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  1. #11
    Senior Member sedoniaraqs's Avatar
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    Although I have no strong positive opinions on what I know about the current "certifications" that are out there, I would like to offer my opinion on the general concept of working towards a formalized curriculum for Middle Eastern Dance, because I see much *potential* that the dance community could work towards in this area.

    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    Dear Gang,
    One of the issue with certification is that it tends to make people think about the dance in ways that certification usually does other disciplines where certificates of completion are given.
    But I see this only in very applied technical fields such as cosmetology or plumbing. It is not generally true in the arts and sciences.

    ]In belly dance, in fact there is no completion.The learning process is never ending.
    But this is also true for other dance forms, art, music, and science, and yet we have established degree programs for these. A high school student who attends band or orchestra camp receives a certificate of completion but no one assumes this is a sign of overall completion of their musical training, or a sign that they are competent in all styles of music, or even the one taught in the course. The student doesn't go out and get a job on that piece of paper. I don't think a certificate necessarily has an implication of completion in that sense.

    (from previous post in this thread) We have no agreed on criteria for what the dance is and is not, and no way to write a formula down on paper for what is and is not good belly dance. Therefore, there is no diploma out there that is worth receiving unless a person wants very much to say they took an entire course of classes from this or that dancer.
    [quote] These two statements seem non sequitur to me. Because again, there are many fields in the arts and sciences where there is little agreement as to what constitutes good or bad. Do all professors of literature agree on what constitutes a good poem? Not even close. But this does not render meaningless a degree in literature. And at the same time, having a degree in literature does not mean someone is a good poet or writer.

    Also, one can be certified in Suhaila's or Hadia's or whoever's course and still not really understand much about other forms of the dance. I have found that many times people think these certifications mean a lot more than the actually do as far as the scope of the recipient's knowledge and experience.
    It would help to have certifications with rigorous assessment. I do not know if the ones you mentioned do or don't. However, if someone takes a university course and receives an A, it doesn't mean they are experts in the field, but it is evidence that they learned something *if* there were term papers, exams, quizzes, discussions, etc. that the student had to work hard on to receive the A. If everyone who showed up got an A, then the grade means nothing.

    It would also help to move towards developing the idea of formal curriculum and certificates or degrees into the realm of universities. Then it becomes somewhat less about marketing and profits and somewhat more about peer-review.

    The other thing is that certification is so very, very far from the Middle Eastern way of approaching the dance, and stands to sort of sterilize the dance on so many levels.
    But again, this is no different from many other things. In French class, non-francophone students do not learn the language in the same manner as native speakers. In music classes and programs, students do not learn folk forms of music in the same manner as the folk musicians in the culture do. Getting a degree in Jazz performance *means* something, even if the performer did not learn in the same manner as the folk who originally developed the music.

    This can be seen in the work of several really famous American dancers, and I bet Europeans have their fair share of these kinds of dancers also.
    Regards,
    A'isha

    I agree with you, but does it have to be this way? What if there were a Middle Eastern dance and culture program with people like Artemis Mourat, A'isha Ali, Georges Lammam, etc. on the faculty. You could be on the faculty as well, A'isha! Students would have to pass examinations on historical and cultural aspects of the dance, Middle Eastern music, have to perform for a panel of instructors and get assessed on movement technique, musicality, etc. Much like music students are required to perform a concert, or art students to display a portfolio, perhaps the capstone requirement would be a full-length peformance in which the student would be expected to show not only technique and musicality but also cultural understanding and emotional connection. These are subjective things, but so they are also in all music and art.

    Lots of possibilities.

    Sedonia

  2. #12
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default certification, etc.

    Dear Sedonia,
    Responses in context so I don't get confused.

    [QUOTE=sedoniaraqs;61189]Although I have no strong positive opinions on what I know about the current "certifications" that are out there, I would like to offer my opinion on the general concept of working towards a formalized curriculum for Middle Eastern Dance, because I see much *potential* that the dance community could work towards in this area.

    A. writes- I am not sure that any kind of formalized curriculum would do the dance a favor. The word "formalized" is scary. It is against the nature of the dance, and the work would have to be so specialized in even the authentic styles.. and then look at the differences among dancers even of the same era. How do we formalize the differences between Soheir, Mouna, Fifi, etc. Then there's the problem of formally explaining how Turkish, Egyptian, Lebanese dance is so much the same yet very different. And what life gets sucked out of the dance with the intellectualizing of a process that is mainly visceral? The western dances that are taught as part of a curriculum, at least in the university where I worked, already had a fair bit of intellectualization in the western sense, fairly well defined ideas of what makes them what they are, what is acceptable, ways in which a choreography process happens, etc. Not the same for belly dance.



