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  1. #71
    V.I.P. Tarik Sultan's Avatar
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    Hi Aziyade:

    Sorry to butt in but I've been trying to contact you. Could you send me a P.M or e-mail?

  2. #72
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Dear da Sage,

    Quote Originally Posted by da Sage View Post
    I have simply been honest about how I perceive your posts over time on this forum, and I don't feel I was "insisting" on anything...in fact I was hoping you would give me an alternate explanation for my observations.

    A. writes-Well.... the explanations that I have given do not seem to have any meaning for you...



    This argument could be made for any ethnic/cultural dance form, with either western or modern flavor. But the leaders and master teachers in this dance have a strong tradition of research and study in the M.E. I think increased university involvement would only encourage such research.

    A. writes- The point is that, like research in many fields that involve human activity, one can research it to death and still not be any closer to what the people are doing or who they are. I think we can point to anthropology as an example of how this worked for many years. People are just now beginning to realize that we have to approach anthropology in new ways if we are to relate it to the people. It became about the academics instead of about the people themselves. It became more about what researchers thought of the people than about the actual people, if that makes sense.

    More importantly, keeping bellydance and other middle eastern dances out of formalized higher education will not keep this "cultural drift" from happening. If it happens, it happens everywhere. And I think college classes will NOT speed up the process.

    A. writes- See above.


    Many subjects have fuzzy edges. Gay/Lesbian studies (now does this include transgender??, etc), religion, psychology, ethics, philosophy, art, theater...most "intro to" courses start with a statement of what the subject is, what it isn't, and what's debatable. Logically, the teacher would integrate the debate into the class.

    A. writes- So many times, classes are about something other than heart and soul, which is where the dance lives, as opposed to all the historical stuff, or the costumes, or the movements, etc. This is VERY hard to teach, even without the constraints of what a teacher is told to teach for accreditation.
    And it is very different from ballet or other western dances because most people do not start out with a firm grasp of the culture behind the dance.



    I don't think anyone here has said that a college course would be better than several months of study with a quality teacher (of course, the college should choose the best teacher available and carefully consider her suitability to the challenge). Your comment about good and bad instructors is also out of left field.

    A. writes- I disagree. It is not out in left field at all. First of all, usually one has to have certain credentials to teach in a college, and often those are not very concrete in the field of Middle Eastern dance, so that some darn good instructors will not be eligible to teach. A general dance degree does not make one fit for teaching this particular dance.

    The point is to teach the subject matter academically, as other dances are taught, for the benefit of the students at the college. Worst case senario, interested students learn some bellydance and other M.E. dances, without having to go off-campus and pay a separate fee. Best case senario, the students learn about M.E. history, culture, and music, as well as a little of the dance, they spread that cultural knowledge among their friends, and several go on to study seriously with a "quality teacher".

    A. writes- No, the worst case scenario is that the dances get taught in a very "academic" fashion, with little or no visceral intent, which is what the dance is really all about, so that it becomes a watered down, precisely technical, robotic, symmetric, unrelated to its cultures of origin, shadow of what it really is. We see this often enough already. Enclosing it inside a generalized academic formula is not going to help that.



    A college bellydance class (or ME dance class, or Arabic dance class) would be an ideal forum for exposing students to such videos. To argue against college bellydance (etc etc) classes, is to argue against that kind of exposure.
    A. writes- There are already hundreds of ideal forums for showing videos that have not got the constraints that an academic venue would have. In order for a class to be accredited, it usually has to meet some guidelines put in place quite often, according to Professor Eugene Engene, among others with whom I have discussed the issue, by people who know very little or even nothing about the subject matter. It used to drive him crazy. ( Gene Engene was chairman of the Theater Department at Eastern Washington University for he last few years that I worked there as costume designer.)

    Are you not the one whose head wanted to explode when I tried to explain what the dance really is in relationship to movement? Aziyade knew what I meant with the explanation about movement disappearing, thank God. I would like someone to even try to define that in academic terms. It instead needs the heart, the soul, the body, the culture, the essence, that essence so undefinable in words, to really get the point across. This dance experience is not based so firmly in the intellectual. It lacks the story telling qualities of ballet, and the choreography of the folk dances they usually teach in culturally oriented dance classes. It is a dance in which the visceral quality must be in the forefront. That's something we can sort of say, but it's not really teachable. It has to be seen and felt.


