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  1. #11
    V.I.P. Kharmine's Avatar
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    Anyone know more about Jamila Salimpour? I understand that she was a circus performer, but she's given different stories about her ethnic background, how she learned to dance, even her husbands.

    There's a whole slew of stories on The Gilded Serpent about the North Beach (San Francisco) belly dance scene in the '70s in which she and her Bal Anat company feature prominently. It's alleged that Jamila was pretty dictatorial and ruthless, particularly with students who went on to perform or teach independently without her blessing, but that she could be kind and supportive to people she liked, as well.

    One gets the idea of some serious competition verging on war among belly dancers in Northern California in those days! I haven't seen the like in other parts of the country, although I'm sure it existed in one form or another.

    I truly recommend the North Beach memories series, and wish there were more collections like this available: Welcome
    Last edited by Kharmine; 04-30-2007 at 05:28 PM. Reason: adding the link

  2. #12
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Somewhere on these boards is a lengthy discussion about the early Bal Anat years -- and some of Jamila's students posted. You might also check Rashid's articles in Suhaila's newsletter. I'm sure the archives are on her site somewhere.

    I think Jamila came from a circus family, but didn't really "get known" as a circus performer.

    At the Bal Anat performance in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago we were treated to a home-made documentary (on 8mm film!) of the early days of Bal Anat and the Renn Faire scene. According to the documentary, Jamila was teaching out of her home in the early 70s. I don't know when she started, or when her students started dancing there, but by 1974 her students were officially performing at the Renn Faire.

    From what I gather, Jamila was largely a self-taught dancer, who learned from watching old moves and the immigrant dancers in the clubs. I believe Suhaila said Jamila herself was dancing in the clubs in the 50s -- but don't quote me on that! She apparently took at least one dance class with Burt Balladine, and there ended up being some type of bad blood between them. She loved and adored Ibrahim Farrah and considered him her creative companion.

    With most "star" type figures, there seems to be a certain amount of historical revisionism around their humble beginnings. I've heard of movie stars going to ridiculous lengths to make sure old high school photos were never published, or even "revising" their school transcripts! I don't believe Jamila did anything THAT unscrupulous, but I'm sure there's probably at least a bit of romanticism and misremembering of her early years. If so, she's certainly not the only one of our "grande-dames" who's re-written her own autobiography once or twice.

    As to her hostility regarding students who break off and teach, I can't speak to any specifics, but I know that Jamila put a lot of time and effort into cataloging and codifying her dance steps and terminology. If I had put that much effort into describing and naming steps and step families, it would really annoy me to have students break away and teach MY format without even making sure that what they were teaching was what I ACTUALLY TAUGHT!

    I'm pretty sure there is a certain amount of annoyance on Jamila's part towards some major figures in the ATS movement, just from talking to Suhaila. If you're going to call a particular step the "Basic Egyptian" (which is a term Jamila coined) then why don't you do the step Jamila taught, instead of something else? That's a question Suhaila has posed, and it makes sense to me. It's like calling Warrior Pose in yoga "Downward Facing Dog." What???? Why change the name?

    Plus, it's well known that ATS came from Jamila's format, however Carolena has never taken a class with Jamila. The farther removed you are from the source, the less accurate the information gets. Some people think Jamila is just being picky and bitchy, but I can totally see her point.

    I teach Jamila Salimpour format, as I learned it from Suhaila. I think that's close enough to the source. Plus, when they do offer the Jamila certification, I'll be first in line to sign up to be "authorized" to use her name. To me, this makes perfect sense and is the right and proper thing to do.

    Jamila has told Suhaila many times that she was sorry she didn't "own" the rights to her name, and that complaint has pushed Suhaila to do the certification program -- so that HER method will only be "officially" taught by someone who has actually studied with her and CONTINUES to study with her. No degredation of the signal. That's the idea anyway. From what I understand of the martial arts world, that's how it works there too. Again, to me this makes perfect sense.

