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.
in regards to jodette, sounds like she put herself on this pedestal. i dont expect perfection from people but honesty- yes, its a tiny little thing.
I was told maya (the reverse vertical 8 that goes out and down) was from the Arabic for water, because it looks like water or waves on the sea. No idea if it's true though!-- 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 think this is one of those convenient coincidences, though. I've only ever heard Americans give this etymology for the word Maya. Given Jamila's habit of naming OTHER steps after people, I think her version of how it came to be is more likely.
I can't remember when Jamila's book was published, but if somebody was REALLY interested in researching it, you could look for references outside of No Cal before 1970 or so. There's an old Arabic folk song called "waiya waiya" which has to do with water, and so I guess that could pretty easily be transformed into "Maya".
A'isha, your Arabic is way better than mine -- what say you?
Last edited by Aziyade; 05-01-2007 at 07:03 PM.
Well, first you would have to prove she has been dishonest. I hear comments constantly about the quality of stuff coming out of Egypt. I also hear that their way of doing business is quite different from ours. I, personally have not had her do or say anything that I thought was dishonest, only pretty much different from the way I would personally do it. I would never send a piece of shoddy merchandise out, but then, I have received some from companies that are indeed reputable. Again, if you take a moment to look at the cultural differences, Jodette has NOT put herself on a pedestal, she is just doing the usual cultural stuff as far as how she markets herself. Re the business end, I can not say if she is dishonest or not. I can only say that my dealings with her were very good. I can't say that I would be special to her in any way and she may not even remember me, but she still treated me very well.
I just called one of my Arab friends to ask and she says that MOYa or Ma' is water. Ma' is the proper term and Moya is slang. She further said that the name Maya does not mean water, and is pronounced differently than Moya. She does not know what it means in Arabic, but in Russian it means "dream or illusion", she thinks. ( Anatoliy??) The word Moya rhymes with joy and Maya rhymes with eye. She agrees that Maya would not be a name meaning water.
Regards to you both,
Last edited by Aisha Azar; 05-01-2007 at 07:14 PM.
Well, have to say that as a journalist I wish that some of these dancers and dance teachers who have been around a long time and could offer so much to historical research had better reputations for veracity!
Perfection of character is not the point. Somebody once wrote a nasty book about Mother Theresa and managed to make her look like a narrow-minded opportunist. We all have different standards of what we consider acceptable behavior.
We also tend to overlook flaws more in people who are our friends and are charming and agreeable to us. That's only human.
But, IMHO, when considering someone as a teacher, business practitioner or source of important information we should look at the overall picture as objectively as possible.
I tend to stay away from people who, no matter how charming they are, don't have reputations for ethical business dealings or for telling the truth consistently even when it's not to their advantage.
Learned that lesson all too well as a fledgling journalist (although I admit I still trust people too much on many occasions). Once you've had to apologize to your boss for not challenging someone's dubious testimony, you never forget it!
Often a name or word has different meanings in different languages. For example, my dog has the human name of Una. In celtic, it means lamb. In Latin in means unity or one. In Russian it also has a meaning, but I forget what it is right now.
In Arabic there is the name Faye, which means Shade, and in Gaelic if means something else all together.
1. Dancers like Jodette and Morocco and Jamila -- the grande-dames in our world -- probably never had any clue that people 40 years later would be interested in their memoirs and stories of how things used to be. So there probably wasn't much impetus to document exact dates and names and such.
2. As my hubby is fond of saying, "Hindsight is 50-50." The farther removed we are from a memory, the more likely we are to sort of "fudge" that memory into something that we maybe PREFERRED happened instead of what DID happen, or our perspective changes, so we see (at 40 years old) events as having different causes than we might have seen as a 20-year old.
For the longest time, I thought my family lived in Mexico for two years when I was a very small child. I can remember the house, the colors of the market, the dresses the women wore, and I knew I spoke baby Spanish as I was learning English. But wasn't I surprised, after finally talking to some of our family members a couple of months ago, to learn that we didn't live there for two years -- we lived there for about 3 months until my Dad found housing in Texas, just over the border, where we spent the rest of the time.
