Gothic Belly dance

Sita

New member
A little more, cause the site had a total freak-out while I was trying to post earlier.

In perspective, considering the roots of GBD, I think the distinction has a lot to do with what Tribal Fusion is NOW, what was developing back THEN which was was ambiguously "experimental Middle Eastern dance/ bellydance" - and that the experimental types of dance were far more welcome at Tribal events (Tribal Fest, Tribal Cafe, Tribal Quest) then they were at more traditional bellydance events (though that rarely stopped the proverbial us from presenting them there..). I know that I felt far more comfortable and accepted at Tribal Fest then Rakkasah back then. I worked with Tribal dancers and took some classes with Fat Chance and Ultra Gypsy, but I kept going back to my roots. I was more inspired by the aesthetic and feel of Tribal, but I loved the oriental and folkloric vocabulary far more, and was probably best described as Tribaret back then as I sorted it out with my dark nuances - and none of that involved the pop-lock-hip-hop-glitch moves and combos that categorizes Tribal Fusion today.
Thank you that helps me understand it better. I really loved the site, I used to be what was termed a 'Romantic Goth' heavily into Renaissance/ Medieval style/pre-Raphaelite style - the only style that truly understands the magnificence that is crushed velvet:D. It still influences my style now.

However I found/find Gothic culture - the energy and feel- so distant from raqs sharki. I could understand Flamenco as it has that dark brooding passion or Tango - passion/death relationship. It intrigues me that belly dance was the form chosen, if you see what i mean. The only link I suppose is Theda Bara due to that silent movie/Orientalist aesthetic. so what drew you towards belly dance?
and did you choose the term Gothic belly dance or was it choosen for you?

I struggle with the definition as belly dance because of the culture, feel/energy, although I understand the lineage so to speak. I'm not attacking, I'm just interested in this even if we don't agree. Your site describes the particular energy and attitude of movement, such as the trance aspect. Do you not feel that this dance form needs a more indiviudal idenitity to represent that, so to speak, like ATS has. You state: Gothic Belly Dance is a complete entity, from all sides. It's not just dancing to "gothic" music in bedlah, or dressing goth and dancing to standard/traditional Middles Eastern music...and believe it or not, it's not just looking the part and dancing to gothic music either---there is a third element that is vital to the performance: a sense of theatrics, emotional intensity, drama, and purpose.
Do you not find though that the specific term 'Gothic belly dance' does exactly that; give an image of a bedlah with industrial movement? The term does seem to imply an aesthetic difference only, yet you listed a different movement philosophy to both tribal and raqs/M.E.

Anyway don't worry about disagreeing with me, I am interested in discussing these things. I really enjoyed the site it brought back some memories - :D

Sita
 

meddevi

New member
Thank you that helps me understand it better. I really loved the site, I used to be what was termed a 'Romantic Goth' heavily into Renaissance/ Medieval style/pre-Raphaelite style - the only style that truly understands the magnificence that is crushed velvet:D. It still influences my style now.
Well, then you'll be able to follow me into the next step...

However I found/find Gothic culture - the energy and feel- so distant from raqs sharki. I could understand Flamenco as it has that dark brooding passion or Tango - passion/death relationship. It intrigues me that belly dance was the form chosen, if you see what i mean. The only link I suppose is Theda Bara due to that silent movie/Orientalist aesthetic. so what drew you towards belly dance?
and did you choose the term Gothic belly dance or was it choosen for you?
Mmmm...being of Mediterranean descent and having studied the cultures of this area (North African, Middle Eastern, and around Europe), I find similarities between real Gothic culture (not the stereotypes) and the cultures that bellydance have sprung from. The drama, the passion, the sensual, enjoying the play of both light and dark in life.

(I was kidding around with a friend the other night, I think it was after watching "Repo!" though I'm not sure why the connection now, lol, "The Ancient Egyptians: The Original Goths".)

I found out about Theda Bara after I found bellydance. More specifically, right after performing a "farewell" dance to my class in RI, as I was moving to Cali. After I was done, several different women came up to me and said that I reminded them of Theda Bara, and how dark and theatrical my piece was. I had only been dancing about a year at this point, and I didn't know who Theda was specifically at that moment. There's a lot of other pulls beside her and that timeframe: Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde's Salome (and Maud Allen), Aubrey Beardsley, and later Ruth St. Denis..