    I have a student right now who has had like, one year of classes and thinks she's good enough to teach. She is not. Any one on this board could watch her dance and recognize that. But even though I've told her I want her to have more training, to know more about the dance, the culture, the music, etc. -- ultimately I can't control what she does. If she wants to open a bellydance school, it's not like I can keep her from doing so. But I sure as heck won't be happy about it, and I WON'T be recommending her school. Does that make me ruthless? Or practical?

    I have no idea what kind of hostility existed back then, but I can see the same arguments even here in the midwest. Students undercutting their teachers to get jobs. Undercutting other dancers. Dancers pretending to be the ultimate authority on all things , oh say Turkish -- when they're only had one 4-hour workshop on Turkish Orientale.

    the more things change ...



    Quote Originally Posted by Kharmine View Post
    Anyone know more about Jamila Salimpour? I understand that she was a circus performer, but she's given different stories about her ethnic background, how she learned to dance, even her husbands.

    There's a whole slew of stories on The Gilded Serpent about the North Beach (San Francisco) belly dance scene in the '70s in which she and her Bal Anat company feature prominently. It's alleged that Jamila was pretty dictatorial and ruthless, particularly with students who went on to perform or teach independently without her blessing, but that she could be kind and supportive to people she liked, as well.

    One gets the idea of some serious competition verging on war among belly dancers in Northern California in those days! I haven't seen the like in other parts of the country, although I'm sure it existed in one form or another.

    I truly recommend the North Beach memories series, and wish there were more collections like this available: Welcome

  3. #13
    Senior Member sedoniaraqs's Avatar
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    Other than A'isha's praises as one of her early teachers, I have not heard many positive comments about Jodette. But I will say that the negative comments all deal with her business practices, not her actual dancing.

    Apparently, she has an ongoing, terrible reputation among CA dancers of severely undercutting local prices and sending inadequately-trained students out to said undercut gigs. As in 6-week wonder types of students. And requiring that they only purchase costumes from her (comments about the costumes have not been good either).

    She definitely sounds like an interesting character.

    Sedonia

  4. #14
    V.I.P. Kharmine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    I'm pretty sure there is a certain amount of annoyance on Jamila's part towards some major figures in the ATS movement, just from talking to Suhaila. If you're going to call a particular step the "Basic Egyptian" (which is a term Jamila coined) then why don't you do the step Jamila taught, instead of something else? That's a question Suhaila has posed, and it makes sense to me. It's like calling Warrior Pose in yoga "Downward Facing Dog." What???? Why change the name?
    I understand what you're talking about, and I certainly feel for Jamila if she actually invented particular moves, gave them unique names, and then saw them used by others with no credit or different names.

    But if Jamila didn't invent specific steps or moves, if they were already being used by other dancers, were common to, say, raqs sharqi or one of the older folkloric dance forms, then having the "right" to name 'em is moot, innit?

    Guess I need to hunt up some Bal Anat videos, if I can find 'em...

