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  1. #1
    V.I.P. Kharmine's Avatar
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    Question Anyone know more about this teacher?

    I came across the web site of a belly dance teacher named Jodette in Sacramento who claims to be the "only authentic teacher in America," the "first teacher in America," the one who "brought Baladi and Candelabra" to the United States, etc. Jodette's Belly Dancing Academy

    Which puzzles me because she says very little about her background, nothing about what makes her the "first" and the "only authentic" anything -- and I don't remember reading anything anywhere else that gives her the kind of credit she's claiming.

    The web site is written in rather garbled English and doesn't provide much information about her. Several Gilded Serpent references say that she has had a dance studio in Sacramento since forever, that her last name is Johnson, that she was a child prodigy in Jordan, that she was looking for students at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire back in the day when Jamilla Salimpour's dance troupe was performing there in the '70s-- and that's about it.

    I'm still piecing together belly dance history in the U.S. and would like to know where this teacher fits in. Anyone know anything more?

  2. #2
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    wow that's a bit bold, huh?

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    V.I.P. Kharmine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstacy123 View Post
    wow that's a bit bold, huh?
    Yes, that's what I thought. My teacher has been dancing since the '70s, when she learned from the legendary Dahlena, one of the pioneers of belly dance education in the United States, who is still alive and teaching.

    As with many of the early teachers, Dahlena learned from Middle Eastern performers such as Liz and Lyn Gamal -- there weren't formal classes in her day so the imported performers and immigrant dancers were often sought out by those wanting to learn belly dance.

    Then there's Serena Wilson and, of course, Morocco, who all learned "back in the day" in a similar way and still teach today. And perhaps a score of others.

    Perhaps Jodette thinks of herself as the only authentic because-Middle-Eastern-by-birth-and-ancestry dance teacher, if she truly is from Jordan originally. But there's very little information about her, which makes me curious as I'd think she'd be better known.

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    V.I.P. Yasmine Bint Al Nubia's Avatar
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    Could this be the teacher Aisha refers to as her teacher? I wonder...any comment Aisha?
    Yasmine

  5. #5
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Hey I've heard of her I think - I downloaded a program off Radio Bastet - Vintage Belly Dance Music (vintage bellydance music, 1960's and 70's stuff) and I'm sure she was mentioned. Ooh yes, all coming back now - they played some instructional records by a Jodette.

    Go here LP Cover Gallery and Track Listings - Page 12 and scroll down through the groovy 60's dancers for a picture. Must be the same one.

    I'm starting to know way too much bellydanciana.

  6. #6
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Jodette Silhi Johnson

    Quote Originally Posted by Yasmine Bint Al Nubia View Post
    Could this be the teacher Aisha refers to as her teacher? I wonder...any comment Aisha?
    Yasmine

    Dear Yasmine,
    Yes, I am very proud to say that Jodette was my first teacher. When you read her website,two things. First, in Arab culture, it is customary to exaggerate in a way that seems unacceptable to westerners much of the time. Arabs in general are quite flowery and verbose in their linguistic style. (They even exaggerate their modesty, if you can follow that!!) This goes for not only giving out compliments, but often in trying to express one's own achievements. We often don't like that very much here. Remember how mad people used to get at Mohammed Ali the boxer back when he was Cassius Clay and used to talk about how he was the Greatest??

    I do not know how many times I have been told about my own dancing, "You are the only one", or heard about others "I am the only one" or "He is the only one". It does not literally mean what it says in English, but is just a term of high praise. I think I have explained this before in other areas of the site, but can't recall exactly where.

    Jodette danced and/or sang under the name of Kamelia ( I forget which... I have not seen her in many years now), and in the States it made sense to her to sometimes bill herself as "The only Kamelia of Jordan". She worked on the Egyptian circuit. I guess I am so used to people speaking pidgeon English around me that I never have thought too much about it. My grandparents on one side barely spoke English, and my mother often gets her words out sideways though she has spoken English since she went to grade school, so it feels sort of normal to me.
    Secondly, Jodette's English was really sketchy at the time I studied with her, and I do not really know how it is now, but in reading her site, I found that she writes about the same as when she used to speak. Parts of her classes were in English, parts in Arabic and parts in her version of English.
    Her name is Jodette Silhi Johnson because she married a Texan named Johnson.
    There was a time when she was really getting a LOT of flack from American dancers who were teaching and trying to discredit her because what she was teaching was so different from what they were passing off as
    "authentic". She also was not always up on how to do business the American way. I have to add here that she was always very honest with me in every way. People were often dissatified with her business tactics, but usually did not have any criticism of her dancing. All one has to do is see Jodette dance to know she is the real item as it was in the 50s and 60s in Egypt. I met her in 1974. She may not always express herself in ways that are acceptable to the average American, but she knows her stuff. I think she is wonderful and I hope she is feeling well. She has to be getting up there in age now.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 04-29-2007 at 09:50 PM.

