Gypsy dance?

What is your opinion on the word "Gypsy/gypsy"?

  • I will continue to use "Gypsy/gypsy"

    Votes: 16 26.7%
  • I will no longer use "Gypsy/gypsy"

    Votes: 9 15.0%
  • I wasn't using "Gypsy/gypsy" before

    Votes: 26 43.3%
  • unsure

    Votes: 1 1.7%
  • I don't think it matters

    Votes: 3 5.0%
  • other

    Votes: 5 8.3%

  • Total voters
    60

Jane

New member
I keep reading references to "Gypsy dances" in connection with belly dance. What exactly are "Gypsies"? I thought they were a specific ethnic group. Besides the Roma influence on Turkish Oryantal, what do Gypsies have to do with the development of belly dance? I know they came in several migratory waves from India; that I have figured out. I'm becoming lost and confused as to who Gypsies actually are when people reference them. Why are they being credited with creating belly dance and why are Ghawazee and other marginalized ethnic groups being put under the Gypsy umbrella if they are not genetically related? I never thought of belly dance as a Gypsy dance: always a Middle Eastern social dance adapted for the stage. :think:
 

Belly Love

New member
From what I know, Gypsies are technically just a group of roaming people- people who migrate often. They can be of any ethnicity or from any country. Romani Gypsy just happens to be the most well known.

Sidenote: I once had someone try to break into my house (while I was home actually) and when I went to court this huge group of people showed up for the defendant. They turned out to be a group of Latin Gypsies that were breaking into people's houses. I was told to have security walk me to my car because they would be out to get me and cast spells on me :shok: And they looked like what you might picture a Gypsy to look like- peasant skirts, tons of dangly jewelry... it was interesting.

There can be a negative association with Gypsies (especially hundreds of years ago) that they are theiving, poor, witches, etc. Since they don't put down roots anywhere, own land or have traditional jobs they were often times not highly respected peoples. While my experience wasn't the best, I definitely do not think that's neccesarily true ;) I just think of a Gypsy as someone who is a traveler and who does non-traditional work.

I'm interested in doing a Gypsy belly dance, which will be more about the styling than anything. I think this might be why people associate Gypsy with belly dance, besides tribal stylings to be similar, they can be known to sing, dance and play music in the streets for money- so the idea of dancing for money combined with similar styling might be why one throws the word Gypsy in there.

Or one might be doing an actual style of belly dance that they learned from a specific Gypsy group. You were correct, Gypsies were people who migrated from north India to Europe, but I think the term commonly used today and in belly dance, usually refers to a nomadic person.
 
Last edited:

Aziyade

Well-known member
I keep reading references to "Gypsy dances" in connection with belly dance. What exactly are "Gypsies"? I thought they were a specific ethnic group.

Specific ethnic GROUPS. But yes.

There is no such thing as "Gypsy Style" belly dance and it drives me CRAZY that teachers still promote this. Throwing on a dozen hip scarves over a full skirt whilst wearing a babuskha does not make your performance remotely "Gypsy" anything.

It's a Western fantasy -- all the skirt swishing and tambourine banging and it's fine (albeit WAY overdone) if advertised as Oriental Fantasy, but to call it "Gypsy" anything is not only being deliberately ignorant but also borders on racist.

Besides the Roma influence on Turkish Oryantal, what do Gypsies have to do with the development of belly dance?

Ghawazee dancers MAY or MAY NOT be ethnic "Gypsies." Based on the language of the Banat Mazin and the family in Sombati that used to perform, it was assumed that they were part of the Gypsy migration. Ghawazee definitely have their own style of dance, but you would expect that of any group regionally isolated long enough.

There are linguistic links to Gypsy musicians performing around the Mediterranean in what we would call small tabla and mizmar ensembles (I posted the Garland article about that once before), but those links are just links and not direct evidence of influence or origination.

