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  1. #1
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    Default A question regarding the music and the moves

    Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. So, if you're offended, I'm sorry, it's not my intent. Somehow I always seem to offend people with my questions.


    This question stems from having read a few different threads regarding performances. The general tone from the responses that I've read is that if you're not dancing to Middle Eastern/Arabic music, then what you're doing is not belly dance.

    So now I ask...why is that?

    Or is this only the case for certain styles of belly dance?

    I am NOT talking about the poorly executed moves that are common in fitness classes.

    I'm talking about someone dancing with correct technique, but to NON ME/Arabic music. Someone who is NOT claiming to be a folkloric style dancer, but one who is just using "belly dance" in some way in their label.


    Ballet danced to something other than classical is still considered ballet, isn't it?

    Salsa is still salsa if you're Cuban, Colombia, Puerto Rican, etc (for those unfamiliar, Salsa is a term coined in the 50's/60's to a very old form of dance that is generally considered to be a sort of fusion that evolved over the years and came to be in the Carribbean, with the exact country of origin to be a bit of a contraversy.)

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    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    I believe there is a little leeway. If your music is ME inspired or ME fusion in many cases no problems. But if you are using belly dance movement vocabulary to non-ME music I would consider the result belly dance fusion at best - and that only if the resulting performance still has the feel of the solo, improvised dance styles from the Middle East.

    The movement vocab only with non-ME music can be a number of styles. What I see most often is jazz or theatre dance.

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    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    This question stems from having read a few different threads regarding performances. The general tone from the responses that I've read is that if you're not dancing to Middle Eastern/Arabic music, then what you're doing is not belly dance.

    So now I ask...why is that?

    Or is this only the case for certain styles of belly dance?
    It's a valid question.

    The short answer: Would flamenco still be flamenco if you tried doing it to something entirely foreign to Spain, such as hiphop music? Would a czardas (traditional Hungarian dance) still be a czardas if done to Japanese pop music? Would hiphop dancing still be hiphop if you did it to a romantic Viennese waltz? In all cases, I would say no. I would say that music shapes the dance.

    I used to think otherwise. I used to think that belly dance is still belly dance even when using non-Middle-Eastern music. But the more I learned about belly dance, the less I felt convinced of that point of view. Today, I feel the opposite - today, I feel that music is one of the elements that makes belly dance (as well as any other dance genre) what it is.
    Last edited by shiradotnet; 01-19-2013 at 03:11 AM.

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    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    George Balanchine (famous New York City Ballet choreographer) said, "Dance is the music made visible."

    Music really is the foundation.
    Last edited by shiradotnet; 01-21-2013 at 04:20 PM.

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    Member Munniko's Avatar
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    Is this mainly only true for traditional dances to countries that is tied to the culture. I know that in my background as a ballroom dancer you can do whatever style of ballroom dance you want as long as your rhythm matches. Heck we almost did a a performance to the song "Gold Digger" by Kanye West (if I remember right the song is I think a Two step/Fox trot) and it would have been considered fine.

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    Is this mainly only true for traditional dances to countries that is tied to the culture.
    Yes, I think so. Ballet for example can be performed to anything, but it is still ballet because ballet is the movement. That said, it is usually performed to music especially composed for it.

    But as you've said, in ballroom you can't *really* dance a foxtrot to anything, because it has to have the right underlying rhythm. Ballroom has certainly taken some Latin dances and turned them into something else. I mean, I don't consider ballroom tango to be tango. It's ballroom tango - inspired by the steps of tango, which was a musical style before it was ever a dance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. So, if you're offended, I'm sorry, it's not my intent. Somehow I always seem to offend people with my questions.
    (snipped for length)

    Salsa is still salsa if you're Cuban, Colombia, Puerto Rican, etc (for those unfamiliar, Salsa is a term coined in the 50's/60's to a very old form of dance that is generally considered to be a sort of fusion that evolved over the years and came to be in the Carribbean, with the exact country of origin to be a bit of a contraversy.)

    this is my first post on this board although I've lurked forever and a day...

    So, I'll turn this around a bit. I dance salsa as I learned it, as a social dance amongst people who grew up with it. I'm Puerto Rican and we lay claim to it, so I recognize the controversy of which you speak.

    And I can tell if the person who is dancing it is Cuban, Colombian, Puerto Rican or Dominican by their movement vocabulary.

    When I dance to ME music and I hear a rhythm that matches the salsa rhythm (not surprisingly, there is a large overlap, considering that the ethnic history of Puerto Rico is heavily influenced by the slave trade to the America's and the Spaniards that were ruled by the Moors for 700 years) and my "accent" comes out.

    Some dancers speak of an accent when people who did not grow up with the music of the ME learn to dance. How their dance is touched by the music, rhythmic patterns and muscle memory of their movement vocabulary PRIOR to learning ME dance.

    My accent happens to be Puerto Rican and I will automatically default to a salsa step when their is rhythm that matches it (think Nour El Ain, by Amr Diab).

    Am I then dancing salsa, or am I still dancing ME dance?

    Raqia Hassan is a marvelous choreographer and her combinations are such that workshop participants spontaneously applaud them when she demonstrates them to the music. They *fit* the music absolutely beautifully.

    There was one step that I could NOT execute to the music in the workshop that I attended, because muscle memory took over and my feet INSISTED on the salsa step.

