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 ...