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  1. #101
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    Dear A'isha

    I agree with you on all this:
    - It is important to recognize and preserve the authentic ethnic forms as such.
    - There is no problem with Westernized forms as long as they are identified as such.
    - People prefer their own fantasies to reality much of the time. Honesty is critically important, but these two facts are in conflict. The first makes self-evaluation almost impossible, I sometimes think.
    - History is often just as abused in academia as elsewhere.
    - The existing problems in guiding or controlling dance education would not be solved by moving it into an academic environment. Possibly they would only be changed in form, or magnified, but on the other hand there would be MORE of it, and it could be more easily monitored. The jury is still out in my mind on this topic. I wonder what dancers of other forms think of their dance as taught in a college setting....
    - It is at least as possible to get a good education in MED outside the academic setting as in it ( I would think better if you mean learning HOW to dance anyway)

    There are just lots of people hungry to learn now. They are going to find whatever resources they can rather than not doing it at all, or spending years reading what sounds like splitting hairs before finding a teacher. At the beginning no one is in a position to evaluate what their teachers are telling them, naturally! As Morocco says "You have to know what you are seeing to know what you are looking at." (Luckily for me I started with her, and she definitely knows and cares about the differences between forms and styles.)

    I think your frustration is more with other teachers who fail to spell out or care about the differences between authentic and Westernized, than with the new students looking for options and just thinking "the more options, the better." I'm saying this partly because I think newcomers reading this may feel like your frustration extends to them, when I believe that it actually doesn't.

    P.S. In my book you get a lot of credit for standing up and saying what you believe when it isn't always popular or politically correct. (And even if I don't agree with you 100% of the time!)

    Regards, Cathy
    Last edited by cathy; 02-03-2008 at 01:28 PM. Reason: Added P.S.

  2. #102
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auntie Crazy View Post
    I want to respond to your last quote first.

    I'm sorry you are offended and feel neglected. I don't know how to make you feel otherwise, except to point out that if your concerns weren't being taken seriously, we wouldn't be having this dialog.

    As for the dialog itself, no matter how hard I try, we are always at odds. I care about this dance, despite my short history with it. I also accept that change is a fact, in all things and especially in art. The only way to preserve the past is to work hand and hand with the future.

    The path forward may be a difficult one that can look impossible sometimes, but you shouldn't give up. I can't speak for others, but I have a clear understanding today about the differences between the old and the new, and a value of the old that I did NOT possess before I joined this forum and met you.

    For that, I thank you.

    Miranda

    Dear Miranda,
    I do not feel either offended or neglected. What I feel is damn tired. This happens to me from time to time because I put an incredible amount of effort into trying to preserve something that many people do not even feel exists. As for "old and new", that is not the issue here. The dance continues to evolve in countries of origin, which is something that is often overlooked. The difference is that in countries of origin, the dance is retaining that ethnic essence in ways that is not happening in other places. Western countries are not saving the dance. It is alive and well in Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey! (And please, God, if you truly are merciful, do not let anyone try to say that it is because of the West!)
    Thank you for the words of encouragement. They do mean a lot!


    Dear Cathy,
    Thanks for actually understanding what I am saying, whether or not you agree. I used to be one of those who had a very romantic view of what living in an academic environment would be like. The reality was a real slap in the face for me. I saw abuse and power struggles like you would not believe, both as a student and as a staff member. It seemed like for every truly gifted teacher who cared deeply about the students, there were five people who were there because they were tenured, or they had egos so out of control that they made students' lives miserable. It was certainly not all about advancing education, believe me. I took classes in many different disciplines, but worked for 7 years in the theatre/dance department. I costumed people from at least 4 different universities and colleges at times, as well as some other theatres, so this is not my experience based on one school. I dealt with some of the most pompous human beings I have ever, ever met.
    You are correct. My frustration is not with students, but with the whole premise of teaching the dance from a place of not being clear about what is being taught in the first place, and passing that on to students as if it were ethnic gospel. I think Morocco's quote sums it up quite nicely.
    Regards to you both,
    A'isha

  3. #103
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    I have two comments:

    1. I don't know how long ago it was that A'isha took the workshop with Alexandra, and since I wasn't there, I didn't hear her philosophy of why "we can do whatever we want" with the dance. Maybe what she was saying is what we have said here -- that you can include what you want, as long as it has the Oriental "essence."

