But It's Art!!!!!

Aziyade

New member
I'm not saying it's happened on THIS message board, but why is it that whenever we question a performer or teacher's qualifications or how much they know about the dance or the contributing cultures, we get this generic statement about how art is supposed to evolve?

So if I walk into a studio and see somebody doing cane dance to Bhangra music, and I ask why they chose this particular music, I get slapped in the face with:

"This is my ART. It's evolving. It's my personal expression. Don't try to put me in your box!"

????:think: :think: ?????


Somebody must have asked Kajira Djoumahna once "why are you wearing tassels and dancing to that music?" A good question, yes? She answered that question by writing a book, The Tribal Bible. Excellent response.

When you "push the boundaries of your art" you should expect people to question you. And you should be prepared with a response. Art is about communication. What are you communicating?

All art can be considered experimental. But you know, sometimes experiments fail. High concept "art" and big-budget movies can fail. The first draft of a poem isn't necessarily (or often) what will be the final finished poem.

Not everything a writer creates is art. Not every scale played by a pianist is art. Sometimes it's just practice.

Not all that goes by the name of "art" is real communication. Sometimes it's just practice.
 

Gia al Qamar

New member
:dance: :clap: :clap:
I agree.
We live in a time when gifted artists starve and the government funds works by someone who schmeres feces on a canvas and calls it 'art'.
I applaud those who are using the 'classics' to create their own works of art...but as with everything...creation requires more than just the urge to do it...
Gia
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Well said, Ayizade. I tried to send you some more rep, but the Power of the Forum said not yet.

Everything does not have to be great art- sometimes it is okay to say, "Oh, the canes and the Bhangra? I'm just playing. Grab a cane and you can play, too."
 

Aziyade

New member
Hey, I totally dig Bhangra. I "belly dance" to Bhangra pretty often, in my home studio. I tap dance to Gypsy Caravan's rhythm CDs. The only time I can get my veil to comply with my wishes is when I'm dancing to Zucchero. I throw an Alabina CD in the player and switch from practicing Flamenco to Salsa to bellydance, to whatever strikes my fancy at the time. I LOOOOOOVVVVVE playing dance. And that's what I call it: playing dance. Sometimes it just does your soul good to move -- to anything you want to hear.

But if I tried advertising a performance as say, Saidi, and I spent most of the time doing the bumbishay and shuffling-stepping -- well, I would EXPECT someone in the audience to say, "Um, what was that, exactly, and why did you call it Saidi?"


Suheir asks some questions that I don't know how to answer. Is it art or ignorance?

When I think of Melaya, I think of Mahmoud Reda and his tableaux dances. I would think if you studied Reda's use of the melaya, and felt you captured the spirit of what he was hoping to portray, then you would KNOW what would be an "accepted" use of the melaya (accepted by the dance community in general.)

I'm ignorant of "Escanderani" music, so I wouldn't know how to dance to that.
 

Suheir

New member
I'm ignorant of "Escanderani" music, so I wouldn't know how to dance to that.
I think I should have spelt it 'Eskanderani' - it's dance from Alexandria and if there's a male dancer he'll be dressed as a fisherman and make appropriate gestures:
 

Aziyade

New member
Hmm... is this an actual Alexandrian folk dance? I ask because it looks awfully Reda-fied. If it's not just tableaux and it's a real folk dance, then I think a lot of variance from the "norm" is ignorance.

This desire to not appear ignorant is what prompted teh posts on Turkish and Greek folk dance.
 

Suheir

New member
Hmm... is this an actual Alexandrian folk dance? I ask because it looks awfully Reda-fied. If it's not just tableaux and it's a real folk dance, then I think a lot of variance from the "norm" is ignorance.

This desire to not appear ignorant is what prompted teh posts on Turkish and Greek folk dance.
I'd be surprised if it's possible to see anything that hasn't been Reda influenced!
 

Aziyade

New member
I'd be surprised if it's possible to see anything that hasn't been Reda influenced!

Oh, well I meant, is this a Reda CREATION more than like, a folk creation.

Like Reda's "Hagallah" that really isn't.

