggestions in class on how students can respond to people in their life who say, "Isn't that a dance of serving men? Didn't it originate as seducing the Sultan?"

    Should teachers say stuff like, "Your friends and family might say..." followed by "...and here's how I suggest responding...."?

    Or, should we assume students will figure out how to respond without our help and just teach dance technique?

    I've never said anything in my classes along these lines. I might give students a glimpse of belly dance history, such as talking about Middle Eastern people belly dancing as a social dance at weddings, but I don't say, "Here's how I'd suggest replying if people in your life say ___."

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    Super Moderator Mosaic's Avatar
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    I think most students figure it out for themselves & if they are troubled I am sure would approach their instructor for advice. It could also be introduced as part of a history lesson especially for new students.
    ~Mosaic
    Dance is like glitter, it not only colours your life, it makes you sparkle, you find it everywhere and in everything and it's near impossible to get rid of. (unknown)


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    Member Munniko's Avatar
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    I'm going to agree with Mosaic on this just mention where the dance comes from to new students as a mild history lesson. I might be over thinking this, but if you bring up the worst case scenario where you have to defend what you are doing, I feel like it might discourage people from taking Belly Dance lessons.

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    I can honestly say that no one has ever asked either question to me when I mention that I bellydance.

    While I absolutely understand and appreciate the cultural aspects and learning about them, I know of several people who were peeved at the history lesson during classes. As far as they were concerned, they were there to learn how to dance, not how to have an educated conversation of the background of it.

    I do think that if someone was running across a problem that they would approach their instructor or fellow classmates.

  5. #5
    Member prince ali baba's Avatar
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    Default Harem Dance

    Quote Originally Posted by shiradotnet View Post
    Should belly dance teachers include suggestions in class on how students can respond to people in their life who say, "Isn't that a dance of serving men? Didn't it originate as seducing the Sultan?"

    Should teachers say stuff like, "Your friends and family might say..." followed by "...and here's how I suggest responding...."?

    Or, should we assume students will figure out how to respond without our help and just teach dance technique?

    I've never said anything in my classes along these lines. I might give students a glimpse of belly dance history, such as talking about Middle Eastern people belly dancing as a social dance at weddings, but I don't say, "Here's how I'd suggest replying if people in your life say ___."
    This is what one of my folk dance teachers told me about belly dancing. With regards to dancing for a Sultan, she told me that the women in a harem didn't dance for the sultan,but for each other for pleasure. Meaning as a form of entertainment for each other within the harem and not involving the sultan period. Also no seducing involved either just dancing.

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    I don't think it's necessary in beginner classes. Those people are usually there because they want to learn the dance moves, or because they want to try something new, and a history or cultural lesson may seem overwhelming or just unnecessary.

    That said, my own instructor starts introducing historical bits at the intermediate level, and I think it's a great idea. There are so many dancers I know (students and student troupe members) who either don't know any of the history, know the "thousands of years old goddess worship dance" story, or believe that what they're doing is fully intended to pique men's imaginations.

    I'm a nerd, so as soon as I started dancing I was all over shira.net and trying to figure out what exactly I was learning. Not everyone does that, though, and at some point in the process of learning the difference between a 3/4 and 4/4 shimmy, some sort of cultural background should be introduced. My instructor actually focuses on the Golden Era as a starting point, because it's easily verifiable and definitely true.

    It also helps for when you start getting into different regions and the dances associated with them. "Saiidi" and "Khaleegy" resonate a lot more if you know that they relate to regions, as opposed to just being arbitrarily different types of dances.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiradotnet View Post
    Should belly dance teachers include suggestions in class on how students can respond to people in their life who say, "Isn't that a dance of serving men? Didn't it originate as seducing the Sultan?"
    My first thought was how do you know the students themselves don't think this way? People are attracted to all sorts of things largely due to the pre-existing ideas they bring with them. Giving them your knowledge of what bellydance is/should be will be enough ammunition for them to refute those types of questions, if they accept your viewpoint (and some students will want to believe the seduction angle).

    Personally, I prefer weekly classes to concentrate on technique, and teach how to dance and interprete the music. Repeated digressions into history and hypothetical scenarios are not always what I want to spend my time on when I've come to dance. That being said, I think a teacher should be approachable and willing to share their knowledge if prompted by a student. Maybe part of the initial class could cover history and inaccurate stereotypes, and I do like one-off workshops on specific styles to give me a brief intro on their history/reputation.
    Last edited by Duvet; 12-24-2012 at 12:40 AM.

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    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    I can honestly say that no one has ever asked either question to me when I mention that I bellydance.
    That's really interesting. I don't doubt you, it's just that your experience is different from mine. I've heard the Sultan question a LOT over the years. For example, one time I made a comment to my boss about having a male student, and she was shocked. She had always known that I was a belly dancer, and never questioned it, but when I mentioned the male student, she said, "You mean MEN belly dance????? But didn't belly dance originate as women competing with each other for the Sultan's attention?"

    I've also had many different people over the years ask me if belly dance was something like stripping. I've had emails from people asking me at what age children in the Middle East learn "the dance of seduction". And many other variations on that theme...

    Quote Originally Posted by Duvet View Post
    My first thought was how do you know the students themselves don't think this way? People are attracted to all sorts of things largely due to the pre-existing ideas they bring with them. Giving them your knowledge of what bellydance is/should be will be enough ammunition for them to refute those types of questions, if they accept your viewpoint (and some students will want to believe the seduction angle).
    I agree with you that some students indeed are hoping that belly dance will make them more sexy. They usually don't say it out loud (until, maybe, a year later or so), but it is part of what draws many students.

    The late Bert Balladine, who was a legendary belly dance teacher in the San Francisco area, said, "The image of Bellydance must stay a little bit naughty to the general public, because when it isn’t anymore, they’ll look for something else."
    Last edited by Shanazel; 12-26-2012 at 12:04 AM. Reason: merge

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    Senior Member Duvet's Avatar
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    I've just finished reading your article Shira. http://bellydanceforums.net/other-da...ereotypes.html. I think I've altered my stance! Complacency in the face of prejudice doesn't cause status quo - it makes the situation worse. Whilst I still don't want lots of academic stuff in a dance class, raising the issue of stereotypes would both widen the students' knowledge and give them a good stance for refuting the stereotypes from others.

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    V.I.P. khanjar's Avatar
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    I second Duvet, class is for learning the dance, those that stay the course through enjoying what they are learning might look a bit deeper into it's history and come to their own conclusions be that the truth or what they wish to make of it or it might even propel them to find out more than what is commonly believed for there is much stuff out there that is not on wikipedia as there is a certain amount of politics in what is commonly known.

    As to myself in this dance I have come in for a bit of flak over the years but I have learned how to defend myself from stupid comments by deferring to what already exists on the world stage, they are that interested type in to youtube and learn something, but if they will listen I do know my stuff as I always research what interests me and with this dance I have found I have to know my stuff and a bit more besides to counter certain undesirable accusations from males sadly and mostly, but I always include the health benefits what it does for dodgy backs and general fitness as we age.

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