Feeling like a b*tsj...

Nejmeh

New member
*warning: possible whining/ranting ahead*

Two former bd class mates contacted a couple of our troupe for a performance. A couple of us went to check out what it was. Ok, it was obvious it was more of a play, the 'teacher'was not a bellydancer and half of all the girls participating never did bellydance. But still, it seemed like fun so we agreed to do at least the upcoming show(in total their would be about 10) since it was 4 days away.

But yesterday I found out the whole show is about haremgirls, the dancers dancing to be sold off and pleasing 'the sultan'. When the bellydancers were doing snakes etc yesterday the teacher called that 'the hot and sexy moves':confused: Sensual ok, but hot and sexy?!

So I wrote her an email this morning to tell her I`m cancelling. It just doesn`t feel right. But now I feel like an uptight, know it all b*tch, who quits in the last minute:(
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
They should've told you the format before you signed on. On the one hand, this selling off of harem girls is part of sultan history and it was pretty cheesy in the 70s. On the other hand, I can see that you think it's degrading. If it is to show how girls at this time were exploited, that's one thing, or even as a comedy spoof, that can be iffy too. But most of all, you have to feel comfortable. I'm not sure I would be either.
 

nouraki

New member
Ok, the subject about the "harem girls " I don't know it. But as an idea , I don't like it. :(Also, never I understood the "hot and sexy" in oriental.Sensuallity exists in all kinds of dance. But it must come natural and not to be the purpose!!! Anyway, whatever is the subject of a show, the most important is to feel good and comfortable with ourselves and also to love and like what we do, in order to support it. :)
 

Aniseteph

New member
:rolleyes:

I wouldn't feel too bad - if they just want scantily clad harem girls breaking out the "hot and sexy moves" I'm sure they will manage just fine without any serious belly dance input.

(speaking as someone who once improvised sort-of-bellydancing with no clue whatsoever playing a slave girl/ piece of merchandise in a musical. In see through chiffon harem pants. :shok:. LMAO)
 

Yame

New member
Not to be a Ms. Hindsight, but you should have checked the theme before agreeing to it...

But I understand that sometimes it's impossible to cover all the bases and we do only find out that there is something really questionable at the last minute.

I think you are doing the right thing by cancelling, and you shouldn't feel bad. You can't go back in time, and that's the best option you have at this point. It would feel way worse if you actually did it!

As a note for the future though, try to find out what you are in for before you make a decision. Also, don't do belly dance shows with people who have never belly danced before! Even if the theme wasn't so questionable, they still would probably make the whole thing look bad.
 

AndreaSTL

New member
Standing by your principles does NOT make you a b1tch! How would you feel if you compromised your beliefs and did it anyway? I think that would haunt you for a lot longer than this will. We've all done things we're not particularly proud of, but most of us can claim ignorance. :) If you know better and do it anyway, what's the point of even having any convictions?
The performance group clearly isn't interested in a quality belly dance. For what they want any dancer can do snake arms and move her hips. Whether you failed to ask or they failed to explain the gist of the performance is irrelevant at this point. The point is now you know better, so don't feel bad for honoring your beliefs.
 

Imeera

New member
Do not feel like that, you had every right to say you wouldn't do it. You should have checked but I wouldn't have either, I wouldn't have expected it to be that to be quite honest so I wouldn't have seen the need. I would have done exactly what you did after finding out.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Nejmeh did check it out, folks- she just wasn't given the entire picture.

A couple of us went to check out what it was. Ok, it was obvious it was more of a play, the 'teacher'was not a bellydancer and half of all the girls participating never did bellydance. But still, it seemed like fun so we agreed to do at least the upcoming show(in total their would be about 10) since it was 4 days away.

But yesterday I found out the whole show is about haremgirls, the dancers dancing to be sold off and pleasing 'the sultan'.
 

LadyLoba

New member
There's nothing wrong with quitting in a situation like this. It sounds like when you asked for details, you were told one thing, and then when you showed up it was a silly waste of your time and energy.

The only time anything like this is a horrible thing to do is if you decide you don't like the project...oh...during the final dress rehearsal...or right before performance. If it's the first couple rehearsals (If they're even taking it seriously enough to rehearse) you didn't do any harm.
 

walladah

New member
What i like very much in bellydancers

is that we all, more or less, feel that we perform as an act of social service and offering and not as artists. So, we feel bad when we change our minds because we do not like the project we initially accepted to take part in.

However, Nejmeh, even if the project/show was satisfying all things you would like to have and still your inner feeling told you that you should not be there, you should not be there!

So, esp. in this case where you really feel degraded as a dancer, you need to cancel! You know, bitch is the female dog (an ex wolf, who has been domesticated) who remembers the wolf era. Wolves, esp females, are very tender and giving, but not when bothered or in danger or when their little ones are threatened. So, even if the people who invited you without telling you from the beginning all stuff (many show organisers do this to attract good bellydancers, as they know that if they tell from the start that this involves "an almighty sultan who uses the dancer slaves as prostitutes", the bellydancers will not accept to participate) have called you a bitch, do not feel this is an insult.

Actually, they would prefer you to be domesticated, behave nicely, and continue with the project without cancelling (as all nice ladies would do) but you are a bellydancer! Bellydancers are both lady-like and nice, when the situation is appropriate for this. But only when this really happens!

Especially because we are bellydancers, we need to keep our offering, tender, subtle and feminine art for occasions that are worth it and for those occasions only!

