"Ancient" dance form theme - your thoughts

Salome

Administrator
Over the years, I've visited maybe a bazillion or so dancer and dance websites. Ok, maybe not a bazillion, but a lot. One of the very common themes is a reference to Oriental dance being an "ancient" dance form.

I know there are different positions on this. Myself personally, I make a distinction between Oriental dance - the performance art - and the many folk dances that it sprang from. And Oriental dance, the performance art, is not ancient at all, it's relatively new.

I'm curious where this ancient reference is coming from? Why it's circulating out there. Is this something you support and why? What did your teacher tell you/what do you tell your students?
 

shiradotnet

New member
One of the very common themes is a reference to Oriental dance being an "ancient" dance form.

I'm curious where this ancient reference is coming from? Why it's circulating out there.
  • It's glamorous, romantic, exotic.
  • It provides validation for those people who have a psychological need for validation.
  • It makes belly dance palatable to those feminists who embrace the whole matriarchal society notion

Is this something you support and why?
Nope, I prefer verifiable facts.

What did your teacher tell you/what do you tell your students?
None of the teachers I had ever said anything about dance history. Nothing.

As for what I tell my students: "What is their proof? We have yet to discover a diary in which a stone-age woman says, 'Today I invented a new dance. I think I'll call it belly dance. I did it because ___.' We also have yet to find a 5,000-year-old videotape showing this dance being done."
 

Salome

Administrator
I was going to start another thread regarding the goddess theme. But on reflection, these two themes often go hand in hand.

I personally don't subscribe to a 'male god' but on the other hand I've never confused the fact that my spiritual leanings don't have anything to do with the origin, purpose etc. of the dance form itself.
 

Kharmine

New member
I was going to start another thread regarding the goddess theme. But on reflection, these two themes often go hand in hand.

I personally don't subscribe to a 'male god' but on the other hand I've never confused the fact that my spiritual leanings don't have anything to do with the origin, purpose etc. of the dance form itself.
Y'know, as it happens, the goddess movement of the 1970s is where I first heard that belly dance was "ancient." I was a card-carrying member of NOW, taking feminist studies in college, da whole thing.

And when I heard that belly dance originated in ancient temples during some golden era of Goddess worship in matriarchal societies I remember thinking, "WTF?" (Or words to that effect).

Because I also studied a lot of history and comparative religion. Those claims -- universal goddess worship, widespread matriarchies, temple belly dancing, etc. -- had no basis in any facts I could find.

Not that it wouldn't have been nice -- I had left the Catholic church and was exploring less patriarchy-dominated denominations. But even wishing these feminist fantasies were true didn't make 'em so.

When I later got involved in organizing Renaissance fairs, we had a number of belly dancers who wanted to perform. In order for them to fit in with what the public knew of Tudor history, we made up a tongue-in-cheek story about them being descendants of dancers brought back from the Holy Land by Richard the Lionheart

Well, darned if not only most of the public swallowed that without a blink, but some of those dancers starting circulating the story that there was a tradition of belly dancing in England since the days of Robin Hood!

I'm telling ya, it boggles the mind...

Which is why when I finally decided to take belly dance classes I looked for a teacher who had authentic credentials for teaching in the true cultural context. I didn't want to have to hold my nose and try to undulate at the same time! :lol:
 
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maria_harlequin

New member
When I later got involved in organizing Renaissance fairs, we had a number of belly dancers who wanted to perform. In order for them to fit in with what the public knew of Tudor history, we made up a tongue-in-cheek story about them being descendants of dancers brought back from the Holy Land by Richard the Lionheart

Well, darned if not only most of the public swallowed that without a blink, but some of those dancers starting circulating the story that there was a tradition of belly dancing in England since the days of Robin Hood!
:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
 

maria_harlequin

New member

  • As for what I tell my students: "What is their proof? We have yet to discover a diary in which a stone-age woman says, 'Today I invented a new dance. I think I'll call it belly dance. I did it because ___.' We also have yet to find a 5,000-year-old videotape showing this dance being done."


  • I've read or heard somewhere that someone claimed that Belly Dancing started with the ancient Celts and their proof were wiggly lines discovered on a rock. There's also some Mother Goddess and Mists of Avalon stuff thrown in there too.

    Mind boggling, really.
 

Marya

Member
Over the years, I've visited maybe a bazillion or so dancer and dance websites. Ok, maybe not a bazillion, but a lot. One of the very common themes is a reference to Oriental dance being an "ancient" dance form.

I know there are different positions on this. Myself personally, I make a distinction between Oriental dance - the performance art - and the many folk dances that it sprang from. And Oriental dance, the performance art, is not ancient at all, it's relatively new.

