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  1. #1
    Member Yasmina's Avatar
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    Default Why deny the sensual?

    Ok guys, this is what's on my mind:

    I had a workshop a couple of days ago with a very-well-known American instructor. She used a breath-taking Egyptian baladi song to teach us a choreo and during the break she came to me and said that I should try not to forget to smile all the time because I apparently forgot about my facial expressions and let myself go a little bit. ("You know, you don't wanna end up on a photo looking like you're about to cry or having a facial expression that could be interpreted wrongly - you wanna be on the picture with a nice innocent smile").

    The girl next to me heard this and said "Yeah, it's funny how you make those faces" and imitated me by making porn faces and licking her lips. She added "People already think that bellydance is all about being sexy and seductive and we don't wanna contribute to that". I was extremely extremely hurt and offended, since I would never ever in my life try to look porno-sexy on purpose and the last thing I would like to do is "damage the name of this dance" (two things I was accused of).

    After this I tried to put up a nice smile, and this really really didn't work for me, because I paid so much attention to my facial expression that I forgot to dance. I ended up feeling very unnatural and also very not-sexy. The instructor gave me a nice approving (innocent) smile.

    Later on, she was explaining a move, and she warned us not to touch our body with our hands "because the dance is already sensual and we don't want to cross the limit" (meaning that by touching our body we cross the limit of approved sensuality).

    Ok, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS ALL ABOUT? Maybe I need to change my teacher, but in his choreos he lets us touch our body all the time, we touch our hair all the time and he tells us to feel sexy all the time. Is having problems with this a Western thing?

    Please note that I'm not offended by the fact that she corrected me (ofcourse it's possible that I have a very ugly distracting or disturbing facial expression while dancing, but I don't think that this is different from my general facial expressions - I shoud check, maybe I look very ugly when I feel sad or sexy or whatever, but in this case what can I do? I can't "choreograph" my face, right?). I was offended by her reasoning: apparently she thought that I responded to the music on a sexual manner and this being shown in my face, was a clear offense to the dance.

    I had heard that there are a lot of people having problems with the sensual nature of the dance, but isn't this just denial? The dance IS about being sad, sexy or whatever, just like life is.......right? This instructor is thought of being highly qualified and she gets a lot of praise and she apparently thinks differently. Have I been missing something all this time?

  2. #2
    Member Yasmina's Avatar
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    Sorry, this is in the wrong forum.....How can I move it?

  3. #3
    V.I.P. Moon's Avatar
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    Oh, that was very mean of the other student to claim you were making porn faces while you probably were making more neutral/sad faces according to how the music made you feel.
    I think some Western people might be affraid that with sensual/sexy, it is all about seducing men etc. and not really as feeling comfortable with all of your emotions (including sexuality).
    Just my 2 cents.
    Last edited by Moon; 12-04-2007 at 04:57 PM. Reason: typo

  4. #4
    Senior Member sedoniaraqs's Avatar
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    Yasmina, I agree the dance is sexy, but I have seen my share of dancers with unappealing expressions on their faces. Go to youtube and search "Kaya belly dance" for one good example.

    In general, opening the mouth is a very tricky thing. Many of the Egyptian dancers will strike facial expressions with slightly parted lips, but it is oh so easy for this to go terribly terribly wrong.

    Baladi dance is generally a contrast of sensual and innocent. I don't see porn faces and lip licking being a part of this. Not saying you were doing this -- but have you studied your dancing and facial expressions on video? It is possible to modify your natural facial expressions and then use them expressively.

    Sedonia

  5. #5
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    Ohh Yasmina that just gets under my skin so much! As someone who was trained by people from the Middle East, I was taught (well, mainly shouted at; bluntness is one of the best qualities I have found across the board in people from that area of the world) that the dance is ALWAYS sensual and that it is also sexual! It should NEVER be denied because then it looks stilted and in my opinion, extremely robotic and silly. You are in the right on this one. A lot of Westerners have the idea that they need to divorce the sexuality from the dance, thereby taking the entirety of what the dance is about away from it. I think that many in the West do equate sexuality with dirty/porn/etc...either that or they buy into the 'mother goddess' myth that the dance is only for women and for some reason these teachers tend to commonly also divorce sexuality from the dance in order to claim it is 'female empowerment', which is historically inaccurate and sexist.