    But I see this only in very applied technical fields such as cosmetology or plumbing. It is not generally true in the arts and sciences.

    A writes- Well, one assumes that a professor has completed enough studies in his/her field to have earned whatever degrees they have. "Realized" might have been a better word than "completed" . And usually there is some consensus about who is an expert in these fields, and who is not. In belly dance, we can't even reach a definition for what it is and is not, leading to all kinds of problems in teaching it with certification in mind.



    But this is also true for other dance forms, art, music, and science, and yet we have established degree programs for these. A high school student who attends band or orchestra camp receives a certificate of completion but no one assumes this is a sign of overall completion of their musical training, or a sign that they are competent in all styles of music, or even the one taught in the course. The student doesn't go out and get a job on that piece of paper. I don't think a certificate necessarily has an implication of completion in that sense.

    A writes- That is true of the high school student, but many people do go out and get jobs on certification in the fields of art. They can get jobs on less, even in an academic setting. I worked at university without so much as a reference phone call or any checking on my credentials. I have no costuming degree. I learned nearly everything I knew about costuming and theater from either belonging to a dance company or working with Hallah Moustafa, Kathy White, and later, Vicki Horiuchi. I had no need for degree or certification because my work stood on its own merit. I left the position with much more than I walked in with!!



    These two statements seem non sequitur to me. Because again, there are many fields in the arts and sciences where there is little agreement as to what constitutes good or bad. Do all professors of literature agree on what constitutes a good poem? Not even close. But this does not render meaningless a degree in literature. And at the same time, having a degree in literature does not mean someone is a good poet or writer.

    A writes- I think there are basic guidelines for different kinds of poems, precise ways in which they are to be analyzed, and very specific things that make a Shakespearean sonnet different from a beat poem by Kenneth Patchen, for example. A degree in poetry would be based in at least a very general knowledge of all of these things. That does not happen with certification in this or that particular method of study in belly dance. At least part of the issue is our disagreement on what defines the dance!!
    And we do agree that a degree in literature does not make a person a good poet, or a good teacher or even a good reader!! I feel the same way about belly dance certificates.



    It would help to have certifications with rigorous assessment.

    A. writes- But.... in order for that assessment to have meaning, there would have to be a rather ubiquitous agreement about what defines the dance.

    I do not know if the ones you mentioned do or don't. However, if someone takes a university course and receives an A, it doesn't mean they are experts in the field, but it is evidence that they learned something *if* there were term papers, exams, quizzes, discussions, etc. that the student had to work hard on to receive the A. If everyone who showed up got an A, then the grade means nothing.

    A. writes- And I think this is the case in many certifications in the field of Middle Eastern dance.


    It would also help to move towards developing the idea of formal curriculum and certificates or degrees into the realm of universities. Then it becomes somewhat less about marketing and profits and somewhat more about peer-review.

    A. writes- I am not sure that putting the dance in a university setting does it the biggest favor, from what I have seen of a few peoples' work. It is not that work is not good, but that it somehow loses something of its soul in the translation from primarily visceral to mainly intellectual.



    But again, this is no different from many other things. In French class, non-francophone students do not learn the language in the same manner as native speakers. In music classes and programs, students do not learn folk forms of music in the same manner as the folk musicians in the culture do. Getting a degree in Jazz performance *means* something, even if the performer did not learn in the same manner as the folk who originally developed the music.

    A' writes- Well.... sometimes it means something as far as knowing about jazz, but it may not necessarily mean that the person is now a great musician and can really bring out the soul of the original music. It can also mean that the person IS a great musician, but has no visceral clue about the original music and does not care a fig about that.



    I agree with you, but does it have to be this way?

    A. writes- .... I THINK it has to be this way because of the nature of the dance itself. I do feel, however, that it is important to take classes that support and enhance what we are learning, on other levels and in other ways, about the dance itself. I have found that understanding about anthropological concepts, historical context, sociological issues, religious studies, intercultural communications studies, etc, all have helped me to learn how to really LOOK at the dance as part of a holistic picture instead of separating it out as if it had no life beyond what I give it. All of those academic classes have been so valuable in helping me to get to the heart of the dance because they opened my eyes more about HOW to learn about the dance.

    What if there were a Middle Eastern dance and culture program with people like Artemis Mourat, A'isha Ali, Georges Lammam, etc. on the faculty. You could be on the faculty as well, A'isha!