I had actually heard that Melaya leff dance was his creation, based on the personalities and quirks of the women in -- I think it was Alexandria, wasn't it? So it's not like a folk dance that the folk actually do, but one of the "tableaux" dances that made up his stage shows of "regional Egyptian dance."

I do know he travelled around and actually studied the dances and mannerisms of people in the various regions, though, so his "Creations" were at least based in real experience and not just his imagination.
 

Kharmine

New member
My graduate school was at a small, very independent, liberal arts university where Poseur 101 was a kind of free-floating instruction.

From that experience I came to 2 conclusions:

1. Lacking enough background, intellect or just plain words, some aspiring artists will retreat behind attitude when anything even close to a challenge comes up.

Relying on impressively meaningless phrases to put the questioner in his/her place is a great way to avoid looking like you're having to defend your "concept."

At this point, you will hear phrases such as:

"The viewer/reader/listener determines the meaning." (Which certainly takes the burden of making any kind of POINT off the artist.)

"Everything is art!" (This includes an old, bare mattress placed against a wall in a gallery, flipping a light switch off and on in an empty room, and writing stream-of-consciousness "poetry" in which none of the words connect. These are all true examples of things recently called "art.")

"Art can't be judged!" (Nobody ever talked about all those "juried" shows at which art is, in fact, judged. It's just so middle class to talk about awards and the real point of those awards -- money.)

2. You know that an artist has made it when he/she can talk about (never "explain," that's so -- middle class) his/her "work" in terms that sound like a cross between psychoanalysis and Sanskrit.

But he's really just doing the same thing -- using impressively meaningless phrases to avoid anything like a defense of his "concept."
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
2. You know that an artist has made it when he/she can talk about (never "explain," that's so -- middle class) his/her "work" in terms that sound like a cross between psychoanalysis and Sanskrit.

One time a friend of mine had a show at a local art museum, and an "artist's statement" was required. She called me and asked me to write a statement that sounded impressive and meant absolutely nothing. I have never had so much fun writing to order! And to see people read it and stroke their chins thoughtfully almost sent both of us over the edge.
 

Aziyade

New member
My sister in law was an art major (the first time she went to college) and she had a studio pottery class. I don't know what she was trying to make, but she ended up making this box-like thing (picture a chest with the lid flipped up). I asked her what it was and she said, "a mess." She was supposed to be entering it in the student art show too, so she was really freaking out.

Well, she titled the piece "This is not a chair" (after the magritte painting with "this is not a pipe." It did sort of look like a chair without a seat. If you squinted.

Can you believe her piece WON!!!!!!!!!!! ?? Seriously. It took "best in show" or whatever they call it. She swears it won because of the title. She still laughs about that today.
 

Kharmine

New member
Proving once again that when you can't convince 'em with rhetoric, dazzle 'em with bullshit!

I'm trying to think of some way to question a dancer experimenting with her "art" in a way that forces her to actually try to make a credible answer and not retreat to that defensive position.

The trick, I think, is not to do it in such a way that it sounds like a challenge. Perhaps, sounding both supportive and clueless would give the insecure artist the confidence to talk more freely.

Something like, "That is very interesting! What inspired you to come up with this idea?"
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Hey, bullshit is an ART! You don't just pick up bullshit on the streets- you must strive and study and work in order to create truly great bullshit worthy of display in an art museum- otherwise you just end up going into politics.
 

Aziyade

New member
The trick, I think, is not to do it in such a way that it sounds like a challenge. Perhaps, sounding both supportive and clueless would give the insecure artist the confidence to talk more freely.

Something like, "That is very interesting! What inspired you to come up with this idea?"
I've done this and it totally works. I asked this of a girl who did what she said was a Persian-fusion dance and she told me she was inspired by the music of classical Persian dance and the idea that modern Persians are banned from actually performing the dance. She talked about her inspiration at length. While I didn't quite "get it" in her dance, I fully respected that she at least thought about it for a long time.

Contrast that to the fuisionista who did tribal to Alanis Morisette and when asked of her inspiration just said, "Oh I just wanted to do something different." Um, okay. :confused:
 

Aisha Azar

New member
ARt, etc.

