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  1. #11
    Senior Member Sophia Maria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarik Sultan View Post
    ..... Of course they were better, they were dancing from a place of joy, which is what the dance really is, those dancers are not. How could they be? In an environment where they are not even seen as human beings, how could they be joyful?
    Well said!

    Yes, it frustrates me too...I think it's important to talk about the reality of the situation as much as we can stand, to spread knowledge. Dancers really need to know, I feel, because...I don't know--in a way, the story of oriental dance is not complete without knowing the ugly side of it. That is to say, dancing is not just about sequins, stages, clapping and supportive audiences, it's also about poverty, desperation, exploitation. If you can't see it, it still exists, you're just privileged enough to be safe from it.

  2. #12
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    but it always seemed sad, because they were not concerned with dancing, they were concerned with the money and power it could give them.
    I've been debating with myself about whether or not to respond to this. Obviously, I've decided to respond.

    I love dancing. Always have. I love teaching, too, but truthfully even though I love my students, I would not get up an hour after leaving my day job and slog out into the snow every Wednesday evening to teach if I wasn't getting paid very well for it . It's my job. I expect to be paid for my expertise, such as it is. The money is important.

    One of the first times I danced in public for a largely male audience, I looked at the crowd and realized that any one of those men would give me anything I wanted in return for an hour of my time. It was the first time in my life I had any sense of power over anything or anybody and it was an amazing feeling. I was smart enough to realize that the way I kept my power was to never grant that hour of my time, but after that, I was always aware of it. I liked it. It was definitely part of the allure of dancing in public along with getting paid for something I was very good at.

    So there we have it: I was not dancing for the sheer joy of it. I still don't teach for the sheer joy of it. Performance and teaching are jobs- fairly unusual jobs and more pleasurable jobs than many, but still jobs. Sometimes I enjoyed performing; sometimes all I wanted to do was stay home with my cats and not put on makeup or those damned uncomfortable costumes.

    Being able to dance only for the love of music and movement is a privilege that not everyone shares. Be kind in your thoughts toward those who can't afford that privilege.
    Last edited by Shanazel; 01-29-2015 at 12:54 AM.
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  3. #13
    Senior Member Sophia Maria's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shanazel View Post
    I've been debating with myself about whether or not to respond to this. Obviously, I've decided to respond.

    I love dancing. Always have. I love teaching, too, but truthfully even though I love my students, I would not get up an hour after leaving my day job and slog out into the snow every Wednesday evening to teach if I wasn't getting paid very well for it . It's my job. I expect to be paid for my expertise, such as it is. The money is important.

    One of the first times I danced in public for a largely male audience, I looked at the crowd and realized that any one of those men would give me anything I wanted in return for an hour of my time. It was the first time in my life I had any sense of power over anything or anybody and it was an amazing feeling. I was smart enough to realize that the way I kept my power was to never grant that hour of my time, but after that, I was always aware of it. I liked it. It was definitely part of the allure of dancing in public along with getting paid for something I was very good at.

    So there we have it: I was not dancing for the sheer joy of it. I still don't teach for the sheer joy of it. Performance and teaching are jobs- fairly unusual jobs and more pleasurable jobs than many, but still jobs. Sometimes I enjoyed performing; sometimes all I wanted to do was stay home with my cats and not put on makeup or those damned uncomfortable costumes.

    Being able to dance only for the love of music and movement is a privilege that not everyone shares. Be kind in your thoughts toward those who can't afford that privilege.
    I'm glad you did respond--I feel like what you're saying here really adds to the discussion!

    I think this is the really important thing that we're getting at here; just dancing--being able to train yourself to become a great dancer, buying music, studying with good teachers--just for the sake of passion and personal interest is a luxury when all your other needs are taken care of. I am currently blessed enough to do this, the only caveat being that my budget is STRICT so I make sure I can take good classes. But that's it. It's a pretty dang comfortable life, and I am grateful for it.

    However, even for people who don't dance as a job (and especially those who do), other things certainly come into play. If it's your job (or even second job) you have to make enough money. You have to keep students and audiences. And there are other things as well which vary from person to person--the anecdote about power is an interesting one.

    Basically, what I've been trying to say through my posts on this thread is actually what you've expanded upon here When I mentioned that some only do it for the money or power, I was not making a general statement about people who dance for a living. I was talking specifically about a couple friends I have had who stripped, who described it in precisely those terms--dancing is only way to get people to do what you want. That was their opinion, and it was sad to hear it to that extreme. Like I said, I don't condemn that, and for someone who has very little power and money, it can be very fulfilling to feel that control over that part of their lives. I think that power and money is a factor is really a factor to how everyone makes decisions; all I'm saying is that basically I would be sad if that were my only driving force to dance.

  4. #14
    Member MizzNaaa's Avatar
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    Well that's yet another sad reality of Egypt's current culture and views on its own dance. Women in public sphere in ANY field even the 'respectable' jobs are scrutinized, judged, and found guilty regardless, now add to that equation something that has been sexualized like baladi dancing and of course that would be the result. These women for all intents and purposes are trafficked and treated like sex-workers, the dancing at this point doesn't matter, what matters is it's a female who is forced to bare her flesh and skin for men so her pimp could get money. The situation is multi faceted really cause it's not just about the dancing itself, or the way people view dancing. Again, it's about how Egyptians view women, their place and role in society, and how dancing publicly and for money breaks those rules, and how there are those who exploited these views to do what we see in that documentary.

