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Thread: BDSS Babelesque

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    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade View Post
    Not if they have a non-Argentinian "accent" I guess.

    Speaking of Argentinians -- do you guys all know Saida? She did the dvds with Mario Kirlis? WOW! That was a serious Superstar. Too bad she was only with them for a season or so... Talk about audience connection! Sigh. I thought "this girl could fall down a flight of stairs and make it look like art, effortless and graceful."

    You can make light of it, make fun of it all you want. The fact that we can't define our own dances is one of the reasons why people in other dance genres do not take us very seriously. Why should they when we ourselves don't appear to the outside world to know what we are doing much of the time. When everything is labeled "belly dance" it makes us ALL appear to be people who don't know what in heck we are doing. I find that less than amusing. In fact, I find it tragic.

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    I am not making fun of it. I just genuinly belive that Belly dance is much more than Egytian style. Maybe you cant call what is done all over Europe as Raqs Sharki, but IMHO it is belly dance.

    *hugs*

    reen.blom

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    V.I.P. Aisha Azar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reen.Blom View Post
    I am not making fun of it. I just genuinly belive that Belly dance is much more than Egytian style. Maybe you cant call what is done all over Europe as Raqs Sharki, but IMHO it is belly dance.

    *hugs*

    reen.blom

    Dear Reen,
    WHY do people keep saying the only style I recognize as belly dance is Egyptian? I have said repeatedly that I also see Lebanese and Turkish as belly dance as well. I do not, however, see something that is totally lacking in the essences of the Middle East as "belly dance" and see no reason why anyone would. What makes all the rest of belly dance in your mind? Where do you draw the line? What qualities and elements does the dance have to have for you to call it bellydance? This is one of the things that constantly flummoxes me ( if that is a word!!). At the very least,I have a clear, workable idea of what is and is not belly dance, when so many people do not seem to. Yet they they feel they have the right to get very critical of my definitions.... and mostly they just accuse me of thinking only Egyptian style is belly dance! I sincerely have great respect for much of what is being done out there, but to call it belly dance when that word means what it means to the general public, is misleading at best and harmful to the dance at worst, as more crazy stuff gets added beneath the umbrella. Westernized styles do not capture the cultural essence of what belly dance is.
    Rgards,
    A'isha

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    V.I.P. karena's Avatar
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    I feel like I'm jumping into the lions' den here, but I am asking a genuine question to explore this, so please take it in this spirit.

    I'm interested in the ballet analogy. Can people outside of Europe (and we'll add in north America to overcome that problem) do ballet? Or does it then become something else if it lacks the western essence?

    Interestingly, I looked on wikipedia (the source of all my knowledge ) to see the origins etc of ballet, and it's interesting that it talks about classical, neoclassical, modern and post structural forms, and developments, changes and splits in the dance form. So is there really one ballet?

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    Quote Originally Posted by karena View Post
    I feel like I'm jumping into the lions' den here, but I am asking a genuine question to explore this, so please take it in this spirit.

    I'm interested in the ballet analogy. Can people outside of Europe (and we'll add in north America to overcome that problem) do ballet? Or does it then become something else if it lacks the western essence?

    Interestingly, I looked on wikipedia (the source of all my knowledge ) to see the origins etc of ballet, and it's interesting that it talks about classical, neoclassical, modern and post structural forms, and developments, changes and splits in the dance form. So is there really one ballet?

    Dear Karena,
    Yeah, I often feel like I am in the Lion's Den myself!! I think your question is quite meaningful to the conversation.
    There is certainly more than one belly dance, and each ethnic style has its own specific essence. This is one reason why we are able to identify Turkish from Lebanese from Egyptian. It is because of that spirit and essence imprints the style, regardless of what movement set the dancer uses, what kind of music she uses exactly, or what she is wearing. There is always a muddy overlap when it comes to movement, but the cultural essence of the dance is there to the core.
    I think there actually IS more than one ballet style. I do not remember much about it since ballet is not my field and was only his costumer, but I worked with Leonard Fowler in the 80s and he discussed ballet as if there was more than one style. I can not say anything other than that I know there is as specific Russian style. I can't tell you anything more, but there are a lot of people here who studied ballet and they might.
    You would be laughed off the ballet stage if you tried to pull some of the shenannigans that belly dancers have allowed. this does not mean that we should not experiment, but that development and experimentation should take place within the cultural boundaries of what the dance is. You learn those boundaries by studying the distinct ethnic styles to death. I am qualified to speak in depth about Egyptian belly dance, but I am not the person to talk with for Lebanese or Turkish. I have studied these styles off and on for 34 years, but I have no expertise in either style. I have studied Egyptian belly dance in depth for most of that time and I still study.
    As to whether or not people outside of a Middle Easterner heritage can perform belly dance without westernizing it, yes, some can. I also feel that the Middle East and the West have a different approach as to how to make dance happen, so I can not really respond to the question of ballet still being ballet if it loses its essence. From what I can tell, western concepts in dance are so very different from Middle Eastern ones....Take Fifi Abdou for example. She claims to have taught herself to belly dance. I have never met a single ballerina who says she is self taught. Not even amateurs There are many other native belly dancers who claim the same, yet they all have that cultural essence. Right there we already see a parting of the ways in which dance is thought of and about its continuance.
    Regards,
    A'isha