    A. writes- Well, thank you, but I still think we would only be able to formally teach the elements that I mentioned above, and not the dance itself, especially since so many would automatically think I, at least, am too narrow in my scope of definition for what the dance is and is not. ( At least one of the other people on that list has discussed this issue with me and feels the same, but will not say so in public!!) Georges, by the way, does teach music at Berkeley, if I am remembering correctly. He does not read music, according to Shareen El Safy. I have taken one music appreciation class with him and it was wonderful, soulful, real, and not the least bit formal!!

    Students would have to pass examinations on historical and cultural aspects of the dance, Middle Eastern music, have to perform for a panel of instructors and get assessed on movement technique, musicality, etc.

    A. writes- Can you see Suhaila, Morocco, Cassandra Shore, Carolina Nerricchio and me, all on a panel, even agreeing as to what the dance is, what is proper movement technique, what is truly historical to the dance and what becomes something else entirely, what constitutes the right kind of music for the dance?????

    Much like music students are required to perform a concert, or art students to display a portfolio, perhaps the capstone requirement would be a full-length peformance in which the student would be expected to show not only technique and musicality but also cultural understanding and emotional connection. These are subjective things, but so they are also in all music and art.

    A. writes- That cultural understanding thing is going to be just the first of the hurdles. If Jillina got up there for her degree, I would fail her immediately, though most consider her to be quite Egyptian. I would be failed in both Turkish and Lebanese styles, because even though I understand the musicality and other elements, I am in no way good enough to get a degree on either style. Now, you know that Arabs usually find my dancing to be quite good, but how many American style dancers would think I am really good at what I do? I am not flashy enough. I don't do enough tricks or have enough
    of that all American bounce in my step. I am a pretty quiet dancer who just gets out there and gives it what I've got to give. And there is nothing formal or certifiable about what I bring to the stage. I know my stuff backward and forward, but there are many people who would not agree that I should have a certificate to dance pr teach.
    Regards,
    A'isha

    Lots of possibilities.

    Sedonia

  3. #13
    Moderator Shanazel's Avatar
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    I am not sure that any kind of formalized curriculum would do the dance a favor. The word "formalized" is scary. It is against the nature of the dance...
    Absolutely. Absolutely.

    I am so opposed to the idea of certification and diplomas conferred by some official belly dance organization that I grow quite heated just thinking about it. Empower a committee to regiment, measure, grade, approve, and announce which teachers and dancers meet with official approval and which don't? The word "committee" is even scarier than the word "formalized."

    If someone wants a piece of paper stating that they hold a MFA in Dance there are any number of colleges that will be happy to supply the classes and the diploma with an official seal and maybe even a few words like summa laude. And if someone wishes to establish an academic criteria for middle eastern dancing within the tight restrictions of academia, well, good luck to them. May they prosper within the hallowed halls of wisdom with any number of PhDs after their names, and avoid committees and certifying organizations that presume to tell the rest of us what to teach or how to dance.

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    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Once again, I think language is driving us apart.

    The idea of "formalized" education shouldn't scare anybody. In education, a formal syllabus can mean either one that "conforms" to a pre-existing idea, or one that simply has A form -- and is usually written down.

    If you teach each class "off the cuff" and just sort of make up what you plan to teach as you go, you do not have a formal syllabus. If you structure your class so you do this on the first day and this on the second, etc., then you have a formal syllabus.

    "Formalized" doesn't have to mean government- or industry-mandated.

    But in reality, we ALREADY have the beginnings of a formal syllabus for bellydance education. What would you say to the teacher who never taught hip circles to her students? Aren't hip circles part of the syllabus of every class? What would you say to the teacher who used Dean Martin and Tony Bennett music in class exclusively? Isn't Arabic music part of the bellydance syllabus? What if the teacher never taught rhythms? or never taught anything about the culture?

    For what it's worth, we're talking about several different things in this thread:

    1. "Certification/Diploma" as it applies to teachers -- and the debate over having some type of governing board that internally polices who is "authorized" to teach bellydance.

    2. "Certification/Diploma" as it applies one particular teacher's method and how she transmits that to her students -- like Ansuya's and Suhaila's and Hadia's certifications. (Nobody seems to have major issues with this one, so let's let it go for now. For the record, neither Hadia nor Suhaila have ever told ME that once you get your "certificate" you are an "offical bellydancer." Actually, both have said just the opposite, and encourage you to study MORE.)

    3. Diplomas or LEVELS of achievement that are available to students/adult learners who are motivated by hierarchical achievements. Nobody seems to be addressing this, and I wish we could get back to it.