    Anyway, I believe I have made my point as best I can, so I will bow out now.
    Regards,
    A'isha
    Last edited by Aisha Azar; 01-30-2008 at 04:47 PM.

  3. #73
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tarik Sultan View Post
    Hi Aziyade:

    Sorry to butt in but I've been trying to contact you. Could you send me a P.M or e-mail?
    Okay, I SUPPOSEDLY sent you an email through the forum, although I don't think the PMs went through. I just sent a PM to Aisha, and it looks like it failed. Sigh. I need a new computer. Respond if/when you get that, K?

  4. #74
    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Okay, I SUPPOSEDLY sent you an email through the forum, although I don't think the PMs went through. I just sent a PM to Aisha, and it looks like it failed. Sigh. I need a new computer. Respond if/when you get that, K?
    Dear Aziyade,
    You can reach me at aishaazar@raqsazar.com.
    Regards,
    A'isha

  5. #75
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    A'isha wrote, re anthropology:
    "It became more about what researchers thought of the people than about the actual people, if that makes sense."

    Yes, cultural imperialism and the western educational model. Every discipline has seen this prejudice, including the sciences. This started being addressed in the 60s, with the women's studies movement. (At least, I credit women's studies with really bringing it to light. My OWN personal prejudice. LOL) Most of the social sciences address this "looking at the world through the prejudice of our own eyes" issue.

    The Ancient Greeks, the Druids, and Old White British Men each created educational models. Educational models change with the times. What you're referring to -- which is a holdover from the Old White British model -- is being addressed in the university environment NOW.

    Are there problems in the current model? Of course! But there are problems in ANY structure/organization, and we don't just disregard the entire thing because of problems or issue of thought that ARE being addressed, just not necessarily to one person's personal specifications.

    A'isha wrote:
    So many times, classes are about something other than heart and soul, which is where the dance lives, as opposed to all the historical stuff, or the costumes, or the movements, etc. This is VERY hard to teach, even without the constraints of what a teacher is told to teach for accreditation.

    Oh now! This is like saying you can't teach someone to paint because painting isn't about oil and canvas, but about the heart and soul of the artist. Painting and Dance are both CRAFTS and ARTS. The craft part is the technique and the history etc. This can be taught. Art is transcended craft, maybe. Maybe you can't teach this. But you don't START with the art -- you start with the craft. I can teach you to mix paint, or use a sumi-e brush or draw photorealistically. It's up to you to make "art" with your craft.

    Plus, I REALLY want to know how many college belly dance classes you've taken. You speak as though you've had a lot of experience with it, and you've listened to many many teachers struggle with the "constraints" of teaching credit classes. I'm wondering where you get this?

    It's entirely possible that your experience is not UNIVERSAL. I would imagine that the pressures put on professors at a conservative Southern Baptist college are MUCH different than those of a small private liberal arts college, or regional community colleges, or a huge state school like UK. No one is saying there AREN'T academic pressures or state- or university-mandated requirements for minimum coverage and grading. But you DEFINITELY give those mandates more weight than I've seen in my experience.

    At UE, we bugged and bugged and bugged a favorite lit prof to offer a class on Old English translation and reading old Norse literature. (He could read it, and translating it was a hobby of his.) All he had to do, to make the class happen, was show that 6 students were interested. He didn't have to run his syllabus past anyone, or get anyone's approval except the registrar -- who just had to make sure that enough students were interested and scheduling a time for it didn't conflict with any of our major's required offerings.

    At USI, a prof offered a class on Alchemy and Magic in culture and literature, and again -- it was one of her hobbies, and all she had to do to offer the class was have interested students. Now, in order for it be considered a CAPSTONE class, or have it available for GRADUATE credit, she had to show that she was actually going to require something of us, and that it would meet the capstone requirements of analysis and critical thinking -- which means she advertised that we had to write so many papers and would be looking at the class from a sociological, historical, and literary viewpoint. But nobody told her what to teach or how to teach it.