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aisha Azar View Post
    I also feel that the Middle East and the West have a different approach as to how to make dance happen, so I can not really respond to the question of ballet still being ballet if it loses its essence. From what I can tell, western concepts in dance are so very different from Middle Eastern ones.
    I'm glad you said that - I have been mulling over the issue of transferring western values in terms of the way the dance is seen, as in all the stuff surrounding it, not the dance itself. So this is more food for mull.

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    I have given a lot of thought to this. I think the big issue in regard to the discussion is the having grown up with it vs learning it at an older age. If you had grown up with middle eastern dance, you would have learned the version your family did, you would just accept it as normal and do it. When you grow up with it, you don't think about adding this or that neat step you found in some other form of dance. If you learn it when you are older, you usually bring in your musicality. For me I am slowly getting past the count it all out. I also play several instruments, so I brought in the count and think in terms of beats and such. There seems to be the instinctual reaction to the music that is much harder for me to learn but I'll make it. It seems to be more of a different culture idea that we can take various moves and incorporate them into something. I've heard it said when you grow up with the middle eastern dance, it often can tell others where you are from. I don't know how true it is because I am not an authority on middle eastern dance. We all have our definitions of what constitutes acceptable belly dance and based on mine, I don't think I'll ever go see BDSS because it has more types of dance that I do not classify as belly dance based on my own definition and comfort levels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by karena View Post
    I feel like I'm jumping into the lions' den here, but I am asking a genuine question to explore this, so please take it in this spirit.

    I'm interested in the ballet analogy. Can people outside of Europe (and we'll add in north America to overcome that problem) do ballet? Or does it then become something else if it lacks the western essence?

    Interestingly, I looked on wikipedia (the source of all my knowledge ) to see the origins etc of ballet, and it's interesting that it talks about classical, neoclassical, modern and post structural forms, and developments, changes and splits in the dance form. So is there really one ballet?

    A closer analogy to ballet would be Tribal style belly dance, because ballet is about stylized movement.

    There is the big heading "ballet" but that covers everything from Nutcracker and Storybook ballets, to vaudeville toe tap, to contemporary dance based on intellectual ideas (which is closer to "Modern" dance, but still considered ballet) to HIGHLY experimental work that you might not recognize if you're used to looking at Nutcrackers

    In the late 90s, "Shenanigans" of extremely experimental work was the trend in the very urban companies. Ballet's been around for SO long that you can expect choreographers to be bored of the same-old same-old and want to break out of that.

    As for the cultural essence, ballet does not contain a cultural essence (at least in the last 200 years of it) because it's a stylized form of movement. You have to keep in mind the ballet of 300 years ago is not really the same ballet of 200 years ago, and ballet really changed yet again in the 1940's or so, and the characteristic "ballet" now is what evolved in the 40s.

    Ballet is not even really a physical response to MUSIC, which seems weird -- especially to belly dancers who are used to Hossam Ramzy's advice. The music and the dance come together to create a whole picture, but you don't always actually dance WITH the music. The old joke is "dance is what happens between the steps" but in a lot of ballet, that's totally true!

    Culturally, ballet belongs to everybody, despite its origins. The National Ballet of China has, over the last 10 years, "reclaimed" some of the most popular storybook ballets (like Copellia and Swan Lake) and reinterpreted them to tell stories in the typical Chinese fashion, and through the Chinese cultural filter. If you can find "The Red Detachment of Women" on video, it's a FANTASTIC example of the fusion of Chinese history/culture and the "western" art form of ballet.

