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  1. #81
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    I'm kind of getting the feeling that I've ruffled your feathers somehow, but I'll be damned if I know how. I haven't posted anything argumentative, or hostile, or rude. If I've posted something that has caused you offense, then I apologize as it wasn't meant that way.
    DancingArabian, I just read through all your posts and I think I understand where you're coming from. I understand it because I've been there -- and I want to say this with ZERO snark, and ZERO sense of looking down my nose at you:

    You hold an opinion. The basis for this opinion can be interpreted in two ways --

    1. You've come to the conclusions you've come to based on immersion and experience with both the dances and the cultures that make up what we often call "belly dance."

    2. You have had what could be argued is a superficial experience with this dance and haven't come to understand all the cultural nuances of the argument.

    Now -- based on what you've said about yourself in your posts, I am NOT trying to be snarky when saying that I THINK that maybe possibly when you have a deeper experience of the dance and cultures, you may feel differently.

    I say this because I've been there. And my experience DID change my opinion.

    We have all been drawn to this dance for different reasons. For me, it was the music. I couldn't figure out how to dance "ballet" to it, but I loved it, so I wanted to learn how to dance to it. (At the time I viewed it like Salsa. You like the music so you go learn "the moves.") Well that and I'd always had a fascination with ancient Egypt, but who hasn't? lol.

    In my class were women who were drawn to bellydance for much different reasons. Some were there to learn how to "dance sexy" for their guys. Some were there to reclaim a sense of femininity. Some were there because it was something edgy and cool to do. Some were curious about the culture or the music. Some wanted to connect with the divine. And some just wanted an alternative to Jane Fonda videos! LOL

    The ones who were just into the "harem girl" fantasy dropped out pretty quickly. The ones whose interests were less superficial stayed with it, learning more and more. I ended up traveling for classes and private lessons, and what I noticed is that the longer a student studied the dance, the less interested she was in the "trappings" -- the costuming, the "Gypsy" schtick, the stereotypes, etc. The more we learned about the music and the dance, the more fascinated we were with how those elements are intrinsically intertwined in the culture.

    Experience has led me to the opinion that this dance and the culture(s) that originate it, ARE intrinsically intertwined. The more I learn, the more obvious this is to me. The more I study with native dancers from Egypt and North Africa, the more obvious this becomes. The more I practice the technique taught to me by Egyptians and by American instructors who teach genuine Egyptian style, the more I start to look at the body language of my Arab friends and realize things like "Wow, they move like this because they actually STAND like this!" The more Egyptians I watch dance, the more I can see their complicated cultural "archetypes" show up in their dancing. It's really amazing, and I'm continually excited by these little discoveries.

    NOW -- that said, that is my OWN opinion. And like I said, it has changed drastically since I first started in classes. You've been dancing for 5 years -- in another 5 years who knows where your experience will lead you? Hmm?



    My emerging belief is that the dancers should use caution when labeling themselves. If the the local level of dancing is not called "belly dance" in the countries of origin, then offense shouldn't be taken at the use of the word as it's clearly not meant to be an accurate cultural representation.
    I think the standard argument here is that even if Egyptians, for example, don't refer to themselves as "belly dancers" the term BELLY DANCE in the USA (since you and I are Americans) simply CAN'T be pulled away from even a vague image of something generally Arab or Middle Eastern. You would never see "Belly dance" confused with Irish culture. Nobody thinks "belly dance" and thinks of China. Or Finland. Or Argentina.

    In the public's eye, "belly dance" is still something Arab/Turkic. I don't think this will ever change, honestly. And I think what MOST professional dancers want is for their audience to respect that.


    I think more effort should be made to express that "belly dance" is inspired by the dance styles of the countries
    A lot of people want to define "belly dance" by its movement vocabulary. Here's an interesting experiment -- what, in the belly dance movement vocabulary, is unique to belly dance alone and is not shared by other dances?

    Nada.

    It's all overlap. I used to think shimmies were singularly bellydance. Nope. Find em in African dance too. Even step-hip isn't uniquely ours! The hip drop, the figure 8, the jewel!! It's all shared.

    Which of course leads us to the never-ending argument over how to define "belly dance."