    I have heard Artemis say something SIMILAR -- that if we want to do Turkish Oriental, that any of the movements from our standard Am Cab vocabulary would be appropriate (I think this is because Am Cab has a history in Turkish Oriental dance) and that we could explore veil more, since the Turks are/were experimenting more with veil pieces and full veil numbers. AND, I have had a prominent Turkish choreographer tell me directly to do something "original" with Turkish dance since it's supposed to be an individual experience, and we shouldn't be dancing "the way our grandmothers danced." Perhaps the Turkish dancers in general are more "forgiving" of American innovation. Dunno.

    So agin, I dunno, BUT I don't think that I would throw out Alexandra's entire syllabus as "too western" without being a part OF those classes and seeing how they're taught. And I don't agree that what you dance is what you teach.

    I've performed Goth pieces more than I've performed anything Egyptian or Am Cab, just because that was a more accessible venue for me. Does that mean that I teach Goth dance? No. Does that mean I teach Goth sensibility and style in my regular classes? Heck no. I also teach "belly fitness" classes, and belly dance for fitness in the workplace classes. Do I DANCE like that? No.

    When I had access to Turkish musicians here, I was trying to do a lot more Turkish style dancing. I wasn't teaching that though. My class syllabus comes directly out of my experience with Shareen el Safy. But I very rarely dance real Egyptian style, since I get asked to do drum solos and sword work in most of my performance gigs; and since very few people do Turkish or Am Cab with cymbals in belly dance shows anymore, I enjoy doing that instead of Egyptian.


    2. We've ALL had bad teachers. Most of us get over it. And anybody who has taught in a university environment can tell you horror stories about the politics. That is LIFE, and having worked in other industries, I can tell you that's LIFE everywhere. Whether you're teaching or making widgets or writing for a newspaper -- politics is politics. Nonsense is nonsense.

    The very same nonsense that we've experienced in an academic setting -- we also experience this in a NON-ACADEMIC setting as well. Since there is no regulation of belly dance teachers, and no way for a new beginning student to judge the quality and qualifications of the teacher, it's actually probably statistically MORE likely to get a lousy dance education outside of the university environment.

    We've all seen teachers who let cliques run their classroom. DRAMA is king in belly dance classes. Interpersonal conflicts are many. Students go off and teach after 6 weeks of classes, and then drag THEIR students into drama. It's crazy. There are students out there who have NEVER HEARD of Sohair Zaki or Um Kalthoum. There are teachers out there who wouldn't know Saidi from Shinola, and worse --- DON'T CARE.

    ***

    One thing that was brought up in this thread was the legitimate concern of the Transmission of Oriental Dance in the academic environment. I do agree that there is an "Eastern" way of teaching the dance, and a "Western" way. I think this bears closer study -- are Eastern people more visually-oriented? And if so, is it cultural, learned behavior from home? Why aren't more Westerners visually oriented? Or are we by birth visually oriented, and is our educational method turning us more into verbal learners? This could be the subject of a whole class -- the transmission of the dance, with Michelle Fornier's thesis as the textbook.

    How would classes be taught, the Eastern or Western way? Again, another good question, and one that seems to me centers around the question above.


    A'isha and others -- these are legitimate concerns, and people ARE taking them seriously, but except for the debate about the transmission of the dance, you have simply failed to convince me that teaching MEdance in an academic environment is NOT going to be beneficial.

  4. #104
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    For the record, Alexandra and staff teach ONE for credit course in Middle Eastern dance:
    UCSB General Catalog - Dance

    The class may be repeated 3 times, but only once for dance major credit.


    If you are curious about her performing group, they have videos available here:

    UCSB Middle East Ensemble (MEE) is an official “Ethnomusicology Performance Ensemble” in the UCSB Music Department

    It seems to be they have the performing dance group to go along with the Musical ensemble. (Ethnomusicology's focus IS music.)
    UCSB Middle East Ensemble (MEE) is an official “Ethnomusicology Performance Ensemble” in the UCSB Music Department


    Here are the classes in the music: ethnomusicology program -- again, no dance classes:
    Music - UC Santa Barbara 2007-2008 General Catalog


    Here's where you can take a belly dance class in the fitness center:
    UCSB Leisure Review - Dance Classes


    So using Alexandra and UCSB as an example is probably not really appropriate.

    IU offers ethnomusicology, but with no dance element.