How did I get into bellydance? I was at the Rhode Island School of Design, and my art was very woman-centric and Pagan-focused (so a lot of sensual yet charged pieces...). I had a friend who graduated and moved back to SF, and she told me about the bellydance classes she found, and I was intrigued. Found some classes locally, and the rest of my gals at the time came with me. Hooked.

But I've never been one to abandon myself when learning something else. I am an artist by nature and by professional trade. I absorb it, and so when it came time for perform, and being a poor college student, I made my own costuming - my aesthetic, sense of drama, and personality came along for the ride, for better for worse.

And others, not Goth themselves, were the first to call what I was doing Gothic Bellydance. That was the beginning of starting to wonder what it was and what it should be called.

I struggle with the definition as belly dance because of the culture, feel/energy, although I understand the lineage so to speak. I'm not attacking, I'm just interested in this even if we don't agree. Your site describes the particular energy and attitude of movement, such as the trance aspect. Do you not feel that this dance form needs a more indiviudal idenitity to represent that, so to speak, like ATS has. You state: Gothic Belly Dance is a complete entity, from all sides. It's not just dancing to "gothic" music in bedlah, or dressing goth and dancing to standard/traditional Middles Eastern music...and believe it or not, it's not just looking the part and dancing to gothic music either---there is a third element that is vital to the performance: a sense of theatrics, emotional intensity, drama, and purpose.
Do you not find though that the specific term 'Gothic belly dance' does exactly that; give an image of a bedlah with industrial movement? The term does seem to imply an aesthetic difference only, yet you listed a different movement philosophy to both tribal and raqs/M.E.

Anyway don't worry about disagreeing with me, I am interested in discussing these things. I really enjoyed the site it brought back some memories - :D

Sita

I think I read that a few times before I was relatively sure I understood what you were asking, so I hope I got it right. I think the most simple answer is that I don't believe that Goth is just a look, but a culture, so to me, Gothic Bellydance encompasses both Middle Eastern and Gothic cultures.

Sorry to cut this short, but one of my students just arrived - I appreciate your questions and thoughts!
 

Sita

New member
Thank you for the reply. apolagies for my last posts lack of clairity :D:
Well, then you'll be able to follow me into the next step...
Mmmm...being of Mediterranean descent and having studied the cultures of this area (North African, Middle Eastern, and around Europe), I find similarities between real Gothic culture (not the stereotypes) and the cultures that bellydance have sprung from. The drama, the passion, the sensual, enjoying the play of both light and dark in life.

(I was kidding around with a friend the other night, I think it was after watching "Repo!" though I'm not sure why the connection now, lol, "The Ancient Egyptians: The Original Goths".)

Yes, I was not referring to the stereotypical image of Gothic culture all darkness and depression, but to the exploration of polar binaries, bringing them together, finding beauty in destruction as well as creation, the metaphysical as well as the physical, celebration of the individual, intensity, sensuality excetra. I can undertand finding them in those cultures, as i believe Goth values and ideas are universal, in the sense you can find them in most cultures if not all. Just look at our Western fairy tales which explore those themes, as shown in the work of Angela Carter. I can also think of some M.E and N.A similarties as well.

However raqs sharki is M.E and while it may belong to a culture where these ideas and values can be found, it does not mean the dance itself does. I admit is is a personal perception, and one that may be the subject of disagreement, but I don't see these ideas or values shown in raqs sharki without it being altered in some way. To me the dance does not explore both the light and the dark, but light. To me it is a jubliant and celebrational dance in energy, no real interest in those dark aspects of life. That was why I suprised this dance form was chosen. I can however see those themes in some folkloric dances and music, just not in raqs sharki.
The reason I mentioned Tango and Flamenco (which are not stereotypically dark, depressing dances) was because they explore all these themes and ideas, even in the music. The Goth values/ideas can even be seen to be expressed in the theory of 'Duende'. There is no duende in raqs sharki. That was why I was interested in why raqs sharki had been the dance form chosen to explore these themes and not another.