    But I think something more important to understand is that belly dance is not just "inspired by" the "dance styles of the countries" -- it's a product of the PEOPLE of those countries. Their social interactions. Their class system. Their social mores and taboos. Their music. Their religions. Their history with the West. Their feelings about themselves. It's, as A'isha Azar put it, a CULTURAL PRACTICE -- and it's a larger cultural practice for a lot of closely related but still vastly different smaller cultures.

    I really don't think that many people realize that people in ME countries dance like that socially and they think that it's just a performance art and not a cultural aspect.
    Beginners starting out don't. And the general public usually doesn't. In my classes I always tell students they're learning the sort of generic social dance of the Middle East. But this is also why I feel it's SOOOO important when performing for the public to accurately portray what belly dance is -- because we ARE (sometimes unwillingly and sometimes unknowingly) cultural "ambassadors." BECAUSE people know belly dance to be vaguely Arab/Turkic (and not Argentinian or Finnish) what we present to them is the image they take home.

    If we pretend to be "harem girl" then we reinforce negative and racist stereotypes about the "nasty savages." We can go harem girl completely covered up too -- it's not really about the 2-piece costume. It's about the INTENT.

    Think about the typical private school uniform for girls -- what makes one image a typical student and another image "slutty schoolgirl" porn? INTENT.

    But that's another topic and this is a ridiculously long post as it is...



    I could absolutely agree that if someone is calling themselves an orientale dancer or "raqs beledi" dancer or some other culturally specific label, then walks out to music of another genre with a costume from yet another genre, then yes offense should be taken. From this thread I'm seeing that "belly dance" was meant to be something specific - so it really should be viewed as and considered as that, and nothing else.
    There is a strong opinion online that "belly dance" be "reclaimed" to define anything that is remotely inspired by the dances or cultures of the Middle East/North Africa. I've read a few decent THEORETICAL arguments that make the case for this.

    BUT: I personally don't see that this "reclamation" IN PRACTICE is of any use to anybody -- hoop dancing to Beats Antique while wearing a hip scarf and doing mostly Fossee style dance moves can be considered "inspired" but it doesn't really help ANY audience member or student dancer that such a performance be labeled belly dance. Or "fusion" for that matter -- which I think is the LEAST helpful or useful description available in the English language.

    If you're hoop dancing in bedleh, you're not doing fusion. You're not inspired by belly dance. You're just hoop dancing in bedleh.

    Not gonna comment on the "sexy" thing going on in the thread other than to say there is a HUGE difference between "sexy" and "sexed up" and in my experience the VAST majority of people who pay to see a bellydance show or hire a belly dancer are WOMEN, not men. And yes, WOMEN do like to see a sexy beautiful woman in a beautiful costume. Not a sexed-up woman -- a sexy woman. Big diff, there.


  2. #82
    Member mahsati_janan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    Workshops are not easily accesible to everyone, and not without great expense for some. If I wanted to travel to one of the belly dance camps, I'd be looking at at LEAST $1000-2000 dollars in expenses. That is 4-5 high end costumes, and hundreds of pieces of cheaper grade costume pieces. Local workshops would still run me a couple hundred - though that's far more attainable a goal. I don't feel I personally dance well enough to go to a local workshop though.
    Everyone else is answering quite well about the cultural appropriation portions of the post, but I wanted to mention something to you here. $1000-$2000 is nowhere near 4-5 high end costumes. A high end costume generally starts at $800 or so these days, with most of the couture costumes in the $1200-$2000 USD range.

    Now, specific to workshops. If a person wants to study, they will save up, even for multiple years if necessary, to take workshops with the experts in the field. Week long intensives can cost anywhere from $500-$2500 or so, but shorter workshops, such as weekend packages usually run under $200. Look at all of the workshops happening within a few hours of you to start with. No matter what your current skill level, you will benefit greatly from the exposure to dancers from other areas and experts in their fields. I have been taking every workshop that I could both afford and get to for over 15 years now, regardless of which style of belly dance it is. Not because I am rich - far from it - but because it is a priority for me to learn as much as I can, especially from our older generation of dancers.