I know they came in several migratory waves from India; that I have figured out. I'm becoming lost and confused as to who Gypsies actually are when people reference them. Why are they being credited with creating belly dance and why are Ghawazee and other marginalized ethnic groups being put under the Gypsy umbrella if they are not genetically related?

To answer your question in bold, because it's romantic and "fun" to think that, despite any lack of hard evidence. What we have in belly dance history is a lot of associations and connections, but no hard links -- so people take whatever theory they most like and run with it. In Western art, the "Gypsy" archetype is a tragic figure, but a romantic free spirit. We love that, so we play it up, in opera, movies, dance, theatre, etc.

Gypsies all over Europe and Central Asia. Most countries have Gypsy regions or quarters. In Spain it's in the south, around Seville. They are impoverished and DO often resort to begging or stealing because the Spanish population can't stand them. It's very sad, but it's the truth.

Also, they didn't tend to be traveling bands who camped wherever they wanted because they liked to sleep under the stars. They were "vagabonds" and moved often because people kept burning their houses down. Not quite the romantic "Esmerelda" picture we tend to like to associate with the Gypsy myth, eh?

I never thought of belly dance as a Gypsy dance: always a Middle Eastern social dance adapted for the stage. :think:

"Gypsy" dance varies by region. We are most familiar with Turkish Rom, but the Gypsies in Spain originated Flamenco out of the indigenous musical and dance traditions of the region, and Balkan Gypsy music is pretty popular among belly and folk dancers.


BellyLove -- the "roaming" is largely a myth. Gypsies in most countries have been forcible settled for a couple of centuries. And again, what migrations they DID make were almost always out of necessity (to be closer to trade routes, to avoid imprisonment, to find new houses after people had already burned theirs, etc.)

For a good look at the history of Gypsies in general, and for recent history of Albanian Gypsies, read "Bury Me Standing." It's very sad, but enlightening.
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
One more thing -- I've pointed this out before.

ANYTHING written about "Gypsies" is pretty much very highly politicized. Every author has a political agenda for promoting or proving his/her point. Now that I understand something about the political situations surrounding most Gypsy regions, I understand it, but it's very hard to weed through 200 articles and find an unbiased or unslanted view of the Gypsy contribution to the arts. I have a bibliography of the works I found most useful (and usually least slanted) and if anyone wants it, I'm happy to email it to you as soon as I get my main computer back from the shop. (hopefully next week!)
 

Yame

New member
Let's also remember, the word "gypsy" has been used as a derogatory word, so it can be offensive to some, even if it's not intended that way.

I try to avoid using that word, but I don't know what other word can be used in its place that refers broadly to all the different nomadic peoples it refers to. When I know I am talking just about the Romani, I like to use Romani instead, but since I am speaking more broadly on this thread, I don't know what other word I could use, so I am sorry for using this one.

"Gypsy" encompasses so many different groups of people, located in so many different places, with different cultures, who speak different languages and dance differently... there are a lot of different dances that fall under the category of "gypsy dance" that are very different from one another.

Belly dance isn't a gypsy dance. Belly dance as a performance art is an adaptation of the social dance that is done in some parts of the Middle East. Maybe in some places it does have some influences from the local gypsies... for example, Turkish belly dance has influences from Turkish Romani dance.

Very sadly though, most places where the gypsies have gone, they have been marginalized and discriminated against. It's very unlikely that they would have brought over a dance from one place to the next and that this dance would be emulated by the population at large.
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
I know I will be corrected on this and I hope that I am because my basic knowledge of gypsy dance sometimes seems to me that it is almost what anyone wants to throw into the mix, more of a feeling than actual dance steps. I know there are the flamenco and also the Ghawazee dances, but then I've seen performances described as gypsy which turned out to be a hodgepodge of just about any dance fushion possible. I guess what I'm trying to say in other words, that there is gypsy dancing with a capital G and then all others fall into the adjective gypsy word with a small g, if that makes any sense.
 

Aziyade

Well-known member
I know I will be corrected on this and I hope that I am because my basic knowledge of gypsy dance sometimes seems to me that it is almost what anyone wants to throw into the mix, more of a feeling than actual dance steps.