    Let me bring back the cosmetology reference.

    In Indiana, you have to have so many hours of education with approved providers (of the American Cosmetology Association or something) and pass a test administered by the ACA or somebody like that) in order to DO MAKEUP on people.

    Do we understand the weight of this? Indiana licenses people to do what we all learned how to do at our mother's side when we were like 6. (Much like how the Egyptian kids learn to dance, right?)

    Now, I asked my stylist about this. (This is one area of my life where I really splurge and actually see the value in a $150 haircut.) She lives in the cornfields but routinely flies out to New York to study at the Redken academy to learn new hair cutting techniques and new styles and new makeup techniques. She takes her art very seriously, and she will tell you that hairstyling is an ART. I believe her!! She's had some of her recent hair designs featured in magazines. How cool is that!!

    Anyway, is her creativity being somehow limited because she had to pass a test and has to show that she's doing a little continuing education every 5 years or so? Is it somehow Sterilizing her work because she had to study ACA approved textbooks on how to trim people's eyebrows?

    At the Redken school, they have a hierarchical structure too, apparently. I know she's planning on working her way up to whatever their highest level is. I guess it's something like the old trade unions, where you went through stages like journeyman, apprentice, expert, master, etc.

    Is working her way up through the ranks "sterilizing" the art of makeup and hair design, or "limiting her creativity" in any way? She apparently doesn't think so, or she wouldn't be spending all the money to go through the training (cause they don't reimburse her at the salon.)


    Let's put it another way:

    I have academic training in literature and one in linguistics/language, and later I went back and got another BFA in creative writing. Does that "formal" academic education in writing mean I'm somehow LESS creative now? If I finish my MFA in writing, does that mean I'm going to be less creative than the person who has no academic training at all? That's ridiculous!

    There is an ART and a CRAFT to both writing and dance. The craft of dance is getting your body to move the way you want it to, and having the body trained to be able to respond emotionally. The craft of writing is knowing how to use sentence structure and paragraph structure to help with pacing, and exploring different narrative techniques to tell the story. The craft can be taught. The craft IS taught. The ART is how the dancer/storyteller uses the craft to communicate. The art can be discussed, and we can discuss either the message itself or how it was approached BY using the craft, but we don't really think of TEACHING the art. Does that make sense?

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    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Formalization, curriculum, etc

    Dear Aziyade,
    In the end it all comes down to this. When we reach a consensus about what belly dance is and is not, then there might be a place to begin a process of what to teach, etc. I have a "formal" lesson plan, but it is no way begins to be anything like Suhaila's. I do not even see the point of some her stuff as it would relate to belly dance, and she probably would feel the same about some of mine. How does one formalize when there is no agreement on what the thing is or is not?
    When one goes to cosmetology school or most other schools, there is an agreed upon methodology for getting from point A to point B. Everyone has an understanding of what makes something what it is. For example, there are proven methods for getting a layered hair cut, or controlling acne, or formulas for making fake nails, etc. Nobody thinks they are giving a Wedge haircut when they are actually giving a perm. Belly dance has nothing so concrete and there is no agreed upon guideline for what belly danceeven is.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 01-25-2008 at 04:13 PM.

  6. #16
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    There is no completion in learning ANYTHING. Let's not forget that.

    My father-in-law is a structural engineer. He's 60 and still working. Yet he still has to go back to school for continuing education in order to keep his license. You'd think he would have learned it all already, right? Nope. The world changes, and new things must be learned.

    Uncle is an electrician. Still has to go "back to school" periodically for refreshers and to learn about new building codes to keep his IBEW membership.

    I work as a graphic artist now. I'm not licensed by the state, but do you think my education was finished at any point? Heck no. In order to stay competitive in the market, I HAVE to keep up with new design trends, software updates, new printing technologies, etc.

    Actually, outside of the restaurant industry, I can't imagine a field where you WOULDN'T have to do some type of continuing education, even if it's only minor.

    I have to disagree with previous posters: I don't think that people who get a "certificate" automatically assume that's the end of their education on the subject.

    Sedonia -- good post! You've said it more eloquently than I could.

    A'isha -- I think I might have to disagree with you that we can't (or don't) have an agreed-upon criteria for determining the boundaries and expectations of this dance.

    I'm looking back through old issues of Arabesque and Habibi, and I'm seeing (even back then) A LOT of discussion that is extremely useful. This is a relatively new field to draw such serious academic discussion, so it's not like we have gobs and gobs of information, but there's enough out there to start.