    Studying has to be an ongoing priority for anyone serious about this dance form. Start a savings fund specifically for dance and go ahead and attend any workshop you can. Not all of the information you get will be accurate, but that is why you research and ask questions for more guidance. It can take years to tease out what is known, unknown, and unknowable, but the process is worth it.

  3. #83
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    Not everyone takes a hobby seriously enough to do it 'properly' or to the best of their ability. Hobbies, for some people, are just about having fun - without thought or consideration for progression or advancement, just about enjoying the activity.
    Even when a dancer's goal isn't 'cultural authenticity' it is still a good idea to check through what you're doing (maybe even ask a teacher or other dancer if you're unsure) for any possible faux pas. A dancer can 'have fun' and not worry about 'progression or advancement' while still being gracious, sensitive and aware.

    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    But how does one take responsibility for a performance that is less than culturally accurate, but is well performed and well received? Should they send a letter of apology to the teachers in (insert country here)?
    It all depends on how you label yourself. Honestly, if a person is labeling themselves or their dance anything (pop-and-lock fusion, cabaret, Turkish, whatever), they should try to live up to that label. I can't count the number of times I've seen/heard a 'flamenco' fusion with tango music . . .

    As an example I once did a sort-of fusion piece to a tango and Ella Fitzgerald tune in which I used almost 100% cabaret/Egyptian moves, but I still called it 'fusion' dance in my hafla intro to make it clear that this was not going to traditional.

    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    I've seen way more appreciation of the "gypsies" and slutty harem girl than I have seen derision. I think most performances have *something* about them that can offend someone out there. I do agree that fusion is most likely to cause offense, which is why I think fusion performers should be particular about where they perform.
    I suppose it depends on the audience. I have seen that American audiences do tend to appreciate those performances because it fits in with the stereotype of belly dance. However, playing on these stereotypes is extremely harmful. By reinforcing stereotypes of Rromani as belly dancers, over sexualized, fortune tellers, etc (which they are not), it leads to additional misunderstanding and discrimination of their people. I know someone who is Rromani and often experiences discrimination/racism in her everyday life along the lines of "don't steal my boyfriend with your belly dancing and magic." Additionally, characterizing ME women as 'harem girls' or sexual objects is harmful.

    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    It's awesome that you have been able to study with Egyptian teachers and dancers. I say that with zero sarcasm and more than a little bit of envy. HOWEVER....not everyone can. I never said nor do I believe that the dance is lost in the mists of time, but I do think it's ever changing, growing, evolving. I have no doubt that it's very different than what it was 20, 50, 100, 1000 years ago.
    Not everyone has access to teachers/dancers who are authentic to the culture. Not all dancers are interested in taking on the responsibility of acting like a cultural representative for a culture that isn't theirs. I don't think they do it out of malice, they just are interested in the dance, and not so much its origins.
    How is a person supposed to know who or what is authentic anyway, even if dancing with someone from Egypt? I stand by what I say - there are too man sources marked as "True" or "actual" for the common person to be able to easily say what's true and what's not. If this wasn't the case, the majority of newbie dancers wouldn't think they're dancing the dance of the temple priestess/harem girl/whatever. Not everyone can afford, or even wants to take, a trip to Egypt or another country to study the origins of belly dance.
    "Not all dancers are interested in taking on the responsibility of acting like a cultural representative for a culture that isn't theirs. I don't think they do it out of malice, they just are interested in the dance, and not so much its origins." To try and remove the cultural component from a dance that is inherently cultural (as Aziyade mentions) just seems wrong to me. It seems like Jane's "do no harm with your dance" applies. I think it's part of that whole 'global supermarket attitude' prevalent in the west.

    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    It's labeled belly dance because the inaccurate portrayal they're acting out is what much of the audience expects to see when they see the words belly dance. What should they call it?
    "Oriental fantasy"?

    I feel like the mid-20th century would be an interesting comparison: Samia Gamal and club owners were incorporating ballet as Ruth St. Denis was creating here 'oriental' dances (though not sure of actual timeline). Does anyone have any articles/info about either of these?