It doesn't make me a liar, does it? Because I didn't intend to lie. I honestly thought I remembered it that way. My hubby and I have "misremembered moments" in our 18 years together quite a bit. It's like the song -- "Ah yes, I remember it well."
Deliberate editing of one's resume doesn't necessarily make one a liar either, as long as you don't go too far. I keep having it pointed out to me that only VERY RECENTLY has anyone in the USA really cared about "styles" of bellydance, and staying authentic to one particular style or ethnicity.
In the 60s and 70s American dancers borrowed dance elements from everywhere in the perceived "Middle East" including what they saw in the old Egyptian movies, which was essentially them imitating us (Hollywood -- Busby Berkeley style theatre.)
Some dancers who "grew up" and spent their formative years learning this eclectic style understood it to be an "Arabic" style of dance. Or maybe they copied Egyptian movie choreography and thought "Oh I'm dancing Egyptian style." Was it? well, yes -- as they UNDERSTOOD what constituted Egyptian style.
We have a much different understanding of what is and is not Egyptian style now, but this is today, and we have the benefit of Shareen el Safy and Sahra Kent and all the lovely Egyptian teachers to come over here and say, "No, you're confused -- THIS is real Egyptian style."
I've been collected the Florida-based "Festival of the Nile" concert videos for some time. They've been doing this particular festival for around 25 years or more, so if you watch the tapes in order, you can see a progression of the dance as it was understood at that particular time. I think this it one of the coolest ways to actually "GET" how the American dancers' understanding of the dance evolved through the time -- and into the modern era where we like to catalog everything as being specifically this or that.
Jamila Salimpour has been harshly judged by some, I feel, for teaching "hokum" as true ethnic dance. But I want everyone to remember that this was the early 1970s, and the resources for learning REAL ethnic dance were scant at best. Film footage was shot on reel-to-reel 8 and 16mm film, and was expensive to process. Home moves shot at Egyptian weddings in Cairo weren't sold on ebay. You didn't have Dahlal International selling 150 different Egyptian performance videos.
Jamila used National Geographic as her main inspiration. Well, it wasn't until recently that we started to understand that NG was largely orientalist BS. (I was raised thinking NG was second only to the direct word of G_d. Of COURSE you could believe everything you read in NG! Why think otherwise?)
She also used those "scenes and types" postcards -- which again, people weren't widely aware that those photographs were completely staged until -- at least the mid 80's, when researchers started looking at them critically.
If an Algerian dancer told Jamila, "this is a step from the Ouled Nail dance" -- well, in 1972, why would Jamila assume she was lying or inaccurate in any way? She's Algerian; thus, she should know! And it's not like Jamila can call the local university Ouled Nail expert to check the source.
Besides, outside of a few actual dance and music scholars like Morocco, NOBODY CARED if it was "authentic." It was supposed to be entertainment. Caring about authenticity is a recent thing. Yes Jamila later admitted that what she taught was hokum. But how many of her former students stood up and complained "you LIED to us!!!" ? They didn't care. They just wanted to dance.
A lot of us have a different attitude today. There's a strong push to preserve the authentic, and to prevent certain region-specific dances from dying out. But other than with a few isolated individuals, this attutude was NOT prevalent in the past, or even if a person WAS interested in stalking the authentic, their resources were terribly limited.
We of the internet generation are terribly spoiled. I can see dance clips on Youtube that I NEVER would have encountered in my daily life. I can talk to actual Turkish people, and take WORKSHOPS (!!!!!!!!!!!) with real Turkish dancers!!!!! How cool is THAT????? (Thank you Paul Monty!) So of COURSE I'm going to be a snob about learning "Authentic" Turkish dance, because that option is actually AVAILABLE to me.
But back to veracity:
When I started performing, I loved old Turkish music so I decided I was going to be a "Turkish-style" dancer. The only thing remotely Turkish about my dancing back then was the music and a few movements I stole from an old Tulay Caraca video. I was Am Cab with a Turkish stage name. But as I UNDERSTOOD Turkish dance at that time, I was DOING Turkish!