  5. #15
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Jodette

    Dear Sedonia and Aziyade,
    Yes, she HAS got that reputation. I do not know how much is actually long standing prejudice against her and how much is real. I have only seen a few of her students dance, since she was up here in 1974 to dance at the World's Fair, and I studied with her during her time here, plus hired her for workshops.
    In any of her dealings with me she was always honest. However, my mother once bought a costume from her for one of my sisters who danced and it was a mess when it finally arrived. Re her students, the one who really stands out in my mind is a girl named Hafiza who WAS quite young at the time, maybe 17, and she was a very good dancer. She came up with Jodette once. I saw others at the Fair but do not recall anyone other than a woman that Jodette had named Nefertiti, who was probably mid-20s and very lovely, and also a good dancer.
    Stuff I have heard about Jamila Salimpour sometimes makes my hair curl...I might add I heard none of it from Jodette, though they were sworn enemies for many years. The person that comes to mind for me as having left Jamila's group and run into issues with J. is Nakish, who was or maybe even is a No. Cal. dancer. Rumor has it that she was the first to strike out on her own, but that might just be rumor. She was known more for her make-up than her dancing if I remember correctly...??? I know of more than one person who had arguments and break-ups with Jamila, but Nakish is one of the more famous ones. I happen to like Jamila very much, though I was happy to be there when she admitted that a lot of what she taught was not authentic, but she passed it off at the time as such. I got a lot of hostility over the years because I could easily see that much of what she was touting as "authentic" was not. What I will say in her defense is that she had guts to do what many others did not.
    Re Suhaila: both her and Isabella are carrying on what in my generation was known as the "Salimpour mystique", meaning that they are building a belly dance dynasty.They do indeed change their history as they go along. Suhaila now claims that she never said she taught Egyptian dance. In the 80s I took workshops from her and can definately say for sure that she did claim she was teaching Egyptian dance. I was there when she said it. I like Suhaila alot as a person. She was really sweet to my daughter who has loved her dancing since she was a little girl. My daughter is chronically ill and has a very hard life. It meant a lot to her to see Suhaila in person and to meet her. Suhaila is such a kind person that she took quite a lot of time out of her own schedule to chat with my daughter. However, I think that she and her mother have both caused a lot of unnecessary confusion as far as the dancing goes. I know I am probably really stepping on some toes here, but if we could all only learn to be real with what we are doing and saying about the dance it would be so much better. The last time I saw Suhaila dance was about 3 years ago and she was so far into the jazz thing that it was not even recognizable to the Arab woman who went with me, as belly dance. What she did was great, as Suhaila always is, but very far removed from the soul of the dance, which is where it counts.
    Regards,
    A'isha

    PS: After thinking about this for a few minutes, I think I would like to do an addendum. We often tend to put our favorite dancers on pedestals instead of thinking about them in terms of being human and having a few personal short comings. We need to start accepting them as human beings and getting over expecting them to be perfect. No one is, not even Suheir Zaki ( my personal dance hero along with Mouna) about whom I have heard some real zinger stuff from Arab freinds. The point is, in expecting perfection we expect too much.
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 04-30-2007 at 09:12 PM.

  6. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    Dear Sedonia and Aziyade,
    Suhaila now claims that she never said she taught Egyptian dance. In the 80s I took workshops from her and can definately say for sure that she did claim she was teaching Egyptian dance. I was there when she said it. Regards,
    A'isha

    PS: After thinking about this for a few minutes, I think I would like to do an addendum. We often tend to put our favorite dancers on pedestals instead of thinking about them in terms of being human and having a few personal short comings. We need to start accepting them as human beings and getting over expecting them to be perfect. No one is, not even Suheir Zaki ( my personal dance hero along with Mouna) about whom I have heard some real zinger stuff from Arab freinds. The point is, in expecting perfection we expect too much.
    A'isha... thank you for your candid-ness (is that a word??)
    yes, I think we do tend to "idolize" those who have opened up new worlds for us....
    I feel... as a teacher.. (& I tell my students... oooh & now that I look back... my children too!!!)... "I know SOO little, & what I do know is constantly changing... but that MY JOB is that of a catalyst.... to encourage your (the students) curiousity... and for you (the student (& child!)) to research & find your OWN truth in the dance (life!)"
    on the same note.... my students are ALWAYS asking me to do a video... but I am always hesitant... what I say today I may not agree with (as I find out more info. etc) tomorrow... so being "committed" to video always scares me!!! (though I better hurry up... so as to preserve on film what "youth" I have left ).... Suhaila (as one who has actually "committed" to video plus so much more) has done SOOOOOO much... maybe she forgets she "taught Egyptian"!!!!!
    PEACE!

  7. #17
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kharmine View Post
    I understand what you're talking about, and I certainly feel for Jamila if she actually invented particular moves, gave them unique names, and then saw them used by others with no credit or different names
    No, she never claimed to have "invented" them -- she watched and copied and studied and was one of, if not the first in her area, to organize the steps into logical "families" and give them somewhat logical names.