  7. #7
    V.I.P. Kharmine's Avatar
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    Heh, I'm beginning to think one can never know enough!

    I don't remember A'isha's teacher as having the last name of Johnson (got that from somewhere on The Gilded Serpent); that could just be wrong or she married a Westerner at some point and didn't use that surname professionally.

    While I know publicity photos can be deceptive, the woman on the web site sure doesn't look old enough to have been a teen-ager during World War II. Heck, that would be about my mum's age, and she's in late 70s!

    But Jodette of Sacramento also does look a lot like the woman on the old album covers at Radio Bastet (thanks, Aniseteph!). I didn't get the Kamelia connection until I Googled Jodette Kamelia and found this:
    Legends of the Past

    Unfortunately, you try to link to "Jodette's story" on the same page and you get an error message. So there's still not much info about her. I think where I saw her name on The Gilded Serpent it was about the early days of Jamilla Salimpour's troupe, Bal Anat, that performed at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in California in the 1970s. Of course, now I can't find that particular reference.

    According to this web page, Jodette, also known as Kamelia of Jordan, danced with Madame Badia at her famous Cairo nightclub. The web page says that if you send money to Jodette in Sacramento, you get tapes about the "Legends of Egypt". So maybe this Jodette dropped "Kamalia" at some point but is the same one as on the old album covers.

    When she came to the States or why she's thinks she's the "first" or the "only authentic teacher" I still don't know. The hunt goes on...

  8. #8
    V.I.P. Kharmine's Avatar
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    I don't know how, but my previous post suddenly seems to have moved in the line. Oh well...

    Maybe Jodette has an old picture of herself in her attic, slooowly aging as she keeps her own youthful appearance ... more power to her, whatever the reason.

    It would be nice to know more about her, someone who has obviously been around since the early belly dance scene, regardless of what else she may claim. She hasn't written anything I can find (other than, possibly, instructions that came with those old albums), doesn't seem to have been interviewed at length any time recently, and has very, very little on her web site.

    She'd be an excellent candidate for Salome to interview. I'd like to know more about how she learned to dance, the experience with Madame Badia's Casino (it would be great to finally read a firsthand account of what performing there was like!), other dancers she knew, how her practice of raqs sharqi evolved, and how she came to the United States -- just for a start.

    She can't have been at odds with [I]every[I] American belly dance teacher in the early days. Maybe just on the West Coast, and the likes of Jamilla Salimpour.

    Dahlena taught some of the first formal belly dance classes ever in the United States, in Chicago, and Serena in New York City. Not sure when Morocco first started teaching but she was early on, too. They all learned from actual Middle Eastern dancers. And today we have many more teachers who are able to study from authentic sources, here or abroad.

    So one would think some kind friend would have convinced Jodette by now not to make claims on her web site that slight every other dance teacher in the United States. Maybe she doesn't realize that regardless of what she may have intended, that is certainly what comes across in English.
    Last edited by Kharmine; 04-30-2007 at 12:37 AM.

  9. #9
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Her website has substantially changed in the past couple of years. It used to be kind of a mess, but full of interesting information. She sold around 30 compilations of old black and white movie performance footage of the Egyptian greats, and had three book-length typewritten manuscripts (in jumbled English) about her adventures. I saw one of the books but never bought it, and now I wish I had.

    She ticked off some dancers in the area because her OLD website advertised that she had dancers for hire and only sent out the prettiest and youngest to perform -- or something to that effect. I'm glad to see she's changed that now

  10. #10
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Jodette

    Dear Aziyade,
    I have several of her booklets and some copies of her magazine "Binti Beledi", and she does tell about her life quite often. She states that Tahia Carioca is the one who encouraged her dance career. She started singing when she was 12. She had a great voice. I have an album on which she sings. She comes from a family of entertainers.
    Jodette came to the states in 1960. She might be 80 years old by now. She was a contemproray of Jamila Salimpour, who is at least 80 if not older. Suhaila was born when Jamila was 40, and I think Suhaila is about 40 now.
    Yeah, she often does try to sell things in the Egyptian way, hence we have her saying things about the "best", the "prettiest", etc. A first class western marketing expert she ain't!!
    Regards,
    A'isha

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