I'm curious where this ancient reference is coming from? Why it's circulating out there. Is this something you support and why? What did your teacher tell you/what do you tell your students?
My first two teachers really were into the ancient/mother goddess concept. they approached it a little differently and used different references. Others with whom I have studied (Artemis Mourat) are absolutely convinced that the origins of contemporary belly dance in all its many forms can be traced back to ancient times. Artemis writes about it quite a bit, I think she had some articles in Habibi. I think there are actually quite a few dancers from the 60's 70's that developed that scenario, or took advantage of it.

If one uses the broadest possible definition of belly dance (any dance of any period, originating anywhere near the Mesopotamian/Euprates region of the world), then one can cite ancient greek vases and poetry etc. as proof of the origins.

Certain people can carry off the mystique of being a neighborhood temple priestess, but I am afraid that as much as I may want that story to be true or may absolutely love the image of my self as a goddess, all I have to do is wake up in the morning to shatter that image!

practically speaking, I could not develop as a dancer until I just focused on one particular style of a particular country with only a 100 years or so of history to learn. I felt a little overwhelmed when presented with the burden of carrying on a sacred temple ritual for the goddess in us all.

Nevertheless, I did find the process of learning from these two teachers to be somewhat liberating and uplifting. Who wouldn't like to envision themselves as a goddess? But it didn't help me as a dancer.

If a student asks me about this I say that is one of the stories that are told and that there are many, and that I teach Egyptian Style BD as developed in the night clubs of Cairo during the 20th century.

Marya
 
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Oresai

New member
I've read or heard somewhere that someone claimed that Belly Dancing started with the ancient Celts and their proof were wiggly lines discovered on a rock. There's also some Mother Goddess and Mists of Avalon stuff thrown in there too.
I just spilled my coffee! That did make me laugh out loud :lol:
I`m a newbie to it all, but often hear and read online that it`s called either bellydance, without reference to origin, or Egyptian dance, or Oriental dance..the Oriental dance seems, somehow in my mind, to be linked to those `progressive young things` in the early twenties who cut their hair into shockingly short bobs, and belonged to a society which `discovered` Egypt (yes, I know, sorry, am just trying to get across how they viewed themselves) and all things Egyptian were romanticised from home furnishings .....my grandmother was a young woman through this era and remembered the Egyptian influence in design well...to clothing and dance. :)
I have no idea if that is where the Oriental label originated or not but it`s just what comes to mind when I use it or read it. :)
There are very many early pictures of young women in bellydance outfits of the day (I bet they`d envy our good supportive bras now!) posing against Egyptian inspired backdrops. :)
I`m heathen...pagan...but don`t `do` the feminism/goddess thing since I also have a degree in Archaeology and have no belief that a truly Matriarchal society existed in the way new age folks tend to believe. But I DO believe sacred dance did exist, in all societies, for various reasons...to call a successful hunt, for fertility, for sexual attraction and finding the best mate, for communication with the gods for many reasons....
There is an example of a Bronze age `dance` outfit where the girl would have worn a skirt, a short one, of grass or reed fronds. Depending on if she would have worn anything underneath, this would have been very sensual and revealing....as she moved, skin would be glimpsed beneath, and if she shimmied or shook, the whole skirt would do so likewise, almost like the fringed belts we wear now, drawing attention to the area which, I guess, did at least hold the power of procreation.
However, I personally doubt that there was ever a Golden Age in which females ruled their society, all was peace, love and control over those `evil` men and the godesses listened to us because we danced, sang or sacrificed said men over hot coals.
I honestly think a lot of the new age Mother Goddess stuff can be traced back to the seventies and eighties and to authors like Starhhawk, a feminist writer, and the feminism movement back then. It gave paganism a strong tinge of rosy unreality, took the fluffy, kind and safe and appealing bits and ignored the gritty, dirty and bloody bits, and packaged them up to sell to a public thirsty for something different.
Trouble is, it`s still around! :shok: :D
Hope that made sense. I`m only on my third coffee this morning! :think:
 

maria_harlequin

New member
There is an example of a Bronze age `dance` outfit where the girl would have worn a skirt, a short one, of grass or reed fronds. Depending on if she would have worn anything underneath, this would have been very sensual and revealing....as she moved, skin would be glimpsed beneath, and if she shimmied or shook, the whole skirt would do so likewise, almost like the fringed belts we wear now, drawing attention to the area which, I guess, did at least hold the power of procreation.