    I always hated it when people would say 'just smile smile smile!!!' Okay so then what is my audience going to think when I am grinning while dancing to a song that says: 'and we grow fat on the charms of our idle dreary days, seen the shadows grow, see an ominous display with no alarm, could we say we've expected this way?'

    One of the most amusing and unprofessional things I have seen:
    dancers that grin like idiots while dancing to extremely sad songs. You are right, Yasmina. It is ours to interpret the music, and you cannot interpret it by divorcing it from what it is based in (sexuality) as well as from what the song itself is about. Where is the creative expression in that?


    PS Moon- thanks so much for the comment on my video! I didn't think anyone watched it.
    Last edited by Brea; 05-18-2008 at 01:47 AM.

  6. #6
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Did she approach you quietly, or call you out in front of the whole class? Either way, the girl next to you was WAY wrong.

    Plastering on a fake smile isn't the way to go. Especially, as Brea said, if it completely doesn't fit the music.

    You can actually "choreograph" your facial expressions -- or at least learn to control them. Video yourself and see if anything tracks "too sexy" or "porn face" to you. If it doesn't, then I wouldn't worry about it.

    I touch my hair a lot when I dance. It just seems the right thing to do sometimes. And while I don't stroke my skin, I'll hug myself, or touch my face with my hands. I mean there's touching yourself and there's TOUCHING yourself, you know? I don't want to watch you masturbate on stage, but touching your body or your face or your hair is perfectly acceptable in this dance.

    The comment is one instructor's opinion. Take it or leave it. I've heard some CRAZY sh*t from well-respected instructors. Nobody knows everything. Your goal is to figure out what's right FOR YOU.

  7. #7
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    That was mean of the dancer to say that. Why is it such a big deal since it is just a practice??? It was not like it was a performance...you were just learning. Sorry people are like that, sometimes it is embarassing what others think and how insensitive they can be.

  8. #8
    Senior Member sedoniaraqs's Avatar
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    I guess I'm just playing devil's advocate here. I know there is a tendency of American dancers to neutralize the sexuality in the dance and to not be in touch with their music (happy face during sad song, etc), but how do we know this teacher didn't have a point in her correction?

    If someone came on and posted that their posture or hip movements had been corrected by a teacher, would we all be automatically be jumping to the student's defense? No probably just the opposite. We would assume the teacher was in the right, whether she was or not would be just as unknown to us.

    The fact is that it is just as easy to go overboard or off the correct path on facial expressions, hair touching or body touching as it is to be overly-inhibited about them.

    Sedonia

  9. #9
    Senior Member Gia al Qamar's Avatar
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    I feel very strongly about this subject.
    First, let me say that the other student was 150% wrong to 'immitate' you and she should be ignored.
    Second...facial expressions need to be rehearsed the way that hand movements and choreography needs to be rehearsed. Natural expression is all well and good...but...when you're performing, you need to put your best face forward...pun intended.
    Third...
    I think there is a GIGANTIC, huge, massive thick line between dancing sensuously and dancing sexually.
    Your teacher was 100% correct to instruct you not to fondle your body or it's parts and to be aware that some of your facial expressions were too "orgasmic".
    What is the difference between dancing sexually vs. sensually?
    Easy.
    When you enjoy yourself and share this with others, the experience is naturally sensual. Like eating chocolate, the moment is pure pleasure and you're enjoying that moment.
    When you're dancing with the intention to arouse others...it's sexual. Laying your open hands across your belly and massaging in a circle...sexual. Running your hands through your hand and massaging your scalp with an open mouth...sexual. Thrusting your crotch at an audience...sexual.
    Don't laugh...I've seen em all...
    Belly dance has a naturally sensual nature to it. Gilding the lily by adding sexually suggestive movements or facial expressions isn't only unnecessary, but it adds to the stereotypical myth that belly dancers are strippers, whores and have to rely on sexual antics to entertain.
    Gia

  10. #10
    V.I.P. Moon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gia
    When you enjoy yourself and share this with others, the experience is naturally sensual. Like eating chocolate, the moment is pure pleasure and you're enjoying that moment.
    I think that is a really good comparison, thank you! (and not just because I like chocolate).
    It's what I was trying to say with the difference between "trying to seduce others"-sensuality (what I think most Western people think of when they think about sexuality) or "feeling comfortable with yourself and your emotions"-sensuality.

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