It was only when I started to learn a little more about regional Egyptian styles that I began to look critically at my "Turkish" dancing and realized it wasn't quite right. Benny Hill could put on a dress and a wig and talk in a high-pitched voice, but that didn't make him a woman. I could put on a 9/8 and do the finger waggle, but it wasn't Turkish dance.
But there still exists video of me, and programs with my dance description as "Turkish" -- and I can't go back and edit that, now that I know better. I would imagine that a lot of our dancers and teachers who have "been around" for a while are trying to do a little editing themselves. I don't blame them -- they're just trying to adjust to what they NOW know about the dance, instead of being held to what they THOUGHT they knew years ago.
Good lord, this rambles on forever...!
I know a lot of people who do care that they were misled by Jamila, and since then by others. Some of the people who have told me how much they had to "unlearn" in order to dance authentically are indeed VERY unhappy about it. To spend one's time, money and guts and soul to learn something, only to be told years later that it was not real has been pretty difficult for some people.
I was fortunate to have started with Jodette precisely because she understood the dance from an Arab perspective. I got from the beginning that something was just "Off" somehow in a lot of what was being represented as belly dance on the West Coast. It took me some years to put my finger on it, and I am sure that I was not alone in having this feeling.
That being said, I was fortunate to have started when I did, because the dances from the Middle East and North Africa were just being brought back at about the time I started, by people like Morocco and A'isha Ali, there was an influx of the first Arab students into the American universities, and there were more immgirants to the U.S. from Arab countreis, so I was in a prime postion to learn a lot from a lot of different sources. I took full advantage of that.
I did study with people who were teaching what was then just called "bellydance". I spent about 5 years floundering around wondering what was wrong...why I wasn't seeing it right, etc. Then the magic thing happened and I got to see a video of Sohair Zaki. I got myself in tune with what Jodette had taught me and on track, and have not looked back. I had a few things to "unlearn" myself, so I can sympathize with those who studidd and thought they were getting the real thing. I think we can give Jodette credit for being ahead of her time on that since by 1974 she was already clearly defining her dance as "Egyptian" in order to point out that she was teaching authentic dance and not "hokum". Of course, she pissed off some people. Jodette hersef was probably not any angel, either.
One of the probelms with many of those dancers from the Jamila generation was they were afraid to utter these three little words: "I don't know". Rather than admit they did not really understand what they were doing, many of them wanted to appear to be the biggest and best authority in the field, and claim that they knew all about all the dances.( I see this as a continuing trend when I see people who have been dancing less than 5 years claiming to teach about 20 different dances when they have barely had time to begin to learn one!!) It became very competitive and pretty ugly all up and down the West coast and from what Morocco has said, back East as well.
So,the dance legacy then became fraught with competition and angst and a foundation of nonsense. We see where that has led, and today we get are graced with like Sadie and Kaya, Pirate belly dance, belly dance mixed with everything and anything and its all "okay". Except that we can't get recognized by any other dance form as having legitimacy because we don't even know what we are doing ourselves much of the time. People who have tried hard to make sure they stay within the realm of reality where the dance is concerned are often considered to be nasty purists who have no right to restrict the creativity of other people. People who could care less about the dance are out there doing whatever they want in its name. Our audiences walk away about twice as confused as when they walk in, after seeing performances of "Bellynesian" and Scottish bellydance.
If those first dancers had taken the time to be real with what they were doing, I think the dance would be much more respected than it is now, and people would understand the importance of authentic dance. I think that fusions and creative endeavours within the dance would be attempted with a lot more intelleigence and knowledge if the first dancers had only put their egos aside and taken care of the dance itself. I can say that I am encouraged that people are now taking the time to at least consider that the ethnic dances as they come from countries of origin are important, and we finally are giving some thought to stopping calling it all "belly dance".
Last edited by Aisha Azar; 05-02-2007 at 04:58 PM.