    Will EVERYONE ON THE PLANET agree? Well, no. And no academic field has 100% acceptance by EVERYONE. I remember the huge debate in trying to define "southern fiction" and who should and shouldn't be included. Thing is -- "southern fiction" has an ESSENCE that typifies it, much like we talk about the essence of bellydance. But in order for us to talk about something (and especially teach it) in an academic setting, we have to be able to create boundaries around it and decide how inclusive those boundaries will be.

    (The inclusion factor is also there to help make sense of the subject in its historical timeline -- which is why "Modern Philosophy" classes usually start with a discussion of Descartes -- he's hardly "modern," timewise, but he starts the trend in thinking in a new way that would be later identified as "modern" philosophical thought.)


    I don't agree that "formalization" of instruction would in any way inhibit discussion about the differences between Fifi and Mona Said, for instance. We can take a look at the NYC Ballet lineup from 1986 and spend hours discussing the differences and similarities between Darci Kistler, Gelsey Kirkland, Suzanne Farrell, etc. Darci didn't dance like Gelsey any more than Fifi danced like Mona, but that doesn't inhibit discussion about it.

    I don't agree that there is any "life that gets sucked out" of the dance when we intellectualize and discuss it. As with any art, there is the art itself and there is the commentary. It doesn't hurt my enjoyment of watching Alfred Hitchcock movies just because I've read cinematographers arguing about his use of camera angles and long slow pans. I know how magicians saw off a girl's head, but I still enjoy watching them do it.

    Artemis and Morocco have both studied their hearts out, in their respective fields, and published articles, argued on forums, and taught extensive "intellectual" seminars on history, theory, etc. It doesn't seem to have hurt their ability to dance and bring down the house, or MY ability to have a right good time watching them do so!

    It may be that for some people, intense discussion about a subject hinders their ability to enjoy it, and so they feel that for them, the life has been sucked out of their own dance or their ability to enjoy dance. I'm not one of those people. For me, the more discussion, the more I love what I do, and watching what others do!


    One thing I didn't understand from a previous post:

    A writes- That is true of the high school student, but many people do go out and get jobs on certification in the fields of art.
    A'isha -- I don't understand what you mean here. Do you mind clarifying? Thanks!


    A writes- I think there are basic guidelines for different kinds of poems, precise ways in which they are to be analyzed,
    I wonder who told you this. ??? I think - POSSIBLY - part of your resistance to the whole idea of dance in academia is because you have what I believe to be is sort of an incorrect image of how art in general is approached. I know you worked at a university and I certainly HOPE TO GOD that this is not how they're teaching the liberal arts there. If they are -- RUN AWAY from that!!!!

    I won't get into a whole off-topic discussion about literature and poetry, but the above statement is just not true. There are many many MANY ways to approach artistic analysis. There is nothing at all "precise" about the process. At its very basic -- art can be analyzed by asking "Does it communicate its message?" That is IT. Only then can you start talking ABOUT the message and its relevance, how the artist used his craft to create his art (meter, form, dialogue, color scheme, etc.)

    But there is nothing so simple as a set of "rules" that say "if it does this this and this but not this, it's a good poem." Neither is there for the visual arts, and neither is there or SHOULD there be for dance. I think THIS idea is what most people are afraid of happening, if the dance gets put in an academic setting, and it just ain't gonna happen!


    A. writes- I am not sure that putting the dance in a university setting does it the biggest favor, from what I have seen of a few peoples' work.
    I'd like to know who you're talking about, first. I can only think of a handful of people who routinely teach university courses in Middle Eastern dance. Or at least, who is the pool we can draw from, of dancers who also teach credit courses in MEDance.


    It is not that work is not good, but that it somehow loses something of its soul in the translation from primarily visceral to mainly intellectual.
    Again, I guess we'd have to know who you are talking about, because I can't find anything in your statement to agree OR disagree with, the way it's worded.

    I think there's a tendency (especially regarding folk arts) to view any kind of transmission of the material as somewhat "suspicious" unless it's learned in the "traditional" manner, whatever that may be. I think this MIGHT be a holdover from the days when college was something only the elite could really afford, and in those days colleges didn't teach spinning and fletching and smithing, etc. because in a way, those crafts were looked down on.

    HOWEVER, researcher and folk dancer Daniela Ivanova (who we had the pleasure of hosting here) is writing a paper on how folk arts like folk dancing are sort of "dying out" in their native environments, and yet flourishing in the university setting. So it's funny to watch the pendulum swing the other way.

