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  1. #21
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    I agree with Adiemus - I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the self-help therapy and goddess side reflects belly dance being reclaimed from the cheesy "entertain your sultan" image in the '70's. I can see why people would want to do that, but it's quite weird - throwing out one version of "belly dance" for another.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cathy
    I am tempted to speculate that this has to do with the greater degree to which colonizers looked down upon and tried to reformulate ME culture(s) according to their own preferences, as compared to Andalusian Spanish culture (assuming I have it right that this is where Flamenco originated)
    You wouldn't really dare with flamenco, would you? Maybe it is to do with people appreciating the cultural aspects more and so having a bit more respect.

    I wonder though if it is partly to do with when belly dance started getting to be a popular activity; what were the resources at the time? How many teachers were from the ME, were others able to travel/study easily? It's easy for the gaps to get filled in with myths if you are several removes from the source, so to speak, and then it all builds on itself (until people don't realise it has anything to do with the ME... ... and then get all chippy if you suggest it really has. ).

  2. #22
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    Aniseteph--good point. As I understand it, when MED was first introduced in France (about the 1880s?) and US about 1890s, they were so little understood and promoted with so much titillation and fantasy that maybe the fantasy-inspired versions took off and developed lives of their own and only now is the reality of the ME culture and tradition becoming a reality that some in the West are willing and able to engage with.

    Why do you say "you wouldn't dare" about Flamenco? Do you mean there is an idea of outraging Flamenco fans, dancers, and the whole culture? That there is more a fierce sense of ownership and identity tied up in it? If so, this is just what I am talking about. Why ISN'T there the same thing with Raks?

    Also, I was just thinking. The US in particular and Western Europe are known as cultures that value individualism. We feel entitled to use whatever forms to "express ourselves" or "get in touch with our feelings" or whatever, much more so than many other cultures. This undoubtedly plays a part in Western student expectations and also teacher marketing.
    Last edited by cathy; 09-05-2009 at 09:42 PM.

  3. #23
    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    cathy that's a GREAT point! Something that really contrasts with the Maori/ Pacific Island culture, and as far as I can see, much of the middle Eastern culture as well, where the family group (extended family) is the unit of measure. In European or at least Anglo-centric cultures (think UK and US) the 'individual' is TOLD to 'think of yourself', that to put someone else's needs/wants ahead of our own individual identity is almost unthinkable.
    Do you think this is part of the difficulty we have with interpreting the music and dance - after all, if we're asked to 'perform' it's mainly to get the audience to Look At Us, whereas I see that people do look at Dina and Lucy and the other ME dancers but their job is to get the audience to primarily enjoy itself. The focus is different.

    Another thought came to me - since so much of our cultures are tied up into the individual and often about holding in emotions (or expressing only certain emotions), when this dance which is such a visceral, body-embracing dance that demands emotions to both be felt AND expressed, is it any wonder that people who haven't had a vehicle to get in touch with themselves experience a soul renaissance?

  4. #24
    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adiemus View Post
    Do you think this is part of the difficulty we have with interpreting the music and dance - after all, if we're asked to 'perform' it's mainly to get the audience to Look At Us, whereas I see that people do look at Dina and Lucy and the other ME dancers but their job is to get the audience to primarily enjoy itself. The focus is different.
    Your comment sparked another thought along similar lines...

    In European and American show business, the individual performer is typically presenting work that was created by someone else - singers sing songs composed by someone else, actors speak lines written and directed by someone else, individual musicians in an orchestra play scores written and arranged and conducted by someone else, and dancers perform choreography created by someone else.

    In the above arts, the individual performer is required to be a vessel for someone else's artistic expression. The few that are able to transcend that and show the passion of their own artistic spirits are by far the minorities. For example, the ability to transcend the choreography is one of the things that made Gelsey Kirkland such a famous ballerina. (I recommend her book Dancing on my Grave.) And the actors who manage to endure, rather than just being flavor-of-the-month, are those who bring their own special interpretation to the lines written for them.

    In our dance form, with its emphasis on improvisation, the great dancers (such as Dina and Lucy) may have choreography as a framework, but they don't choreograph everything down to the tiniest head toss. They tend to improvise on the taqasim, and they tend to be spontaneous with things like hand gestures. So our dance form is one that enables the *performer* to express her own voice rather than expressing the voice of the writer / composer / choreographer.

  5. #25
    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    Oh excellent point! especially around the spontaneity and lack of pinning down each and every hand gesture and head tilt and hair flick!
    But there are dancers who dance their own choreography, and musicians who perform their own music - and these vary in intensity of emotion and honesty in performance.
    The whole purpose of ME dance is to express what the music feels like to the dancer, so it's built on knowing the effect of the music on yourself.
    But does this happen in dance classes? especially those that end up with women treating it as 'therapy'? I mean, I love dancing but drills only make me cry with pain, its not a cathartic experience!

  6. #26
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adiemus View Post
    The whole purpose of ME dance is to express what the music feels like to the dancer, so it's built on knowing the effect of the music on yourself.
    But does this happen in dance classes? especially those that end up with women treating it as 'therapy'?
    I don't think it does. Even if you get to the stage of being able to feel the music and have good enough technique to be able to do something about it, getting that feeling across to an audience is another layer of skills. I don't see how learning those skills would fit in a therapy-orientated class focused on what was happening to the individual or to the group; why would the audience matter?

  7. #27
    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    Not only that, but remember when you and I first started learning (and I'm still a baby dancer!), I never got in touch with the music because I was so focused on remembering to get the body bits into place at the right time. Maybe the 'therapy' classes don't focus on movements and just on the 'mood music'?? with veils and scarves and other lovely floaty things...

  8. #28
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adiemus View Post
    ...I never got in touch with the music because I was so focused on remembering to get the body bits into place at the right time.
    Oh yes! And frantically counting because I couldn't tell what that weird music was going to do next.

  9. #29
    V.I.P. adiemus's Avatar
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    ..and then an evil teacher says 'Oh, now you've got that I just want to add in another layer...and where are your smiles?!) NOT that I'm thinking of any particular teacher now would I?

  10. #30
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    Default As compared to writing

    Maybe a more fruitful comparison would be dance as therapy to writing as therapy.

    There are lots of poetry, fiction, essay, and all kinds of writing classes aimed at people who want to express themselves, as in their personal thoughts, observations, feelings, and so forth. Journaling or writing letters to tell people how you really feel (but might not ever send) or blogging or writing poetry are all described as getting more in touch with your own feelings. I have no problem with that--as long as everyone is quite clear that these are intended for personal use only (or maybe sharing with close family, friends, therapist, or maybe the whole writing class at a maximum). This kind of writing is not intended for professional purposes or public consumption.

    Maybe it could or should be the same with dance. Classes could be offered in "dance therapy" or "self expression through movement and dance" or whatever, wherein the teacher made it clear that the purpose was to free up peoples' feelings and ability to express themselves through dance movement. But make it clear that this kind of exercise is not intended for public display and is not representative of any particular form or cultural group, even if a particular genre of music and movement vocabulary was used.

    It's when the lines get blurred between art form and no-holds-barred individual self-expression that we run into problems.

    If you signed up a for course on haiku and you used it as a platform to write lengthy free verse about your break-up with your boyfriend, that just wouldn't fit the form, and any teacher worth her salt would refer you to another kind of writing class altogether.
    Last edited by cathy; 09-08-2009 at 11:34 PM.

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