    There are various "styles" of ballet, but they aren't really styles of dance so much as styles of SCHOOLS or styles of training. The most prominent in the US are the Italian School (Cecchetti), the Russian school (Vaganova) and Balanchine's school, which is based on Vaganova technique. (The English have RAD technique, the Dutch have their own, and supposedly there was a German offshoot of RAD that was popular there.)

    Each school teaches a slightly different way to do a movement. (like, when starting a pirouette, is the back leg straight or bent, and to what degree. Where is the beginning of the weight shift, in front or back of the pelvis. Etc.) Because the technique is slightly different, the dancers in each technique have a slightly different look.

    Now there are performance "Styles" inside each technical school as well. The best example of this was, before the fall of the USSR, the diff between Kirov ballet style and Bolshoi style. Kirov was more "lyrical" in performance, and Bolshoi was more physical and technical. (I think I have the distinctions attributed right. It's been a while!) The diff between ABT and NYCB was noticeable in the 80s (the Baryshnikov years). But I think 99% of that is the AD and the choreographers.

    Ballet isn't self-taught because it has developed into a stylized system of very complicated and extensive long-term training. You can be a self-taught country or contra dancer, and you can teach yourself the court dances and figure forms upon which ballet was based originally, but modern formal ballet is so far removed from those self-teachable roots that it's a different art form altogether.

    Belly dance has not developed into that same stylized system. Not yet. Therefore it is still possible to be self-taught, especially if you're talking about the social dance form.

    As more Arab dancers get more extensive dance training (in whatever form), I think you will see Raqs Sharqi becoming something a little "harder" for the general public to just pick up by observation. You can see the beginnings of this in the dancers now, if you look with a critical eye. They might DECIDE to take the social dance in a much more stylized and stage-designed fashion, or they may bring it back to a more "homegrown" level. Who's the designer -- is it Eman Zaki? Used to be a dancer and now makes costumes? She had said she hoped the Egyptians would adopt a more technical approach to both presenting and teaching the dance. I guess future Ahlan Wa Sahlans will tell us how this plays out...

    So short answer is that ballet doesn't have and isn't supposed to have a "western" accent, although it approaches music and movement from a western perspective. It's completely unlike Belly dance in that way. You can't look at Kirov and say "oh that's so representative of the Russian culture, or the Latvian culture" or whatever. There are Russian and Latvian folk dances that do that.

  9. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by karena View Post
    I feel like I'm jumping into the lions' den here, but I am asking a genuine question to explore this, so please take it in this spirit.

    I'm interested in the ballet analogy. Can people outside of Europe (and we'll add in north America to overcome that problem) do ballet? Or does it then become something else if it lacks the western essence?
    That's an interesting question. I always wondered why the soloists in the Egyptian opera house ballet are either Russian or Eastern European, it seems whenever I look at the names on the program it is always Olga, Ivanova, Oksana etc... Since most of it, if not all, is soley based on technical ability, Egyptians should have no problems getting it. There's only one Egyptian soloist in that company whom I liked, her name is Nadine.. the rest always look so uptight and stiff (and may I say boring?) for some reason.

  10. #50
    Member TribalDancer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aisha Azar View Post
    American Tribal is all about fusion and its meaning and essence is far removed from anything of Middle Eastern belly dance.

    Regards,
    A'isha
    I have to pop up and agree on this one point (not sticking my foot in the other points . ATS/Tribal is a fusion dance. It is a fusion BELLYDANCE. Of course that is where A'isha and I diverge in opinion on this--I still believe it is bellydance, but a fused and tweaked version of it. Any tribal dancer worth her salt will be able to talk about the dance and movement and its origins. "The move Ghawazee is literally taken from the nomadic Ghawazee dancers of Egypt. The wide swinging hips were derived largely from the clothing worn at the time--if you have very voluminous clothing on, the only movement you would be able to see would be big movement. The Re-Shamka is a move derived from Indian dance. The movement was passed down from Megha of Devyani, from her Indian dance teacher. The exuberant hip movement is reminiscent of bellydance hip bumps, and the arms flowing up overhead evokes the uplifted movement that is common to ATS vocabulary..."

    Etc...

    If you can't talk about where the move came from, even if you say "I saw it in an Aisha Ali dance video and really liked it. It's a North African movement, and the earthiness of the footwork really drew a parallel for me with tribal..." then don't do it. If you are doing fusion you have to have some idea of what you are fusing and why.

    That is all from me on that!

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