DancingArabian, I just read through all your posts and I think I understand where you're coming from. I understand it because I've been there -- and I want to say this with ZERO snark, and ZERO sense of looking down my nose at you:I'm kind of getting the feeling that I've ruffled your feathers somehow, but I'll be damned if I know how. I haven't posted anything argumentative, or hostile, or rude. If I've posted something that has caused you offense, then I apologize as it wasn't meant that way.
You hold an opinion. The basis for this opinion can be interpreted in two ways --
1. You've come to the conclusions you've come to based on immersion and experience with both the dances and the cultures that make up what we often call "belly dance."
2. You have had what could be argued is a superficial experience with this dance and haven't come to understand all the cultural nuances of the argument.
Now -- based on what you've said about yourself in your posts, I am NOT trying to be snarky when saying that I THINK that maybe possibly when you have a deeper experience of the dance and cultures, you may feel differently.
I say this because I've been there. And my experience DID change my opinion.
We have all been drawn to this dance for different reasons. For me, it was the music. I couldn't figure out how to dance "ballet" to it, but I loved it, so I wanted to learn how to dance to it. (At the time I viewed it like Salsa. You like the music so you go learn "the moves.") Well that and I'd always had a fascination with ancient Egypt, but who hasn't? lol.
In my class were women who were drawn to bellydance for much different reasons. Some were there to learn how to "dance sexy" for their guys. Some were there to reclaim a sense of femininity. Some were there because it was something edgy and cool to do. Some were curious about the culture or the music. Some wanted to connect with the divine. And some just wanted an alternative to Jane Fonda videos! LOL
The ones who were just into the "harem girl" fantasy dropped out pretty quickly. The ones whose interests were less superficial stayed with it, learning more and more. I ended up traveling for classes and private lessons, and what I noticed is that the longer a student studied the dance, the less interested she was in the "trappings" -- the costuming, the "Gypsy" schtick, the stereotypes, etc. The more we learned about the music and the dance, the more fascinated we were with how those elements are intrinsically intertwined in the culture.
Experience has led me to the opinion that this dance and the culture(s) that originate it, ARE intrinsically intertwined. The more I learn, the more obvious this is to me. The more I study with native dancers from Egypt and North Africa, the more obvious this becomes. The more I practice the technique taught to me by Egyptians and by American instructors who teach genuine Egyptian style, the more I start to look at the body language of my Arab friends and realize things like "Wow, they move like this because they actually STAND like this!" The more Egyptians I watch dance, the more I can see their complicated cultural "archetypes" show up in their dancing. It's really amazing, and I'm continually excited by these little discoveries.
NOW -- that said, that is my OWN opinion. And like I said, it has changed drastically since I first started in classes. You've been dancing for 5 years -- in another 5 years who knows where your experience will lead you? Hmm?
I think the standard argument here is that even if Egyptians, for example, don't refer to themselves as "belly dancers" the term BELLY DANCE in the USA (since you and I are Americans) simply CAN'T be pulled away from even a vague image of something generally Arab or Middle Eastern. You would never see "Belly dance" confused with Irish culture. Nobody thinks "belly dance" and thinks of China. Or Finland. Or Argentina.My emerging belief is that the dancers should use caution when labeling themselves. If the the local level of dancing is not called "belly dance" in the countries of origin, then offense shouldn't be taken at the use of the word as it's clearly not meant to be an accurate cultural representation.
In the public's eye, "belly dance" is still something Arab/Turkic. I don't think this will ever change, honestly. And I think what MOST professional dancers want is for their audience to respect that.
A lot of people want to define "belly dance" by its movement vocabulary. Here's an interesting experiment -- what, in the belly dance movement vocabulary, is unique to belly dance alone and is not shared by other dances?I think more effort should be made to express that "belly dance" is inspired by the dance styles of the countries
It's all overlap. I used to think shimmies were singularly bellydance. Nope. Find em in African dance too. Even step-hip isn't uniquely ours! The hip drop, the figure 8, the jewel!! It's all shared.
Which of course leads us to the never-ending argument over how to define "belly dance."
But I think something more important to understand is that belly dance is not just "inspired by" the "dance styles of the countries" -- it's a product of the PEOPLE of those countries. Their social interactions. Their class system. Their social mores and taboos. Their music. Their religions. Their history with the West. Their feelings about themselves. It's, as A'isha Azar put it, a CULTURAL PRACTICE -- and it's a larger cultural practice for a lot of closely related but still vastly different smaller cultures.
Beginners starting out don't. And the general public usually doesn't. In my classes I always tell students they're learning the sort of generic social dance of the Middle East. But this is also why I feel it's SOOOO important when performing for the public to accurately portray what belly dance is -- because we ARE (sometimes unwillingly and sometimes unknowingly) cultural "ambassadors." BECAUSE people know belly dance to be vaguely Arab/Turkic (and not Argentinian or Finnish) what we present to them is the image they take home.I really don't think that many people realize that people in ME countries dance like that socially and they think that it's just a performance art and not a cultural aspect.
If we pretend to be "harem girl" then we reinforce negative and racist stereotypes about the "nasty savages." We can go harem girl completely covered up too -- it's not really about the 2-piece costume. It's about the INTENT.
Think about the typical private school uniform for girls -- what makes one image a typical student and another image "slutty schoolgirl" porn? INTENT.
But that's another topic and this is a ridiculously long post as it is...
There is a strong opinion online that "belly dance" be "reclaimed" to define anything that is remotely inspired by the dances or cultures of the Middle East/North Africa. I've read a few decent THEORETICAL arguments that make the case for this.I could absolutely agree that if someone is calling themselves an orientale dancer or "raqs beledi" dancer or some other culturally specific label, then walks out to music of another genre with a costume from yet another genre, then yes offense should be taken. From this thread I'm seeing that "belly dance" was meant to be something specific - so it really should be viewed as and considered as that, and nothing else.
BUT: I personally don't see that this "reclamation" IN PRACTICE is of any use to anybody -- hoop dancing to Beats Antique while wearing a hip scarf and doing mostly Fossee style dance moves can be considered "inspired" but it doesn't really help ANY audience member or student dancer that such a performance be labeled belly dance. Or "fusion" for that matter -- which I think is the LEAST helpful or useful description available in the English language.
If you're hoop dancing in bedleh, you're not doing fusion. You're not inspired by belly dance. You're just hoop dancing in bedleh.
Not gonna comment on the "sexy" thing going on in the thread other than to say there is a HUGE difference between "sexy" and "sexed up" and in my experience the VAST majority of people who pay to see a bellydance show or hire a belly dancer are WOMEN, not men. And yes, WOMEN do like to see a sexy beautiful woman in a beautiful costume. Not a sexed-up woman -- a sexy woman. Big diff, there.