I'm sorry though I do not know what Repo is. :redface:


I found out about Theda Bara after I found bellydance. More specifically, right after performing a "farewell" dance to my class in RI, as I was moving to Cali. After I was done, several different women came up to me and said that I reminded them of Theda Bara, and how dark and theatrical my piece was. I had only been dancing about a year at this point, and I didn't know who Theda was specifically at that moment. There's a lot of other pulls beside her and that timeframe: Mata Hari, Oscar Wilde's Salome (and Maud Allen), Aubrey Beardsley, and later Ruth St. Denis..

Yes, I mentioned her because i was trying to find out what had caused this fusion between gothic subculture and raqs sharki - I was looking for the 'connecting element'. However from your reply I get the sense that it was the indivdual (in this case you) bringing together two elements of your life - gothic and raqs. Am I right?

Yes, I am very familar with Salome, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Beardsley through research/study, and the women that performed from the book sisters of Salome, quite good if you haven't yet come across it. It does bring me to another aspect i am intrigued with:
this fascination with 20th cent. Orientalism that I see in quite a few Gothic belly dances. I really don't see the connection with Mata Hari as she has no connection with the M.E and raqs sharki, as her dance was inspired by Javanese dances. Also Ruth St. Denis performed modern dance. so again I don't get the interest in her, is it purely an aesthetic interest? because it does make the dance appear very western-orientated.


How did I get into bellydance? I was at the Rhode Island School of Design, and my art was very woman-centric and Pagan-focused (so a lot of sensual yet charged pieces...). I had a friend who graduated and moved back to SF, and she told me about the bellydance classes she found, and I was intrigued. Found some classes locally, and the rest of my gals at the time came with me. Hooked.

But I've never been one to abandon myself when learning something else. I am an artist by nature and by professional trade. I absorb it, and so when it came time for perform, and being a poor college student, I made my own costuming - my aesthetic, sense of drama, and personality came along for the ride, for better for worse.

And others, not Goth themselves, were the first to call what I was doing Gothic Bellydance. That was the beginning of starting to wonder what it was and what it should be called.
Thank you I wondered why that terminology had been used. Tribal for example is a name that does imply a different style of dance, different aesthetic, theme, energy etc. from raqs sharki. Gothic Belly dance though just seems to imply an aesthetic difference only, which your website makes clear is false. So I wondered why not another term that made these differences clear from the outset.

However your question does make me wonder how people outside the dance have imposed an identity and perception onto the dance, rather than the dancers themselves. Also are their problems with what people percieve to be Gothic belly dance such as with Rachel Brice and Tribal fusion?
And what do you think about dancers who are recognised as being mainly Tribal or Amcab, such as Neon, Blanca performing Gothic belly dance or even presenting it on a dvd?




I think I read that a few times before I was relatively sure I understood what you were asking, so I hope I got it right. I think the most simple answer is that I don't believe that Goth is just a look, but a culture, so to me, Gothic Bellydance encompasses both Middle Eastern and Gothic cultures.

Sorry to cut this short, but one of my students just arrived - I appreciate your questions and thoughts!
thank you, this was very informative. My purpose is just to understand more about the dance and what motivates it. I have my own oppinions on fusion and belly dances as a whole, but that has already been argued here and I'm not interested in carrying it on, expecially when I know so little about it. Instead I'm interested in moving beyond that and understanding the other side of the 'divide';).
Sita :)
 

meddevi

New member
However raqs sharki is M.E and while it may belong to a culture where these ideas and values can be found, it does not mean the dance itself does. I admit is is a personal perception, and one that may be the subject of disagreement, but I don't see these ideas or values shown in raqs sharki without it being altered in some way. To me the dance does not explore both the light and the dark, but light. To me it is a jubliant and celebrational dance in energy, no real interest in those dark aspects of life. That was why I suprised this dance form was chosen. I can however see those themes in some folkloric dances and music, just not in raqs sharki.
The reason I mentioned Tango and Flamenco (which are not stereotypically dark, depressing dances) was because they explore all these themes and ideas, even in the music. The Goth values/ideas can even be seen to be expressed in the theory of 'Duende'. There is no duende in raqs sharki. That was why I was interested in why raqs sharki had been the dance form chosen to explore these themes and not another.
I think it does have a lot to do with personal perception and interaction with these forms, but also having a broader look at Middle Eastern Dance, not just Raks Sharki specifically. Turkish music is ripe with drama and passion, many of the songs are about loss/sadness - and my background is far more Turkish than it is Egyptian in influence. There's also the folkloric dances, and especially trance dances, which I had studied extensively.