A note about the sultans: one thing that shows so well that the people you cancelled with are ignorant about the dance is that in sultan's harem, dancers and artists in general were not the sultan's whores! Actually, most ottoman sultans would never waste their time with women of a lower status, as all princesses were artistically very educated (the higher the status, the better artist the lady should be) and some of the sultans were not very interested in women altogether.

To be an artist in the sultan's palace you should be a slave (this was a legal status, not a framework for bad treatment or abuse) to the sultan and participate in the group practice of artists, plus you could receive more education within the palace to improve your talents. Many women were willingly "applying" for this artist-slave status, as this gave them independence towards family (who otherwise would force them to marry someone chosen by the family), high education, in arts and sometimes, in "letters", and also was a decent way to be within high class people and find a husband of your liking (and of high social rank).

Take into account that all sultan's officers, even the high-level ones were sultan's slaves (legal status) but this did not prevent them from being very powerful within the empire, but also in front of the sultan himself.
 

Nejmeh

New member
Thanks for the supportive words gals! Makes me feel a bit more justified.
I did learn from this experience, to ask way more in detail and never, NEVER trust any gigs that have a running up time of one week, you cannot find out enough in that time, especially when you don`t know the director. Ow and not always to rely on your fellow dancers, though I`m sure they are thinking the same about me right now:/
And how lucky I am with my own teacher, I would never have to worry about something like this with her...

walladah, love your metaphor about the female wolf!
Props for this one btw: :D
Actually, they would prefer you to be domesticated, behave nicely, and continue with the project without cancelling (as all nice ladies would do) but you are a bellydancer! Bellydancers are both lady-like and nice, when the situation is appropriate for this. But only when this really happens!

Especially because we are bellydancers, we need to keep our offering, tender, subtle and feminine art for occasions that are worth it and for those occasions only!
 

walladah

New member
Nejmeh, it happened to me

almost a year ago - we had arranged everything, we had done rehearsals at the show venue, we had asked professional friends to assist with live drums and with photo-shooting and one day before the show the organiser calls me and tells me that the conditions of the show change for the bellydance show!

So, we cancelled it at the last moment. Very bitchy indeed, but we got so nervous that we said "no, we are not going to support the event if they treat us like this!"

We also decided that if we accepted the blackmail (for this it was, as we had invited friends, colleagues and many other dancers) then the next time, the organiser will do this to another dancer who will accept to participate as she will know that A, B, C, dancers have already worked with those organisers. And nobody would know that they had treated us badly.

I still feel longing for what i had prepared for that show, for it was a themed one and preparation took us weeks...

As for the female wolf, well, i am very influenced by Clarissa Estes' theory (and book) on how women are educated to be nice no matter what, so that they are easily exploited.
 

Nejmeh

New member
almost a year ago - we had arranged everything, we had done rehearsals at the show venue, we had asked professional friends to assist with live drums and with photo-shooting and one day before the show the organiser calls me and tells me that the conditions of the show change for the bellydance show!

So, we cancelled it at the last moment. Very bitchy indeed, but we got so nervous that we said "no, we are not going to support the event if they treat us like this!"

We also decided that if we accepted the blackmail (for this it was, as we had invited friends, colleagues and many other dancers) then the next time, the organiser will do this to another dancer who will accept to participate as she will know that A, B, C, dancers have already worked with those organisers. And nobody would know that they had treated us badly.

I still feel longing for what i had prepared for that show, for it was a themed one and preparation took us weeks...

As for the female wolf, well, i am very influenced by Clarissa Estes' theory (and book) on how women are educated to be nice no matter what, so that they are easily exploited.
Thats also a good point, if I would have done it, both the teacher and other girls would think it was an ok show to do. I mainly came because I have respect for the dancers who invited us and trusted their judgement. The only difference is, in this case I believe I am the only one quitting:/
Couldn`t you do the preparations for that show in a different one? I can imagine you still would want to perform it!
I m going to look her up, interesting theory. It sort of reminds me of another theory(sorry can`t think of the writer behind it) about how women have two rolemodels to fit into, boltly put; Maria, mother of jezus or maria magdalena. so either you an untouched and wholy virgin or your a whore, no grey areas.
 

walladah

New member
Sometimes to be the weird one

who steps out first...is necessary.

i can tell you that the times i needed to do something like this in my life, it was painful, not really good for short-term image, but it proved very very fruitful in the long run a) i avoided being exploited b) building a name of bitch if something is beyond the agreement, is veeeeery good for cooperating with people, because bad people will avoid messing up with you and good people will rely on you negotiating with the bad guys c) colleagues who quit afterwards just verify that situation went worse and not better.

The interesting thing is that if many quit at the same time, the impact is completely different for the person who treats the artist badly. The practical thing is, of course, that even if all other people want to support a degrading situation, i have no need to participate, not even for my immense need to dance for my soul! for, at the end, it is me and my dance, which always demands me to be respectful (to the dance as well).

And yes, i know that i will present my project in another occasion, as i have worked more on this after and whenever i have new idea to improve it.

I like very much the theory you mention: it happens all the time in many cultures. Actually, women live in between the impossible models of the "upper/saint/spiritual" and "lower/whore/material" pictures. THe funny thing is that those two pictures are the ones attributed to all women who have managed to achieve anything in their lives, esp. in male-dominated spaces: f.ex. for Ypatia, the great philosopher, the legends are... conforming with this: she was virgin and neurotic-hating men or overactive in her love life, having many many lovers.... i believe that this conception of the woman in public space (the untouchable/undesired and the disposable/undesired) is what drives us women crazy, if we do not manage to get rid of it...

Maybe we need a new thread for this, as this is totally opposite to oriental dance. E.g. How do women try to avoid this dilemma while bellydancing?
 
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