I honestly think a lot of the new age Mother Goddess stuff can be traced back to the seventies and eighties and to authors like Starhhawk, a feminist writer, and the feminism movement back then. It gave paganism a strong tinge of rosy unreality, took the fluffy, kind and safe and appealing bits and ignored the gritty, dirty and bloody bits, and packaged them up to sell to a public thirsty for something different.
:
Don't even get me started on Starhawk :naghty: I'm in no way pagan or Wicca but I have studied the movement and hold a respect for them and writers like Starhawk makes me cringe. That and Margaret Murray.

I hope when I'm wearing my fringe belt I'm in no way drawing attention to my area of procreation!!! !
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
I hope when I'm wearing my fringe belt I'm in no way drawing attention to my area of procreation!!! !
I dunno- it's sure been done. Ever look at the designs on some of those belts on the old UBDC thread? ;) And the dress with the holes and the little sperm-shaped sequined-edged paisleys swimming across the fabric? (I am not making this up.)
 

maria_harlequin

New member
I dunno- it's sure been done. Ever look at the designs on some of those belts on the old UBDC thread? ;) And the dress with the holes and the little sperm-shaped sequined-edged paisleys swimming across the fabric? (I am not making this up.)
Noooooo! Don't remind me! The horror, the horror!
 

Marya

Member
I hope when I'm wearing my fringe belt I'm in no way drawing attention to my area of procreation!!! !
Well, that would depend on what it looked like I guess, as we have seen on the various costume threads, that is exactly what some fringe belts do. But they are all designed to draw attention to the hips.

Marya
 

Reen.Blom

New member
It makes me sick and wonder if they dont know or or just use it for 'promotion'. Same goes for goddesh worship.

Why not add a poll to this thread?
 

maria_harlequin

New member
Well, that would depend on what it looked like I guess, as we have seen on the various costume threads, that is exactly what some fringe belts do. But they are all designed to draw attention to the hips.

Marya
Hahaha well...I'm glad I don't have a belt that draws the attention to the very obvious area of procreation. But I guess it depends on the onlooker too.
 

feedyoureye

New member
...my husband told me "Bellydance is just a way to get men to want to have sex with you"
I raised my eyebrows at him... but he feels the way he feels, and he loves watching bellydance....many men feel this way. We shouldn't be surprised at the power of the sensuous moves we can get our bodies to make...I'm sure none of us are going for repulsive are we? I see some AT dancers that have a scary face and use whips and fire during the dance... this is perhaps about adding a different kind of power to the dance...
My husbands favorite kind of costume is the Banjara type, that mostly covers you up! I think even though he likes the dance, he is a bit troubled at the thought that others might think I am attractive and seductive.....



 

Kharmine

New member
.....my grandmother was a young woman through this era and remembered the Egyptian influence in design well...to clothing and dance. :) I have no idea if that is where the Oriental label originated or not but it`s just what comes to mind when I use it or read it. :)...
It's been traced it to the term "raqs sharqi," which those folks in the 1920s Cairo nightclub scene called the emerging dance form. It translates to "dance of the East," or "dance of the Orient." Some think that means as opposed to "dance of the West," or "Occident" (the archaic name for the West).

...However, I personally doubt that there was ever a Golden Age in which females ruled their society, all was peace, love and control over those `evil` men and the godesses listened to us because we danced, sang or sacrificed said men over hot coals.
Yeah, except those idyllic matriarchal societies never ever sacrificed humans -- that was patriarchal propaganda!

The rhetoric of the revisionist matriarchal history movement back then is a prime example of how sexism can cut both ways. :rolleyes:

....I honestly think a lot of the new age Mother Goddess stuff can be traced back to the seventies and eighties and to authors like Starhhawk, a feminist writer, and the feminism movement back then. It gave paganism a strong tinge of rosy unreality, took the fluffy, kind and safe and appealing bits and ignored the gritty, dirty and bloody bits, and packaged them up to sell to a public thirsty for something different.
Trouble is, it`s still around! :shok: :D...
Authors such as Starhawk are still very popular even though she has unblushingly admitted to making up history to fit her political/religious agenda. When pressed about presenting her fiction as fact, she said something to the effect that it represented the truth, even if not literal. (My memory is a little shaky on her exact defense.)

People seeking pagan and Wiccan wisdom are still being advised by their fans to read these writings, go to the authors' lectures, etc. Their stuff gets marketed and promoted as nonfiction, which really confuses people.

And somehow, it all gets lumped with things such as the late Marion Zimmer Bradley's lovely "The Mists of Avalon"! I enjoyed that book immensely, but not even the ardently feminist Ms. Bradley (one of the founders of The Society for Creative Anachronisms) claimed she was presenting actual history.

BTW, this is not meant to be a putdown of the various pagan and Wiccan beliefs. One of the books I recommend is "Triumph of the Moon," by Ronald Hutton. It's an excellent, respectful history of the modern pagan movement that sprang out of the UK.