    Much like I have difficulty with the pronunciation of certain words that I *know* have a hard ch sound (e.g. Chicago) which *I* pronounce "shicago".

    Sure, I can say it in English, but I don't pronounce it like a native speaker of English would, my accent is Spanish.

    Same thing in dance. You CAN perform the dance, but you're taking it away from it's original music where the movements "fit", If you were to perform to a song that that is not ME in origin with different rhythmic patterns, your movements will change to incorporate those rhythmic patterns so that they fit IN HOW YOU CONCEPTUALIZE that movement vocabulary.

    I, personally, do not think that ballroom salsa has ANYTHING to do with "real" salsa dancing, which will probably tick off ballroom dancers who spend years lovingly practicing the music and the steps.*

    Now for a food analogy, cause I'm both hungry AND thinky, when I go to a restaurant that features food that I've grown up with, I'm am invariably dissapointed. Not because the people at the stove don't love the food and work at creating an authentic experience, but because if they don't know the flavors and spices that appeal to a palate that has spent a lifetime of tasting them, no matter how good their interpretation of the food is, it's not real Puerto Rican food. I don't know if this is universal, but whenever I go to an ethnic restaurant, i check to see if the people of that ethnicity eat there, because I trust that their educated palate is a reference that I will get a more authentic taste of their cuisine.

    *Amira Jamal, my first belly dance teacher was teaching at a Fred Estair(sp?) studio. Our belly dance class was right after a salsa class that a Russian ballroom dancer was teaching. I was there late, helping to clear up. There was a man there, who was a bit early for his class, if I remember correctly, he was from Honduras. He was in a heated argument with the ballroom dancer about salsa. His point was that what she was teaching wasn't salsa as people who grew up with it would recognize it. He asked me my ethnicity, I told him, he asked if I wouldn't mind demonstrating with him. We started dancing, and I followed him with no difficulty. She got pretty annoyed, I think his point was that if you were teaching a dance from a certain area, you should *know* how the people of that area did it, so that they would have at least that reference point and be able to identify what you were doing WITH their dance.**

    **wow, this got really long. back to lurkdom.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Sophia Maria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DancingArabian View Post
    Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. So, if you're offended, I'm sorry, it's not my intent. Somehow I always seem to offend people with my questions.
    No offense taken. Yet. I'm completely kidding.

    This question stems from having read a few different threads regarding performances. The general tone from the responses that I've read is that if you're not dancing to Middle Eastern/Arabic music, then what you're doing is not belly dance.
    It's not totally black and white for me, and I think it's hard to really definitely decide and categorize everything. However, in this I'm going to use a comparison to tango, because I think bellydance and tango share some stylistic similarities. In general, the reason why I would be less likely to call something "belly dance" if it was performed to non ME music is because bellydance as it is taught is intrinsically married to the music of the culture it comes from. Belly dance is also improvised a lot of the time, and responds to the emotion of the music, spontaneously. Tango is similar because even though it is often choreographed, it is intensely emotional and responds directly to the intensely emotional nature of tango music. But the emotions, while technically the same (sadness, regret, jealousy, heartbreak) are FELT differently in the different forms of music. Would it really be tango dancing if one choreographed a dance to Oum Kalthoum? (disregard the fact that in the first place the rhythm would be all wrong). Or would something be fundamentally different? Likewise, would a belly dance really be belly dance if I danced to Carlos Gardel?

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    HUGE philosophical question, this topic has been talked and debated endlessly. My point of view is that belly dance has cultural origins which include specific music. Yes you can use the music vocabulary to dance to anything you like, and sometimes it is really fun to do that, and even to perform that. BUT if you never dance to Egyptian or Turkish or even Armenian or North African or Lebanese or Syrian or Palestinian music, (to name a few examples) you are not belly dancing in my book.

    Reasonable people can disagree, and many do think that the movement vocabulary makes a dance "belly dance." I don't. If you take the dance away from all of its connections to the cultures of origin, and especially if you start to include movements from jazz, hip hip, ballet, etc. it becomes a new and different dance form of its own, e.g. tribal fusion. Fusion is not invalid, it's just not the same as the original dance. So call it a new name.

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    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    I keep two versions of "belly dance" in my vocabulary/ understanding.

    One is the big umbrella that goes from baladi to the outer reaches of experimental tribal fusion. The ME focus, and the meaning and intention and the music and pretty much everything may have gone from a lot of it, but I suppose they can claim that you can track it back to ME belly dance, even if it's unrecognisable. However much it may need a new name, people are fixated on "belly dance" and won't let go. I live with that. No one wants my PITA comments about That's Not Actually Belly Dance. So I zip it IRL. (not here, obvs ). If I was a teacher I'd be a bit more share-y on the subject.

    The other is what belly dance is for me, and that's utterly ME focused - it's the moves and the music and the attitude and the soul, the whole package. I've gone more and more this way over the years as I learn more. (Happy days when it was all belly dance and all good to my innocent eyes... nostalgic sniff)

    I can live with the fact that people perpetrate WTFusions and Shakira/ Pussycat Dolls medleys in the in the name of belly dance. Deep breath, think calming thoughts. I can see why people might tend to the poppy and familiar with beginners, or for first solos. But then they should take off the trainer wheels. I start getting p*$$£d off when I have to sit through shedloads of it in belly dance shows, or when festivals are full of novelty fusion choreographies.

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