It's funny (to me at least) looking back at the first song I performed (that I chose, versus a teacher) to was "Solitude" by Solace, with Harry Saroyan singing, and featured the ayyub rhythm. In order to perform to it, rather than sticking to a specific choreography, I interpreted the song into a story being told, and the movements changed depending on the story. Imagine my surprise a few years later when Jeremiah provided me with the lyrics to the song, and that what I felt emotionally about it, and the story I related was very similar to what the lyrics said. I didn't know back then that the ayyub rhythm was used for Zar, which I studied a great deal more later on.

I don't think there is a clear word for the energy exchange and audience capture that can happen bellydance, but the concept of duende is, I feel, the closest description for it, for lack of a specific word. Perhaps there is a word for it in Arabic, but I haven't heard it - would love to if there is! If one considers the Silk Road theory for the influence of dance throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Eastern and Western Europe, then it's somewhere in the roots of that connection.

(on to part two for better quoting)...
 

meddevi

New member
Yes, I mentioned her because i was trying to find out what had caused this fusion between gothic subculture and raqs sharki - I was looking for the 'connecting element'. However from your reply I get the sense that it was the indivdual (in this case you) bringing together two elements of your life - gothic and raqs. Am I right?
Yeap. And the same is true for all of the major GBD artists I know.

Yes, I am very familar with Salome, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Beardsley through research/study, and the women that performed from the book sisters of Salome, quite good if you haven't yet come across it. It does bring me to another aspect i am intrigued with:
this fascination with 20th cent. Orientalism that I see in quite a few Gothic belly dances. I really don't see the connection with Mata Hari as she has no connection with the M.E and raqs sharki, as her dance was inspired by Javanese dances. Also Ruth St. Denis performed modern dance. so again I don't get the interest in her, is it purely an aesthetic interest? because it does make the dance appear very western-orientated.
I see so many connections and possibilities for inspiration, it's mind-boggling, but I think it's important to consider my educational background. I am trained first and foremost as a visual artist, and have attended formal art school from pre-school through college. An artist is expected to find inspiration not only within their given genre, but outside of it as well. For me, a whole dance can be inspired by something as bizarre-sounding as wrought-iron, a piece of fabric, or a mask.

Mata Hari brings story, drama, and aesthetic. It's not about dancing as she danced specifically (and yes, "inspired" by Javanese dance is a good description, as she took a little of something there from her time there, and mixed it with heaps of mystery, intrigue, sacred play, etc), but about the time, the history, the circumstances and influences of the time that bring inspiration.

Ruth St. Denis...ahh, I love Ruth. To simply say Ruth was a modern dancer is like saying Ben Franklin was a writer. Ruth can be considered the grandmother of modern dance, as Martha Graham was of her progeny, but it's important to see that Martha was rebelling against Ruth in what she created (particularly the complexity, the pageantry..). I like to describe Ruth as American's first World Fusion artist. Ruth made it her life-long journey to not only create dance, but to study dances from around the world and bring them to light. Indian, Japan, Native American, Egyptian - she re-created and re-visited pieces throughout her lifetime as she learned more - dances rich in the essence of those dances and cultures. And on top of that, dance was her religion, her spirituality. I don't have to copy her creations to be inspired by that thought process and spirit. To add even more to that excitement, Dalia Carella DID go back and re-create many of Ruth's pieces for an off-broadway show called "In Search of a A Goddess". Dalia is a HUGE inspiration and influence for me, so it's like seeing the past and present collide in a beautiful merger of artistry.