    Nobody peeked over their shoulders when they taught this stuff, and they didn't have to have anyone "authorize" their syllabus. A'isha, at your university the situation may have been different, but as I've said -- not universal, any more than mine.


    You wrote:
    "And it is very different from ballet or other western dances because most people do not start out with a firm grasp of the culture behind the dance."

    Exactly -- and there is NO guarantee that any belly dance instructor teaching out of a studio has ANY clue about the culture. If bellydance were being taught in the Middle Eastern studies department, I can't see the hippy dippy goddessy chick coming in and talking about the Seven Veils or sacred prostitution.


    You wrote:
    "First of all, usually one has to have certain credentials to teach in a college, and often those are not very concrete in the field of Middle Eastern dance,"

    I agree with you, but it's not unique to dance. The first Women's Studies courses were not listed as "Women's Studies" because there was no such thing and no such department. "Digital Design" is a new thing too. Who got to teach those first classes? People who didn't have formal degrees in design, but knew how to use the software then available. Eventually, the teacher pool starts to consist of people who HAVE the degrees, and then having a degree to teach becomes expected.


    "A general dance degree does not make one fit for teaching this particular dance."

    One could argue that a general ART degree didn't make a person fit for teaching digital design, but until people started TEACHING it in college, there was no degree for digital design.

    I really don't get the resistance. We want to see Middle Eastern dance recognized as a real art form, we want people to know that it's a cultural practice and as such they should know about the culture and the dance in its cultural context, and we want people to respect it and not treat it as trivial or trite, or a T&A show -- and we have the perfect arena for it to GET respectability but we resist putting it there???


    A'isha wrote:
    "No, the worst case scenario is that the dances get taught in a very "academic" fashion, with little or no visceral intent, which is what the dance is really all about, so that it becomes a watered down, precisely technical, robotic, symmetric, unrelated to its cultures of origin, shadow of what it really is."

    So if Morocco or Shareen el Safy got a job tomorrow teaching a 4-year program at NYU or UC, suddenly they would be teaching the dance with no visceral intent? If the University in Cairo hired Dina to teach a 4-year program, she wouldn't be able to teach the heart and soul of the dance??? Should I inform Nashwa that she shouldn't be teaching at Berea or Eastern Kentucky U because what she teaches is going to become unrelated it its cultures of origin and a shadow of what she did back in Egypt??

    I REALLY don't see where you get this. If your experience of formal art education is that the subject become "precisely technical and robotic" then I pity you. But I have to state again that your experience is not necessarily UNIVERSAL. I can see the distinct possibility that students in college Middle Eastern dance classes would have very different experiences and therefore very different attitudes about dance in academia.


    You wrote:
    "There are already hundreds of ideal forums for showing videos that have not got the constraints that an academic venue would have."

    Where???? During class? At video parties? You can't assume everyone has the internet at home and wants to go home and watch Youtube." Or that those people have access to a teacher who can COMMENT on the video, like Shira does when she gives her video lectures.

  6. #76
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    "In order for a class to be accredited, it usually has to meet some guidelines put in place quite often, according to Professor Eugene Engene, among others with whom I have discussed the issue, by people who know very little or even nothing about the subject matter."

    This is his experience. As I showed before, this isn't a universal situation. Maybe that university is more stringent than others, maybe a million different things.

    If we're talking about UNIVERSITY accreditation, (like ACICS) that's an entire different animal than individual class requirements. Universities that accept federal financial aid have to meet federally-mandated requirements -- like all things federal. But this is done to protect students and lending institutions from diploma mills and loan defaults. Accrediting agencies like ACICS prevent diploma mills. I don't see them as crimping the style of formal education.

    At the heart of the ACICS philosophy, and part of the requirements for new degrees and new programs of study at an "institution" (college): "An institution proposing new programs must assure ACICS that the programs conform to the stated mission of the institution and its current program offerings."