I also recommend a site called Wicca for the Rest of Us for an excellent history of what Wiccans call "fluff bunny" mythology, including the distorted goddess/matriarchy history: Wicca: For the Rest of Us

There's nuthin' about belly dance on that site, but in the section that addresses the matriarchal history myths you can get a pretty good idea of how it gets linked to goddess worship and ancient temple dancing by those would rather believe a good fantasy.

And at its heart, the powerful appeal of a good fantasy -- because of certain things lacking in our lives such as real education and equality -- is what I believe lies behind these persistent "ancient" myths.
 

maria_harlequin

New member
And somehow, it all gets lumped with things such as the late Marion Zimmer Bradley's lovely "The Mists of Avalon"! I enjoyed that book immensely, but not even the ardently feminist Ms. Bradley (one of the founders of The Society for Creative Anachronisms) claimed she was presenting actual history.

BTW, this is not meant to be a putdown of the various pagan and Wiccan beliefs. One of the books I recommend is "Triumph of the Moon," by Ronald Hutton. It's an excellent, respectful history of the modern pagan movement that sprang out of the UK.

I also recommend a site called Wicca for the Rest of Us for an excellent history of what Wiccans call "fluff bunny" mythology, including the distorted goddess/matriarchy history: Wicca: For the Rest of Us
I enjoyed Mists of Avalon immensely too but it bothered me as well that she was presenting it as actual history. She should've have labeled it as historical fantasy...because that was what it was.

I love Wicca For the Rest of Us! I've been reading it for years and as a Christian, it really helped me see what Wicca was really about (after being preached at that it was all about goats and pentacles) by the conservatives.

Maybe we should have a Belly Dance For the Rest of Us? :lol:
 

Mosaic

Super Moderator
Over the years, I've visited maybe a bazillion or so dancer and dance websites. Ok, maybe not a bazillion, but a lot. One of the very common themes is a reference to Oriental dance being an "ancient" dance form.

I know there are different positions on this. Myself personally, I make a distinction between Oriental dance - the performance art - and the many folk dances that it sprang from. And Oriental dance, the performance art, is not ancient at all, it's relatively new.

I'm curious where this ancient reference is coming from? Why it's circulating out there. Is this something you support and why? What did your teacher tell you/what do you tell your students?
I believe that because BD as we know it today, sprang from ME folk dance, people just simply lump the 2 together, without thought or real investigation.

One person states the dance is 'ancient/temple oriented/cave person oriented or whatever, and because it is printed in black & white on the web or in a book, it has become accepted by the masses as truth. It becomes embellished over time as others take what they have read as 'gospel'.

My teachers have never said anything about the origins ( as in ancient/temple dance, etc). One teacher is Lebanese and she always says she began dancing in the womb, because her mother, grandmother, aunts and the menfolk of the family danced at home, various local gatherings, and the women of her family were also invited to dance at weddings and other local celebrations, because her family were known as the best dancers around. Because of this family tie to folk and celebratory dnaces, she sort of fell into 'modern' BD when her family moved to Australia. So we do get a bit of local village history when it comes to her family and the role dance has played in her life. I love that it is so real.

My other teacher is Australian and began dancing because she wanted something more feminine in her life after her 5th baby was born atound 12 years ago, she is a karate instructor and had been doing that for 20 years. Now she does both( seperately:lol:). So for her BD was a very sparkly way to bring some femininity into her life and she just fell in love with it. She is a beautiful and graceful dancer. Because she knew nothing about the Middle east when she started she asked questions of Middle Eastern people, and built up her 'modern' knowledge of the dance.

I am a seeker of knowledge and as much truth as I can find, so the 2 of us spend a lot of time discussing aspects of the dance and seeking out info. I am lucky I have 2 pretty down to earth teachers:D

I personally much prefer the simple (non-performance embellished) folkdances, they are real and bring through the everyday culture and enjoyment of the people of whatever culture the dance is from.

Mind you I wouldn't give up the performance art of the dance and that includes folkloric stage performance:D
~Mosaic
 

Caroline_afifi

New member
When I later got involved in organizing Renaissance fairs, we had a number of belly dancers who wanted to perform. In order for them to fit in with what the public knew of Tudor history, we made up a tongue-in-cheek story about them being descendants of dancers brought back from the Holy Land by Richard the Lionheart

Well, darned if not only most of the public swallowed that without a blink, but some of those dancers starting circulating the story that there was a tradition of belly dancing in England since the days of Robin Hood!

:lol:
There is a belly dancer I know in the UK who is also part of the Robin Hood appreciation society (cant remember the real name).

She will love this!
 
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