  4. #84
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mahsati_janan View Post
    Everyone else is answering quite well about the cultural appropriation portions of the post, but I wanted to mention something to you here. $1000-$2000 is nowhere near 4-5 high end costumes. A high end costume generally starts at $800 or so these days, with most of the couture costumes in the $1200-$2000 USD range.

    Now, specific to workshops. If a person wants to study, they will save up, even for multiple years if necessary, to take workshops with the experts in the field. Week long intensives can cost anywhere from $500-$2500 or so, but shorter workshops, such as weekend packages usually run under $200. Look at all of the workshops happening within a few hours of you to start with. No matter what your current skill level, you will benefit greatly from the exposure to dancers from other areas and experts in their fields. I have been taking every workshop that I could both afford and get to for over 15 years now, regardless of which style of belly dance it is. Not because I am rich - far from it - but because it is a priority for me to learn as much as I can, especially from our older generation of dancers.

    Studying has to be an ongoing priority for anyone serious about this dance form. Start a savings fund specifically for dance and go ahead and attend any workshop you can. Not all of the information you get will be accurate, but that is why you research and ask questions for more guidance. It can take years to tease out what is known, unknown, and unknowable, but the process is worth it.
    This is what I was trying to say yesterday in 43C heat (that's 109.4F if you need the conversion) so apologies for anything that came across as rude yesterday. As you can probably imagine, I was having a hard time doing anything that required tact or pleasantness.
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
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  5. #85
    Moderator Farasha Hanem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darshiva View Post
    This is what I was trying to say yesterday in 43C heat (that's 109.4F if you need the conversion) so apologies for anything that came across as rude yesterday. As you can probably imagine, I was having a hard time doing anything that required tact or pleasantness.
    Well, also, this IS the sauna... *smiles sheepishly at her own pun*

    I gotta stop doing that... >.>;;;

  6. #86
    Moderator Darshiva's Avatar
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    It was for me yesterday! :p
    Bellydance in Kyabram!
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  7. #87
    V.I.P. Ariadne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    Which brings me to.....



    What IS belly dance, exactly?
    Why does it seem so hard to mythbust its origins and useage?
    Should the wishtory dances be called something else instead of belly dance?
    How should dancers who perform less than accurate performances label themselves?
    How should they costume themselves?
    How can they perform, market, and costume themselves in a way that minimizes or eliminates causing offense?
    There is a lot of opinions obviously. After studying the dance academically for a few years my thoughts on the subject are:

    Bellydance is a group of dances from and inspired by a style of dance from North Africa, the Middle East, and Near East (Turkey especially) to a specific type of music (movement follows the music). In Turkey it is called Dans Oriental and in Egypt Raqs Sharqi. When speaking of the Cabaret styles (plural) another name I use is Oriental Dance (the translation of the Turkish name). I consider Tribal to still be bellydance (not everyone does) because I can recognize the movement and the music though in the case of Tribal Fusion the music isn't always there. Once the movement changes enough that I can't recognize it as Oriental anymore then I consider it World Fusion instead of Tribal Fusion.

    Because they're popular and simultaneously not well enough known for them to be widely debunked. I remember growing up and taking martial arts classes. Some of the wishtory I heard back then would be considered laughable now but then martial arts has become sufficiently widespread that people now aren't so likely to believe them.

    When they become sufficiently divorced from Oriental Dance, absolutely. Mainly though I just call it "what was that?"

    Define accurate? There are many different styles of bellydance. Some have more latitude then others. Just get the name right and I won't care. Call a Tribal Fusion performance Raqs Sharqi and I will wonder what you think you're doing. If you are doing some type of Fantasy Fusion then just say so.

    The costumes for the different styles is not just an aesthetic choice they amplify and emphasis the movements. While still recognizable as bellydance there are differences in interpretation and how those movements are used. There is a reason that Egyptian style dancers trend toward sleek costumes that allow for miniscule small movements, that Turkish or American style dancers wear fringe or coins and draped fabric that will emphasize and amplify stronger hip and chest movements, that ATS dancers fluff up their hips with layers of ruffles, and so on and so forth. Wear something that doesn't fit the style and not only will you have people confused you will miss out on showing your skills properly.