  7. #17
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    One more thing, from Shanazel's post --
    And if someone wishes to establish an academic criteria for middle eastern dancing within the tight restrictions of academia, well, good luck to them. May they prosper within the hallowed halls of wisdom with any number of PhDs after their names, and avoid committees and certifying organizations that presume to tell the rest of us what to teach or how to dance.
    I hope your experiences with academia haven't REALLY left you with this idea of what goes on!! Tight restrictions ??? Where did you guys all teach or go to school?? It's scaring me!!!

    I've only taught (as an instructor, not a prof) at 2 schools, both small and both community colleges more than universities, and only just classes in those undergrad composition classes that everyone hates and the generic "literature appreciation" classes for non-majors. But I went to 4 different universities as a student -- admittedly all in Indiana and Kentucky, though. So my experience isn't huge, but I also enjoyed (for a time) going to seminars and hearing what profs from other universities had to speak about.

    Nowhere in my (admittedly limited) experience did anyone approach the liberal arts with an attitude of "tight restrictions" or this almost fascist approach that so many of you equate with art in academia. Did I just have it good?

    Creating and defining BOUNDARIES is the first thing we do before we discuss anything, though, and maybe that's what is getting lost in the translation? We can't talk about science fiction without setting boundaries around what is science fiction and what it just fiction. Or how we describe the narrative technique that's usually a part of "magical realism" fiction.

    Definitions of terms and the "naming of parts" doesn't automatically destroy the beauty or wonderousness of what we're discussing. Every bone in the human body has a name. Every part of a microscopic cell has a name. That doesn't make the human body LESS of an amazing thing. Every paint color that Degas used had a name. Every color he mixed was a combination of colors that had names. That doesn't make his work any less breath-taking.

    Boundaries and Definitions allow us to TALK about art. We can also sit back and sigh and just enjoy it. I can enjoy fried mushrooms and onions and just moan with pleasure as I swallow them. Or I can look at the recipe and learn what the chemical process of carmelizing onions does to them. Knowing how to carmelize an onion, and sharing recipes or cooking techniques with other people doesn't IN ANY WAY diminish my enjoyment of those onions, I can assure you!!

    If "tight restrictions" are re-read as "boundaries" -- which are created to help further our understanding and to help keep discussions on topic -- then is dance in academia STILL to be feared?

    Plus, it wouldn't be nameless faceless government drones who defined these standards. It would be US -- the Moroccos and Sahra Kents and Shareen el Safys and Andrea Deagons and Angelika Nemeths and A'isha Azars and Aisha Alis and Magda Salehs. Or for those of you in the UK, insert the names of your resident academics. Governing boards for any licensing or accrediting association aren't made up of people off the street -- they're people already involved in the business.

    A'isha -- didn't you have some involvement with an accrediting association for dance teachers? MEDIA or something like that? I remember that starting, but never saw much activity from them.

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    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by A'isha Azar View Post
    When one goes to cosmetology school or most other schools, there is an agreed upon methodology for getting from point A to point B. Everyone has an understanding of what makes something what it is. For example, there are proven methods for getting a layered hair cut, or controlling acne, or formulas for making fake nails, etc. Nobody thinks they are giving a Wedge haircut when they are actually giving a perm. Belly dance has nothing so concrete and there is no agreed upon guideline for what belly dance even is.
    Okay, fair enough and that's a good illustration! -- but now I have a question, and it's just a QUESTION. I"m not advocating any one point of view:

    Q: Couldn't you argue that bellydance DOES have discrete, concrete aspects, but the actual DANCE (art) is of course more than just the sum of those parts and aspects?

    Like, I could learn a rhythm (Ayoub). That's pretty concrete. It is what it is, even if it has variations. I could also learn a hip circle. That's a concrete movement.

    oh never mind -- I don't know what I'm trying to say. I think I get what you're saying. The concrete stuff is the CRAFT. It's HOW to do it. Like HOW to wax eyebrows or whatever.

    .... trailing off .... I had a thought and keep losing it. Oh well, unless you know what I'm asking, don't bother trying to answer this I'm changing my name from Amanda to Meander.

  9. #19
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Default Dance, etc

    DEar Aziyade,
    I respond to this once and it poofed. Wish me luck this time. Some smippage for length.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    There is no completion in learning ANYTHING. Let's not forget that.

    A. writes- Yeah?? Tell that to the college student who fails a class on purpose because it's too scary to "complete" his education and move on. The perception is false, but still there..


    I have to disagree with previous posters: I don't think that people who get a "certificate" automatically assume that's the end of their education on thesubject.