    The sad truth is, even in Egypt's "golden era' of dancing, the situation wasn't much different. Perhaps in ways less extreme, but the use of dancing as a profession was always equated with sex-work, even during times when people like Tahia Carioca and Samia Gamal and Naima Akef...etc existed.

    Whether that will change or not remains to be seen. As an activist and a feminist I surely hope so, but what I know for a fact is that it'll take many years.
    Last edited by MizzNaaa; 03-06-2015 at 01:47 PM. Reason: I used a slur for sex workers by mistake and it has been pointed out to me that the term sex worker is the appropriate name.

  5. #15
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    MizzNaaa, I am always so happy when you come here and share your thoughts. Thank you.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  6. #16
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    After watching the clip, I'm thinking is 'what a nightmare for the dancers'. I totally understand they hate their job, there is nothing nice or fun about this, and dangerous on top of it as well. We have the luxury to choose our audiences, and that makes all the difference. Yes there are also horrible audiences in the west (all male/awful venues) but at least we can decide not to do those. I feel so sorry for these women they have to put up with those lewd men.
    Did the first dancer also have a medical condition? She was mentioning weight gain from a treatment. The other needed heart surgery. I hope they can get out of this and have a nicer life. Though another dancer seemed to like the work.
    The video made me want to know more about them, it was too short, so many questions unanswered.

    Off topic, I was curious about the make up, why do they put a band of silvery white all over the middle section of their faces? It covers the eyes, nose and top of cheeks and after putting the rest of the make up its still very visibly there. MizzNaaa, is that a local fashion?

  7. #17
    Member MizzNaaa's Avatar
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    I don't know how to word this better but well, that's just their taste. Makeup is a tool to add color and be flashy for them and that's just how they do it. Also there's a lot of internalized racism and anti blackness involved too, which is why a lot of women especially from lower classes try to whiten their faces with makeup to appear lighter skinned. Tldr: a mix of personal taste and misconception about proper use of makeup as well as a bit of anti-darker skin involved?

  8. #18
    V.I.P. Tarik Sultan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MizzNaaa View Post
    I don't know how to word this better but well, that's just their taste. Makeup is a tool to add color and be flashy for them and that's just how they do it. Also there's a lot of internalized racism and anti blackness involved too, which is why a lot of women especially from lower classes try to whiten their faces with makeup to appear lighter skinned. Tldr: a mix of personal taste and misconception about proper use of makeup as well as a bit of anti-darker skin involved?
    2,000yrs of being colonized by non Africans. I don't think it was deliberate as in the case of the Atlantic slave trade, but the result was the same, equating power, success, beauty with lightskin. It's a psychological thing. Back in the day when Egypt was a majpr world power African features were what people copied. Braided hair styles, coils and afros were top fashion. You can see the Afro wigs at the Cairo museum.

    It was also a time when being a woman was valued. People always marvel at the amount of independence that women in Egypt had as compared to the rest of the Ancient World, but this was quite common in African cultures and still is to this day. The line of descent was through the mother's line, not the father. To be pharaoh you had to marry a woman of the royal blood. Just reminds me of the saying behind every great man is a woman. It's sad to see the result of colonialism on Egypt. The loss of it's language and culture and the rise of both sexism and racism. The things that are so wonderful about Egypt are the things they are blind to. The wonderful variety of skin tones, features, hair textures are the things that they are ashamed of. To be beautiful in Egypt, you have to look as non Egyptian as possible WTF?! The principle of honoring the divine feminine and the balance of masculine and feminine is gone. Now, no one wants a daughter, only a son. What would happen if everybody got their wish?

    I wish the remedy were as simple as a return to pride in the ancient way of life, a restoration of the Coptic language. However, because of christianity and Islam, that will never happen. The spirituality that honored the creative force as both masculine and feminine and honored the balance of nature is replaced with the idea that the old ways were devil worship. That mankind is separate from nature and man is above woman. When we fail to realize that we are all connected, we all have an important role to play in the divine order of things, this is what we get. The way we treat women is reflected in the way we treat Mother Earth, we use her, pollute her and take her for granted. We take that which is beautiful and turn it into ugliness. I place more judgement on the men in this scenario than I do the women. If they were valued, respected, this wouldn't exist.

  9. #19
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MizzNaaa View Post
    I don't know how to word this better but well, that's just their taste. Makeup is a tool to add color and be flashy for them and that's just how they do it. Also there's a lot of internalized racism and anti blackness involved too, which is why a lot of women especially from lower classes try to whiten their faces with makeup to appear lighter skinned. Tldr: a mix of personal taste and misconception about proper use of makeup as well as a bit of anti-darker skin involved?
    Yes, I was wondering if it had to do with skin whitening, but then the rest of the face isn't done in a lighter colour, so probably just a fashion thing in makeup. It's kind of silvery white, maybe the idea is that the make up stands out better with that underneath? Coincidentally I saw a tip on a make up site yesterday where they mentioned putting white underneath eyeshadow to make it look brighter, but that was only on the upper eye lids.

  10. #20
    Member Tanglefoot's Avatar
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    An eye opener, I posted in a local FB bellydance group, to be deleted by the owner, where why I wonder , doesn't reality interest and then though, why of course reality as it applies to poor majorities smashes fantasies, of which could be seen as a bit of a colonial mentality.

    But one thing has to be said about western bellydance fantasy is that perhaps it keeps a cultural art alive in the face of oppressive regimes, alive so that when cultures wake up to their loss they may find what they have lost somewhere in other cultures fantasy.

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