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  1. #1
    Administrator Salome's Avatar
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    Default Do you consider it a folk dance?

    Greetings members,

    As I was watching the dance styles defined video listed in another thread there is a little section at the end where Morocco says "it [belly dance] was and is a folk dance".

    This isn't the first time I've heard Morocco make that statement. I definitely respect her vast knowledge in the field, she is a treasure trove of information.
    And who am I to disagree with her!?

    But on this statement... I consider Oriental dance a performance art, albeit ethnically and culturally specific, but not a folk dance. My understanding of a folk dance is a style of dance that originates among ordinary people and is traditional to their culture, community, or country. A dance done among ordinary people, 'non-professionally' and often spontaneously (in the sense that the dancing isn't an orchestrated performance) usually without a special costume. Like Baladi or debke...

    What are your thoughts? Do you consider Oriental dance a folk dance?

  2. #2
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Folk dance?

    Dear Salome,
    I feel that while Belly dance has its roots in folkloric dances, it is not a folkloric dance in itself, but has moved into the realm of entrtainment art, or performance art.
    I think a good comparison would be Tap in America, which definately came from folkloric roots, but changed dramatically as the people moved from the country to the city, and eventually became a professional dance form.
    This change from the agraraian environment to the urban environment changed the meaning, feeling and even the movement style of these dances and put them to a new and different use.
    I think this is true in many dances that start out as folkloric dance, but make that change when displaced from their natural environments.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  3. #3
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I agree with A'isha, and since she put it very well, I won't try to say the same thing in different words. I do tend to teach belly dance as much as a social dance as a performance art since most of my students are not interested in dancing in public beyond the occasional recital and student night. At least twice a year, I host a party that emphasizes just getting together to dance for and with each other. We have a blast. Before television and other lesser forms of entertainment evolved to plague civilization, people got together to make their own music dance, and this is my contribution to encouraging the custom.
    "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn " if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you."

  4. #4
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    I agree that it is now more of a performance art, but it is strongly rooted in the folk dances of the region. There are a lot of dancers out there who really strive to acheive the folk root in their dancing in which case, I think that it could potentially change the descriptor of the dance style. Raqs sharki, bellydance, or whatever name you prefer to call it, has been moderized to fit under the entertainment catagory as it is perceived by the general public.

  5. #5
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Folk dance?

    Dear Group,
    I think I should perhaps elaborate and say what I presume happened with the evolutionary process from the country to the stage. I think that even though Badia Masabni gets the "credit" if you will, for sort of inventing belly dance, I think this was already happening among the people in the cities... and she just took the new and evolving dance from the house to the stage and made it entertainment as well as pastime.
    I have no proof of this; it is just my theory, based on what has happened in other countries, to other folk arts as people moved into the more sophistocated city ( or court) environment and brought their own dances, songs, poetry and other folk art forms along with them. That, along with the fact that Arabs are very into creating from what came before them, makes me believe it's what happened with belly dance.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  6. #6
    V.I.P. Yasmine Bint Al Nubia's Avatar
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    Hi Everyone, I have the "American Dancer" DVD, from which those clips appeared from on youtube(what would we do without youtube?):eek: . Morrocco's comments at the end IMO serves to remind us of the folkloric foundation of the dance. To me, it is both a performance art which requires dedication and respect for the native cultures as well as a folloric dance to be enjoyed by ordinary people.
    Many of the students at our school is put off (initially) about perfroming too, so I try to emphasize the folkloric elements and sensibilities so they can appreciate the rich complexity the dance offers.
    Yasmine

  7. #7
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Folkloric

    Dear Yasmine,
    At the folkloric level, or the level where non-professional people get up and dance at parties, etc, the dance is really more Raqs Shaabi" or "Dance of the people". It often has some movements and attitudes in common with belly dance, but is not as complex or polished.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 07-27-2006 at 02:00 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member sedoniaraqs's Avatar
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    I think it all depends on how you circumscribe whatever you call the dance -- do you call the stage version the same as the non stage version?

    Personally, I think it helps the unitiated understand the cultural context of the dance if it is labeled as a stage-version of a folkdance.

    Sedonia

  9. #9
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    I agree with all of you. It kind of depends on how you define the dance. I think of staged Oriental Dance as a performing art with folkloric and folk roots. I have heard someone (I think Helene Eriksen but possibly others) diferentiate "folkloric" dance as staged/performance art versions of folk dances and "folk" dances as the dances of the ordinary people.

    I have had an "Arabic Dance" (as she defines the dance) who taught mainly as a folk dance. She didn't give advice about performance presentation and talked about beledi and shaabi a lot. I am not sure how culturally authentic her "folk" version was as she did correct technique (for her I posed my arms and hands too much) and much of the technique was similar to other classes that were more performance oriented. A lot of dancers in this area had no interest in performing and simply enjoyed dressing up for haflas and improvising the dance moves to arabic pop music. This was my fourth teacher and I found this a little pecular since I was use to a more performance-oriented perspective. It was lovely to be involved with this dance as a social dance, but it seemed like we were basically dancing "Oriental" (or maybe a little "beledi") as a social dance. Does that make it a folk dance? Or does it need to have the cultural context to count as a folk dance? When I took a couple of workshops in beledi, shaabi, debke and khaleegy they seemed very different (and much looser or more individual in technique), so I am not sure many Arabs would have seen what we were doing as their social/folk dance.

    I know a lot of dancers perform folk dances or the staged folkloric dances and the more glamourous staged versions have evolved from the social and folk dances. So I guess the answer depends on which aspect of this dance Rocky was referring to and how a folk dance is defined.

  10. #10
    Member tim ema's Avatar
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    This is a very interesting discussion!

    In my short time "getting into" bellydance, I have been approaching it as a "catch-all" term that included both family/village/folk branches of the danceform and the professional/choreographed branches.

    Personally, it seems to me saying "bellydance" or "Oriental dance" is kind of like saying "Celtic dance". It includes the local people at the pub dancing for fun and a big production like "Riverdance". When I watch "Riverdance" I personally don't think I'm watching a folk dance, NOR do I feel angered that they have "diluted" or "contaminated" a folk dance. It is a home/family/village dance taken to another venue and adapted TO that venue to shine its brightest in that venue.

    It is the nature of all cultural things; dances, songs, language, customs; to evolve WITH the living generations. Our dances, our languages are how we interface with our past and demonstrate that our past is relevent to our present. Indeed, if a song or a custom has NO relevence to the present but is ONLY a relic of the past, we tend to instinctivly cast it aside and relegate it to a museum. I have found bellydance VERY relevent to me as a woman and as a vibrant, celebratory person. I choose BD rather than hip-hop, etc because through BD I connect with all the women of the past and to their celebrations. I am interfacing with human lineage, and that to me is what gives bellydance its resonance and texture.

    I would categorize "modern" bellydance as a branch of folkloric dance that has adapted to the lives of people outside the original scope of its parent dances.


    AT

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