    Anyplace else??? It would be great to see this dance offered as more than just a 1-credit elective, or as a continuing ed or fitness center class.

  5. #105
    Super Moderator Mosaic's Avatar
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    Just read an article/book review at Gilded serpent. I think it fits in with what is being discussed here. I am going to buy this book

    Delilah recomments a book for the Gilded Serpent

    This also a very interesting article on Gilded serpent - much food for thought!
    Leila explains her teaching method for the Gilded Serpent
    Last edited by Mosaic; 02-04-2008 at 11:51 PM. Reason: another article

  6. #106
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    I loved Leila's article -- and Delilah's -- she cracks me up. :P Guess I'm going to have to get that book!

    I would be very curious if Randa, Dina, or any of the current greats in Egypt had any kind of "formal" dance training -- in any discipline. Does anyone have access to this information? I'm told Dina took tap lessons, but can't confirm that. I'll check around, but if anyone knows, please post.

  7. #107
    V.I.P. da Sage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    I loved Leila's article -- and Delilah's -- she cracks me up. :P Guess I'm going to have to get that book!

    I would be very curious if Randa, Dina, or any of the current greats in Egypt had any kind of "formal" dance training -- in any discipline. Does anyone have access to this information? I'm told Dina took tap lessons, but can't confirm that. I'll check around, but if anyone knows, please post.
    I think Dina had a little bit of ballet at some point, but I don't know when.

  8. #108
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Dance, etc.

    Dear Gang,
    We also have to keep in mind that most of the Egyptians with whom we study are not teachers, they are performers. They are not really geared for teaching. There are exceptions of course, like Raqia Hassan, and Nadia Hamdi was an excellent teacher.
    Another thing is that their main focus is not the movements that westerners have come to think of as "the Dance", but instead on the feelings in the music that makes them move in certain ways. They focus instead on interpreting the music through their own feelings, with the movement being just a tool for doing that instead of being THE reason for the dance.. So, we get the less technical look (even with the more choreographed dancers) and the striking cultural essence that defines authentic ethnic belly dance.
    Another point is that, regardless of whether or not these dancers took ballet, tap, flamenco, etc, usually there is a strong cultural filter through which all of that input is strained. We see that on the other side of the coin with most western dancers who are attempting to perform Middle Eastern dance. I have seen some of the worst ballet influenced stuff in the world done by Farida Fahmi as directed by Reda. It was so insipid I can not to this day even watch the whole video in one sitting. I have tried several times to figure out where they went wrong, but my ballet knowledge is pretty limited, so I only can say that it is INSIPID beyond words. On the other hand, I can point out in minute detail what is right and wrong in Egyptian belly dance because I have many years of experience with it.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  9. #109
    Senior Member sedoniaraqs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    Another point is that, regardless of whether or not these dancers took ballet, tap, flamenco, etc, usually there is a strong cultural filter through which all of that input is strained. We see that on the other side of the coin with most western dancers who are attempting to perform Middle Eastern dance. I have seen some of the worst ballet influenced stuff in the world done by Farida Fahmi as directed by Reda. It was so insipid I can not to this day even watch the whole video in one sitting. I have tried several times to figure out where they went wrong, but my ballet knowledge is pretty limited, so I only can say that it is INSIPID beyond words.
    Perhaps what is wrong is that they were in fact trying to present a western style dance, not just use western technique in Egyptian dance, but they couldn't turn off their own "cultural filter".

    What film or video were these on?

    Sedonia

  10. #110
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Dance etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by sedoniaraqs View Post
    Perhaps what is wrong is that they were in fact trying to present a western style dance, not just use western technique in Egyptian dance, but they couldn't turn off their own "cultural filter".

    What film or video were these on?

    Sedonia
    Dear Sedonia,
    It certainly looks t me like they were trying to emulate balletic productions from the west, and just were not getting the precise feeling, nor were they using movement to cover the stage in quite the right way, or getting enough real intent behind what they were doing. It was like flotsam on a quiet sea.....
    The video is called "Muwashahat Reda Troupe"
    Starring Farida Fahmy
    Choreographed by Mahmoud Reda
    The front cover has Ms. Fahmy in an orange and peachish skirt, shebakah and sleeves,with, it looks like silver bra and belt and stomach piece, her arms spread wide. It is soft focus. The writing on the front is in Arabic and on the back it is in English.
    Regards,
    A'isha

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