    "Basic Egyptian" is one of the names she gave the movement that is a step and a touch with a hip twist. She named it thus because it was one of the basic travelling steps she observed, and she called all the twist-based steps the Egyptian series --- thus, this simple step was Basic Egyptian.

    What is now called "Basic Egyptian" in a tribal format is sort of what Jamila called the Pivot-Shift-Step. There are other instances where she named a step one thing and tribal renamed the same step with another of her existing names. Suhaila chalks this up to signal degredation -- the farther you were from the source, the more the message got garbled.

    I have seen this phenomenon firsthand with dancers like Dina and Raqia Hassan. Bigname dancer comes to town, a few teachers go to the workshop. Those teachers go back home and teach "what they learned" only it's not QUITE the same thing. A colleague or student of theirs teaches someone else those steps and it's even farther from what Raqia ACTUALLY taught.

    It becomes an issue when people start saying "I teach a Raqia/Dina Technique workshop" and they're two or three times removed from Dina's or Raqia's actual instruction.



    But if Jamila didn't invent specific steps or moves, if they were already being used by other dancers, were common to, say, raqs sharqi or one of the older folkloric dance forms, then having the "right" to name 'em is moot, innit?
    It's not really about the Right to Name a step. Jamila can't figure out why they changed what to her is perfectly logical terminology, and why SOME persist in saying they teach Salimpour format when it's pretty obvious they've never actually studied her format. I gather she doesn't appreciate it, and that's her right.

    I can tell you this -- I like the Jamila format. It makes sense to me, and it's the perfect introduction to folkloric movements and Old-school Am Cab. Plus, it's easy to start with a basis in her format and then ease in modern Egyptian technique and styling. It works for me because it makes sense. I HAVE taken some workshops with people who Claim to be teaching Salimpour format, and frankly it's not. I don't know where they're getting their info, but it's not Salimpour format as Jamila or Suhaila is teaching it.


    Guess I need to hunt up some Bal Anat videos, if I can find 'em...
    Good luck! There are a few bootleg early videos of Suhaila, but very very very little outside of maybe the personal collections of original Bal Anat cast. Remember everything back then was done on 8mm or reel-to-reel, and a lot of it degraded before anybody ever thought about transferring it to videotape. Suhaila said Jamila never liked appearing on camera and they're both sorry they have so little in film footage or photos of Baby Suhaila and 70s Jamila. That "documentary" she showed us is rare indeed.

    Suhaila has said they basically had to quietly "sneak out" of the house to dance at the Fair. They had to get ready in the basement, and couldn't make a big production about leaving, so that way Daddy and the rest of the family could sort of pretend that they WEREN'T going out to dance in public.

    Of course, my hubby is fond of saying "Hindsight is 50-50" -- and you can always take personal history with a certain grain of salt, but I've met Arab men even today who have the attitude Suhaila's father did, so I can believe it.

  8. #18
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Jamila, etc

    Dear Aziyade,
    I call my trochanter based movement, what many people call hip drops or hip lifts, Basic Egyptian. I also call all other the other movements in my 10 fundementals "Basic". It has nothing at all to do with Jamila. I do not use her method, or Suhaila's or anyone's. I had to create a method and that was the wording that best described what I saw the Egyptians using as their basic hip movement.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  9. #19
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    A'isha, unfortunately I haven't seen your video, so I don't know if what you call Basic Egyptian is the same step as what Jamila called it, but it might be. I don't know how you came up with the name -- could be independent discovery? Dunno.

    I know Dahlena, Veda Sereem, Serena Wilson, Marta Schill, and Ozel Turkbas (who all had instructional "how-to bellydance" books in the 70s) never referred to the step-hip as Basic Egyptian. (Of course Ozel wouldn't, but I have to include her because I think she's so cute.)