    A. writes- The idea is that you have completed enough education to have some authority in your subject, if you get a degree, certificate, etc. This is what most people think.


    A'isha -- I think I might have to disagree with you that we can't (or don't) have an agreed-upon criteria for determining the boundaries and expectations of this dance.

    A'isha writes- This is one example. I have studied with Alexandra King and her whole philosophy is different from mine. She has a "We are Americans and we can do whatever we like approach to the dance. I have heard her say that. From the very beginning of the learning process we disagree. After that, our criteria for what makes a good belly dance class will never be in agreement, because it is not nearly just about those movement fundamentals.

    I'm looking back through old issues of Arabesque and Habibi, and I'm seeing (even back then) A LOT of discussion that is extremely useful. This is a relatively new field to draw such serious academic discussion, so it's not like we have gobs and gobs of information, but there's enough out there to start.

    A. writes- I only hope you are reading with a grain of salt because there is some good and some really bogus stuff in those old mags.... just like the new ones now.

    Will EVERYONE ON THE PLANET agree? Well, no. And no academic field has 100% acceptance by EVERYONE. I remember the huge debate in trying to define "southern fiction" and who should and shouldn't be included. Thing is -- "southern fiction" has an ESSENCE that typifies it, much like we talk about the essence of bellydance. But in order for us to talk about something (and especially teach it) in an academic setting, we have to be able to create boundaries around it and decide how inclusive those boundaries will be.

    A. writes- In what ways do you see those boundaries as beneficial if we can not agree on what they are?




    I don't agree that "formalization" of instruction would in any way inhibit discussion about the differences between Fifi and Mona Said, for instance. We can take a look at the NYC Ballet lineup from 1986 and spend hours discussing the differences and similarities between Darci Kistler, Gelsey Kirkland, Suzanne Farrell, etc. Darci didn't dance like Gelsey any more than Fifi danced like Mona, but that doesn't inhibit discussion about it.

    A. writes- Then give it a try. In a different part of this forum, Andrea says that the Egyptian dancers have different styles. I disagree with that. They have the same style with different accentuations and different variations on movement, but the feeling and essence and style is readily recognizable as Egyptian. On;y a small part of that is how they utilize movement. Do you see how elusive an intellectual description of that is?

    I don't agree that there is any "life that gets sucked out" of the dance when we intellectualize and discuss it. As with any art, there is the art itself and there is the commentary.

    A. writes- The problem arises when the discussion becomes more important than the dance itself, and that seems to happen often in academic circles. Obviously I like discussion, but I would not want to be boxed into a situation where a professor gets to decide what is important to the discussion and what is not, a grade based on how well my thought mesh with his or hers, where discussion overtakes the life of the dance.



    Artemis and Morocco have both studied their hearts out, in their respective fields, and published articles, argued on forums, and taught extensive "intellectual" seminars on history, theory, etc. It doesn't seem to have hurt their ability to dance and bring down the house, or MY ability to have a right good time watching them do so!

    A. writes- I hope you will talk to Morocco about how she has at least once been deemed as unqualified to teach in a university setting. I would also say that they can have the freedom to discuss outside of academia, and that is entirely different than having someone tell them what they will teach for the purposes of accreditation, etc.

    It may be that for some people, intense discussion about a subject hinders their ability to enjoy it, and so they feel that for them, the life has been sucked out of their own dance or their ability to enjoy dance. I'm not one of those people. For me, the more discussion, the more I love what I do, and watching what others do!

    A. writes- I do not think anyone here is against discussion. I am personally against formalizing that into a process where the dance itself is regimented in the way it is taught.


    One thing I didn't understand from a previous post:
    A'isha -- I don't understand what you mean here. Do you mind clarifying? Thanks!

    A. writes- Sorry, there was a typo. I meant that many people get jobs without certification and manage to do it well.




    I wonder who told you this. ??? I think - POSSIBLY - part of your resistance to the whole idea of dance in academia is because you have what I believe to be is sort of an incorrect image of how art in general is approached. I know you worked at a university and I certainly HOPE TO GOD that this is not how they're teaching the liberal arts there. If they are -- RUN AWAY from that!!!!

    A. writes- What, because I do not see it in the same way that you do? MY image of art in academia comes from dealing with it pretty regularly for 7 years,through various universities and through the eyes of professors and students involved in dance, orchestra,drama, comedy radio/television, opera, etc.