    That means the college has to show that the new program fits the COLLEGE's mission. Not ACICS.

    In order to teach a Bachelor's level class at an ACICS college:

    "Instructors teaching courses other than general education shall should hold bachelor’s degrees at a minimum and shall be assigned based on their major and minor academic preparation and/or related experience. However, exceptions to the bachelor’s degree requirement may be justified for instructors who have demonstrable current exceptional professional level experience in the assigned field, such as documented coursework in the field, professional certification(s), letters of recommendation or attestations from previous employer(s), letters attesting to this expertise from professional peers not connected to the college, real examples of previous success in the field such as published work, juried exhibits and shows, evidence of a professional portfolio accepted by the college and available for review, and other significant documented experience relevant to the courses to be taught."

    Full requirements are here:
    http://www.acics.org/Publications/accredcrit.asp

    Darn good instructors WILL be eligible to teach. They may have to jump through a paperwork hoop to do so, but that's just life today. Morocco's case may be different, but she might want to check CURRENT

    One last thing:
    Aziyade knew what I meant with the explanation about movement disappearing, thank God. I would like someone to even try to define that in academic terms.


    I took what you were saying to mean the ART of bellydance performance. The craft of learning to dance can be learned first, I firmly believe, although you may disagree with me, but it's how other general arts are taught, and HAVE been taught for centuries. We learn to hold a brush before we ever learn to try to evoke emotions in the viewer with our brush strokes.

  7. #77
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    A'isha & Aziyade--an interesting debate. I can see both sides. I myself very much appreciate the nonacademic, self-directed aspects of my study of this dance and I would never have pursued a BA in dance. I'm not sure a BA in dance would actually help anyone get a job in say dance performance. Maybe in dance teaching though. That's how institutions perpetuate themselves.

    Aziyade--I'm just wondering. Do you imagine giving homework assignments, tests, and grades to your dance college students? How would you balance history, craft, etc. in the curriculum? Would people with 'natural talent' or let's say prior in-culture experience get better grades without studying as hard? Would hopeless klutzes get F's despite hours of practice? It kind of reminds me of studying foreign language in that way.

    Also an aside--my husband teaches an Old English translation not-for-credit seminar (at his private high school) and is very interested in Old Norse and Icelandic and the sagas. He's teaching an elective on Vikings now too.

    Cathy

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    Frankly I think it's a good thing. I mean, I don't know if I personally feel that I should have been the first dancer to be offered it but I really want to see bellydance accepted like all other dances. There should even be a degree in it, requiring learning Arabic and a minor in anthropology or something.

    I don't want it to be a rigid horrible thing myself. I don't do things that way. I don't really see how teaching it in a college is going to be any different or stiffer than teaching it at a studio.

  9. #79
    V.I.P. da Sage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Academic/institution restrictions on the content of dance classes

    I don't think my wonderful and amazing modern dance teacher had any problem getting her Middle Eastern Dance class approved by the "powers that be" in my private, religious college. I wish I could have taken that class. Heck, I wish I had heard more about how it went!

    But knowing my teacher, I'm certain that it was taught with attention to the heart of the dance, as well as the form of the steps.

  10. #80
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    A'isha,

    I agree with you that there is a lot about dance, especially this dance (for me anyway) that can't be cut and dried, boiled down to a syllabus, and much is visceral. I liked whatever one person said about the real feeling can't even be taught but must be discovered.

    But I wonder whether the visceral would be sucked out by putting classes in a college setting. I suspect that foreign language teachers feel the same--it can't be broken down into mere grammar drills and pronunciation, that to really speak a language the student needs to absorb cultural essence to get intonations, shades of meaning, turns of phrase, etc. that have to be experienced in culture. I think all this is true BUT does that mean it's hopeless to take French classes in college, that teaching a living language in a basically dead classroom is stripping all life and meaning from the language? I don't think it has to be that way. It would be better if everyone could learn by immersion but it's totally impractical.

    Like I say, college is not the setting where I would choose to study it in a formal way but hey! Everyone is different and it would get some recognition for the dance as being just as worthy as others.

    Cathy

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