    The litmus test is usually "maya" and "Turkish drop" -- if you've ever heard the vertical hip figure 8 done from upward to downwards referred to as a Maya or Amaya or Maia or any variation of, it's a reference to Jamila's terminology. She named that step after Maya Meduar or Maya Medwar (I've seen it spelled two different ways) because it was a step Maya did a lot of.
    Turkish drop was Jamila's term for something a specific Turkish dancer did that she thought was so dramatic.

    What's too funny is that I was just taking a workshop with a Cairo native who used to teach in California but who moved to Kentucky (!!!) yay for us! and anyway, SHE referred to that step as a "Maya." I asked her what it meant and she said she didn't know, but that it was what she'd heard it called. I told her the origin and she thought it was funny.



    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    Dear Aziyade,
    I call my trochanter based movement, what many people call hip drops or hip lifts, Basic Egyptian. I also call all other the other movements in my 10 fundementals "Basic". It has nothing at all to do with Jamila. I do not use her method, or Suhaila's or anyone's. I had to create a method and that was the wording that best described what I saw the Egyptians using as their basic hip movement.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  10. #20
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Movement names etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    A'isha, unfortunately I haven't seen your video, so I don't know if what you call Basic Egyptian is the same step as what Jamila called it, but it might be. I don't know how you came up with the name -- could be independent discovery? Dunno.

    I know Dahlena, Veda Sereem, Serena Wilson, Marta Schill, and Ozel Turkbas (who all had instructional "how-to bellydance" books in the 70s) never referred to the step-hip as Basic Egyptian. (Of course Ozel wouldn't, but I have to include her because I think she's so cute.)

    The litmus test is usually "maya" and "Turkish drop" -- if you've ever heard the vertical hip figure 8 done from upward to downwards referred to as a Maya or Amaya or Maia or any variation of, it's a reference to Jamila's terminology. She named that step after Maya Meduar or Maya Medwar (I've seen it spelled two different ways) because it was a step Maya did a lot of.
    Turkish drop was Jamila's term for something a specific Turkish dancer did that she thought was so dramatic.

    What's too funny is that I was just taking a workshop with a Cairo native who used to teach in California but who moved to Kentucky (!!!) yay for us! and anyway, SHE referred to that step as a "Maya." I asked her what it meant and she said she didn't know, but that it was what she'd heard it called. I told her the origin and she thought it was funny.

    Dear Aziyade,
    I use the term Maya, only to tell my students that they will hear this particular sway movement called that once in a while. They will also hear it called bicycle now and again. I also name movements after dancers occasionally, when I am teaching their version of a movement, but much of the time, I refer to movements as what they are, without benefit of specific names as such. For me, Maya is a variation on a sway movement and it usually has a number ( as in Sway variation # 4, for example) or may also called be referred to as downward sway. Since I do not use Turkish drop, I never refer to it. I developed a methodology of teaching Egyptian belly dnce based movement families or concepts. Everything that the Egyptian belly dancer does is one of ten things. ( My personal opinion is that you see these same 10 movement families in both Turkish and Lebanese belly dance as well, but I do not claim expertise in either of these areas.) I feel that there are many good teaching methods out there and that mine is just one of them. Mine, of course, makes the most sense to me, but someone else's probably makes the most sense to them. I am not one of those who wants to see a universal language put into place because I think that learning in the way that we did helps us to LOOK at movement more deeply instead of just cueing off a name and missing the subtler context of dance movement. Most of the Arabs that I have studied with do not give the movements names and often not even to dances. For example, for Raqs Najdi Hadith, Leila and I came up with the name becasue it had no name. I thought the specific dance needed a name to express that it was different from Samri in general. I will not be the least bit offended when people who pass on the dance refer to it as that, nor expect credit for the name. It is MEANT to be used for that specific thing. I think that the "Name" thing is very indicative of the western mind's way of organizing life and that, to, can really affect the way the dance is done.
    Regards,
    A'isha

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