Dear Group,
I think that of all people I can name, I take tons of flack for my very honest views about what should be called belly dance and what should not. This for me is, akin to the art question being borached here, in some ways.
I would like to present a challenge to all of you. What have you seen or heard of that is presented as Middle Eastern dance arts that you have definately not thought of as such, and did you speak out openly as to your feelings or just let it go?
If you spoke out openly, what made you do so?
If you let it go, what was your reason for not speaking out?
Regards,
A'isha
 

Aziyade

New member
I would like to present a challenge to all of you. What have you seen or heard of that is presented as Middle Eastern dance arts that you have definately not thought of as such, and did you speak out openly as to your feelings or just let it go?
YouTube - Belly dancer Ruric-Amari dances to Ut Gret piano solo

Okay, I know the girl who is the dancer and she's a lovely dancer and a nice person. I also know her mother, who actually posted this clip on Tribe.net asking why American bellydance couldn't separate itself from Middle Eastern music. (????)

I don't consider this to be bellydance. I consider it to be SITA+ some hip work, and a lot of interpretive dance. I said so on tribe, and await the wrath:

Throughout all these little internet communities, we've been discussing just what is it that defines bellydance, or Middle Eastern dance.

You really can't define the dance by the individual movements, because they're shared by many other dance forms.
- When does club dancing (as it's done now) cross the line and become bellydancing? Cause I went to a club a few weeks ago and saw what looked a whole lot like bellydance.
- I was watching the East Coast Tribal DVD and thinking, "when does breakdance cross the line and become bellydance" ?

It has to be more than just movement. For me, it's the music and the dancer's emotional response to the music. That techno thing I did for the MEDSOK show -- as far as I'm concerned that really wasn't what I would term "bellydancing" in my strictest definition, and it certainly didn't give ME the same feeling (as the dancer) as I've had when dancing to real Arabic music. I kinda felt like I was doing an exercise routine, more than dancing. (But it was my choreography, so there's no one else to blame.)

I don't know, Maura. I don't really want to go to a "Bellydance" show and see more performances like the one I gave, but I recognize that dancers want to branch out. I think the kind of dance that Ruric did in this clip would have been, 15 years ago, simply considered "interpretive dance." I don't really see why it (not this dance in particular, but dances that want to expand the borders of "bellydance") has to be marketed as "bellydance" -- and why we feel the need to PUSH this "bellydance" thing in the restaurant environment? I'd really MUCH rather see something like this on a proper stage. But that's a different issue altogether...


Trying to be politic. She's a lovely dancer, but utterly lacks a "middle eastern" quality. I don't think that's BAD in a dancer, but in a bellydancer I think it's necessary. But again, it's a matter of semantics.

I've come out on a couple of places and been flamed for insisting that bellydance have SOME element of the MIiddle eastern essence to it. I just want to see what I was promised in the name. Now where's the smiley for beating one's head against a wall?
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Art, etc.

Dear Aziyade,
I would agree that this is definately an example of something that might be called belly dance that is definately not. It is not even good fusion. The dancer's mosvements were mostly insipid against the piano, which often showed an urgency that she seldom reflected in her movement. Even in the slower parts of the music, she did not reflect the right feeling. Of course, it is entirely possible that those movements done in a Middle Eastern spirit would not ever interpret that music, becasue they are not meant to.
I do consider myself to be in good company if you are being flamed on Tribe! I have never posted there and have been freely lambasted on that forum!
Regards,
A'isha
 

Kharmine

New member
There are people who feel that they've got to come up with something radically new -- a gimmick, if you will -- to make themselves stand out, attract interest and, potentially, gigs and other moneymaking offers like seminars, workshops, etc.

I've been involved in hatha yoga for a long time and have watched the rise of such things as Bikram Yoga (yoga performed in an overheated studio, like a sauna, to mimic India's climate), Power Yoga (cardio-intense yoga seems like an oxymoron, but oh well) and Yogiletes (a combination of yoga and Pilates).

You see the same thing happen in martial arts, sports and diet plans. Probably the motivation behind some religious sects, as well.

Frankly, I find I'm more inclined to like something when the creator says "I did it because it was fun!" (at least it's honest) than when the person goes into a pretentious spiel and makes it sound Important and a Boon to Humankind.
 
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