That aside, I grew up in a mixture of cultures and faiths. My ethnic background is very diverse, and was quite a soup to live in. I can't just identify as Catholic or Jewish, Italian, Russian, Sicilian, Slavic, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romani...I remember wishing when I was younger that I could be more like my classmates, who were clearly just one nationality, parents both of one faith. Now, I appreciate it a lot more, but it means that I have no specific loyality to just one way, one culture - both tradition and fusion is in my blood, and it's definitely in my brain and how I approach life - and that includes dance. To both honor tradition but to be open to creation and blending.
 

meddevi

New member
Thank you I wondered why that terminology had been used. Tribal for example is a name that does imply a different style of dance, different aesthetic, theme, energy etc. from raqs sharki. Gothic Belly dance though just seems to imply an aesthetic difference only, which your website makes clear is false. So I wondered why not another term that made these differences clear from the outset.
Ahh, but again, we have perceptions and opinion, and the discussion of "do you call it Raks Sharki, Middle Eastern Dance, or Bellydance?" (of which there are pages and pages in the archives on this board LOL). To me:
Raks Sharki - Egyptian Dance
Middle Eastern Dance - collective term for dances of the Middle East (Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Persia, etc)
Bellydance - more generic term for Middle Eastern Dance, usually bringing in outside cultural influences or merging cultures - like American Cabaret or American Tribal Style is Bellydance, and neither are of a specific Middle Eastern culture.

I know not everyone agrees with that, but after over 10 years of dealing with this, that's my position. So, if it's both Gothic and Bellydance, then Gothic Bellydance works for me. Now, there's stuff being done out there in the name of GBD that's neither Gothic nor Bellydance, and that drives me NUTS. Which is why I have made somewhat of a crusade this year out of making sure that GBD is clearly both of those elements!

and lastly:

However your question does make me wonder how people outside the dance have imposed an identity and perception onto the dance, rather than the dancers themselves. Also are their problems with what people percieve to be Gothic belly dance such as with Rachel Brice and Tribal fusion?
And what do you think about dancers who are recognised as being mainly Tribal or Amcab, such as Neon, Blanca performing Gothic belly dance or even presenting it on a dvd?
I think all art is subject to outsiders imposing identity on it. It's rather quite common for a genre or style to be defined by the critics and the public. Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Post-Modernism - etc, ad nauseum - labels are far more often applied by the outside, for better or for worse, because the outside has a different perspective than the inside. I didn't go around thinking "I'm going to create Gothic Bellydance", I thought "I'm going to create this piece." When I first heard the label, I thought, "hmm, interesting." And I picked my head up out of my creative cloud and saw that there were others out there also playing with the same concepts, and from that came the Resource, and by consensus, we agreed the title fit.

I've also learned that you can go to the ends of the earth trying to educate & explain to people, and it's the old "you can lead a horse to water" idiom. It also means people are going to do what they're going to do whether you agree with it or not. And some people will learn and discover...

As for other people experimenting with GBD - well, again, people are going to do what they want to do whether you agree or not. All I can ask is that they approach it sincerely. But that won't always happen. People trend-hop all the time. Or they could be trying to find their voice and experiment. And I don't have any problems with that, it's part of the process, and I don't see GBD as something allowed to an exclusive few who match a stereotype. But it can be unfortunate when someone's experiment shows up on film, seemingly presented as an example of the genre. Perhaps one day, I will produce a DVD of "THIS is Gothic Bellydance!". But then again, a DVD can only mark one point in time, and it is subject to whatever the producer wants. What I did in 2005 or 2006 is an aspect of who I am, but it doesn't truly define who I am NOW and where I am with the dance in 2009, on the verge of 2010.
 

Ruby~<3

New member
I dont mind Gothic belly dance.. though i will say it does seems like a fusion..theater and other dance forms. some of it is FAR from belly dance..

i prefure the stuff that is more of and theatrical belly dance or just a dark tone to belly dance... b ut when they really get out there its just not belly dance..even if they shimmy here and there or undulate...

I almost prefure to call gothic belly dance.. just gothic dance or gothic dance fusian... I h ave dipped into gothic belly dance but i try VERY hard to mix real belly dancing into dark theatatrical settings a nd try to stay true to belly dance in a new way.

not everyone will like it not everyone will hate it.. I'm okay with it aslong as it doesnt get TOO far out there like some of those in those vid. clips above.(some looked more like modern dance and sword fighting then belly dance.)

Ruby C :D
 
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