    The first step is not trying to "perform, market, and costume" yourself to the public until you actually know how you are supposed to "perform, market, and costume" for your style. Study it, the history of it, and the dancers who came before you and you should be just fine.

  8. #88
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    What Aziyade said! I began with the same attitude and even though our experts here don`t agree always, I did learn so much from you all! And yes, I did also have the same heated discussions with them and now, I love them for taking the time to show me more!

  9. #89
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    And another what Aziyade said. I had a similar heated debate or three with A'isha Azar <wipes away nostalgic tear, happy days> in the olden days before the Great Hack.

    Research, huh? It sounds like something tedious with dusty books and taking notes, but as far as cultural background goes, most of what I have picked up has started from here - hanging out, watching clips, following the trails to new music and so on. There are very experienced dancers on the forum who have studied in depth for years and who can put things in context, so you can learn much faster than you ever would pottering around on YT or the web in general without any sort of feel for what you are looking at.

    And you get to ask them questions! If you've heard X on a subject but someone else has just told you Y, there may well be people here who have heard Z (and A, B and C) and can tell you where it came from, whether its BS or 100% true or has a grain of truth, or is true in some situations but not others. It is an amazing resource, and for cheap!

  10. #90
    Member MizzNaaa's Avatar
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    Okay, here are my two cents in.

    I don't claim to be a representative of my country or culture, or even that I fully understand the concept of Culture appropriation, however as an Egyptian, when I see us (Egyptian/Middle eastern) women depicted as gypsies, dancing slave girls for the sultan...etc. I have one of two reaction, if the depiction presents itself as a supposedly accurate presentation, I get pretty angry, because that is just NOT what our dance, baladi dance, is about, nor is it what we are.

    If it's just for a fantasy, I shake my head and leave it at that. The whole 'fantasy' isn't remotely true. We don't walk around in skimpy clothes trying to please our men, we never have and I highly doubt we ever will. Baladi, or what you would call belly dance, is simply put a social dance. It's our dance.

    We dance like that whenever there's an opportunity to dance, birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, just friendly gatherings. Yes, some of us do it for their partners/boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands because no body can deny the aesthetic beauty and attractiveness of baladi, but it's not what the dance is about.

    Now, as an Egyptian, middle eastern woman, who 'bellydances' regularly. When I see performances that depict us as gypsies/slave girls/what have you, I - to say the least- am not appreciative of it. This is coming from a person who doesn't mind the idea of fusions, and has actually enjoyed some fusions and thinks that if done right, fusions can be pretty cool. What I'm guessing DancingArabian doesn't quite get is, when you dance our dance, depicting us as slave girls dancing for the sultan/gypsies...whatever fantasy that is, it does nothing but further carve the fake image of us in Westerners minds.

    YOU might be doing it lightheartedly, but it doesn't help ME when I'm in the US and somebody jokingly tells me to go put on my bellydance suit and dance for them, or ask for permission before I speak, because that's how we are portrayed in media and in people who take parts of our culture and whether they mean it or not, give a wrong image of us to the public.

    The problem doesn't stop there sadly. Being a leading country, us '3rd world countries' follow, you have that image portrayed in your media spread everywhere because American Media isn't just shown in America, so that image spreads. And you have people taking it for what it is, and following it or believing it. You have touristic venues in every country who have dancers depicted that way, and it spreads all over...all the way to the country of Origin, which is for example here Egypt. Touristic venues here start doing the same because that's what tourists want to see, time passes and this becomes the norm, and voila.. you have a new generation of people believing that this is what our dance is about, which in a conservative culture like ours makes it become a taboo...like what's happening in Egypt right now, and what started as a pure fantasy is perceived as a fact.

    Bellydance wasn't and isn't the only victim of such depiction, you have Native Americans, Hula dancers from Hawaii and everywhere on earth really, these things happen in every culture. So when people here are talking to you about how it's not okay to NOT be clear about what the intent behind your dance is if it's not an accurate depiction of what the dance truly is, they're not being tight asses, they're trying to stop a highly warped image of a dance that is now perceived as exotic, sexy and sinful while it's actually nothing but a simple social dance.
    Last edited by MizzNaaa; 01-08-2013 at 10:10 PM.

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