    I won't get into a whole off-topic discussion about literature and poetry, but the above statement is just not true. There are many many MANY ways to approach artistic analysis. There is nothing at all "precise" about the process. At its very basic -- art can be analyzed by asking "Does it communicate its message?" That is IT. Only then can you start talking ABOUT the message and its relevance, how the artist used his craft to create his art (meter, form, dialogue, color scheme, etc.)
    But there is nothing so simple as a set of "rules" that say "if it does this this and this but not this, it's a good poem." Neither is there for the visual arts, and neither is there or SHOULD there be for dance. I think THIS idea is what most people are afraid of happening, if the dance gets put in an academic setting, and it just ain't gonna happen!

    A. writes- Well, having taken a class in how to analyze poetry in college, I disagree. There are very precise ways to do so, including such things as looking as rhythm, meter, denotation and connotation, personification, allegory, etc. Then there are the literary analysis styles that can be used, etc. Now, this academic process in the end is all very well and good, but it gives us nothing of the experience of the poem itself... much like could be a danger to belly dance if we got into it from a strictly academic basis. I am no expert in language but there are precise ways to analyze poetry.



    I'd like to know who you're talking about, first. I can only think of a handful of people who routinely teach university courses in Middle Eastern dance. Or at least, who is the pool we can draw from, of dancers who also teach credit courses in MEDance.

    A. writes-The first person who comes to mind is Angelica Nemeth. She is a wonderful dancer if you look at her technique. etc, but she is very western in her approach to the dance and she looks like she has thought it too far through. there is no sense of the immediate or cultural essence in her belly dance.

    I think there's a tendency (especially regarding folk arts) to view any kind of transmission of the material as somewhat "suspicious" unless it's learned in the "traditional" manner, whatever that may be. I think this MIGHT be a holdover from the days when college was something only the elite could really afford, and in those days colleges didn't teach spinning and fletching and smithing, etc. because in a way, those crafts were looked down on.
    HOWEVER, researcher and folk dancer Daniela Ivanova (who we had the pleasure of hosting here) is writing a paper on how folk arts like folk dancing are sort of "dying out" in their native environments, and yet flourishing in the university setting. So it's funny to watch the pendulum swing the other way.
    A. writes- Are we talking true folkloric dance here, or more along the lines of what Ms. Nemeth is creating in her protrayals of Persian dance and theatre? Some of her work is lovely, but it does lack that true folk feeling. That to me, is not a flourishing folkloric dance in the academic envoronment, but insteadd a creation of something new while the old dies away.

  10. #20
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Dear Aziyade,

    A. writes-
    MEDIA was not involved in accrediting, though some members wanted it. We were involved in trying to get a Listing for tried and true good instructors and find ways to promote them so that more good instruction than bad would eventually be going on in the way of workshops, etc.



    Q: Couldn't you argue that bellydance DOES have discrete, concrete aspects, but the actual DANCE (art) is of course more than just the sum of those parts and aspects?

    A'isha wries- Since I have been advocating exactly that for many years, yes.

    Like, I could learn a rhythm (Ayoub). That's pretty concrete. It is what it is, even if it has variations. I could also learn a hip circle. That's a concrete movement.

    A'isha writes- See... this is the problem. Ayoub is MORE than a concrete rhythm. It is a feeling, a texture, a clue as to how to interpret and give that feeling physical and emotional manifestation.
    Okay, let's really LOOK at hip circle. This may sound pretty esoteric or far fetched, because it is hard for me to explain it with words... only my body can really say it. It really has very little that is "concrete" about it in the long run. When one becomes an authentic belly dancer on the cultural level, there sort of is no such thing as a "hip circle" other than as a very vaguely defined way in which to move one's body to bring up certain things in the music. The dance is not really about that hip circle, but instead movement is just one vehicle for expressing what the music says to the dance and how the dancer puts all of the elements together to make it BE the dance instead of a hip circle or a movement as such. Individual movement should really just sort of disappear on a lot of levels, if you know what I mean, and just be a part of a whole picture. Many westerners have become VERY hung up on the perfection of movement, to the detriment of every other aspect of the dance. This has happened through the intellectualization of the dance process.



    oh never mind -- I don't know what I'm trying to say. I think I get what you're saying. The concrete stuff is the CRAFT. It's HOW to do it. Like HOW to wax eyebrows or whatever.

    .... trailing off .... I had a thought and keep losing it. Oh well, unless you know what I'm asking, don't bother trying to answer this I'm changing my name from Amanda to Meander.[/QUOTE]

    A. writes- Don't feel too bad.... I think I spend 3/4s of my life in that same space.

    Regards,
    A'isha

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