No correction -- that is how a lot of American dancers view it. It's a mishmash of whatever, done with whatever mishmash of costuming, and to whatever mishmash of music you want: Alabina, Balkan folk, Greek music.

To me it's ridiculous, but I've seen so much of it that I'm ready to barf, AND I've seen it passed off as ethnic dance way way way too many times. A deliberate fantasy is one thing. Deliberate ignorance is another.

I know there are the flamenco and also the Ghawazee dances, but then I've seen performances described as gypsy which turned out to be a hodgepodge of just about any dance fushion possible.

Do you enjoy watching that? Just curious.

The only dancer who I really thought pulled off the "gypsy" styling was Mesmera, and really only because she pulled from Zambra Mora more than the generic Esmerelda gypsy thing.

I guess what I'm trying to say in other words, that there is gypsy dancing with a capital G and then all others fall into the adjective gypsy word with a small g, if that makes any sense.

Perfect sense. And as Yame mentioned, "Gypsy" can be a loaded word, like the N word, so it seems like we would do best in dropping the small g version and only using the Cap G version to describe the authentic ethnic dance, but I don't see that happening. :/
 

Sara

New member
Well, the word 'Gypsy' is commonly believed to have been created wen the Roma first arrived in Europe, as the Europeans believed them to be 'Egyptians' which they shortened down to 'Gyptians' and then 'Gypsy'. It is a pejoritve term, which nowadays as been expanded to include various nomadic or settled peoples. I myself am unsure of the origins of the word 'Gypsy' purely because I do appreciate that in contiental Europe, particularly southern and eastern, the equivilent there is 'Tsigan' or a variation on that word. Now I don't beleive that this word originated out of the same reasoning as the word Gypsy did. I'm still researching this more, and so far I am not enitrely convinced. Still trying to make up my mind.

As for the dance. There are many. Roma specific there are numerous dances styles and music styles whic I believe ave had influences on other music, dances, but wic have also been influenced by the countries they live in, ie.Flamenco, Roman Havasi, Romanichal dancing (which is now very westernised with a bit of Eastern flavour). Gypsy style dancing tends to be more belly dance with flavours of Romani dance added. Sometimes it is just belly dance with costuming stylised to 'Gypsy' style.

Roman Havasi is peraps the closest to BD in terms of movement vocab, but even then there are distinct differences. I think the idea that 'Gypsies' created BD is wrong, and mostly a Western fantasy. I think this western fantasy of 'Gypsies' is slowly canging. We must remeber that from approx the 1200's to mid-late 1800's Roma people in Europe were being enslaved. And a specific group of those slaves in Eastern Europe (specifically Romania) were called Lautari. They were performers, mostly on string instruments, who eventually began to perform at weddings and fairs etc as they formed taraf's. Romani Gypsies at least have always been regarded as good muscians, and entertainers. Ursari was another group who were bear trainers.

I am curious in wondering if this type of slavery added to the stereotyping of 'Gypsy' fantasy. Roma in Europe travelled mostly to avoid persecution and slavery. They were constantly moved on and Anti-'Gypsy laws very very common through out Europe. Some punishments resulted in death, even for those wo associated with Roma. Settling for longer periods of time was difficult.
 
Last edited:

goddessyasaman

New member
I read this in some books about the Dom People, but it was a while back, I have it posted on my website, when i was studying up on gypsies and india I'm sure it's on the web some where, I'm sure someone had to have copied some of the text. I will check but these are some of the notes I have anyway.



"Ghawazi" (Gypsies)The Dom people which they are believed to be related to the Domba people of India,the Domari language that they spoke suggest that they may have haled from the indian subcontinent. It was around the 18th centery that they danced in egypt. It is said that the ghawazi style could have gave rise to the Egyptian raqs sharqi, I think it said that in 1834 they were banshed from egypt or parts of.

Still does not tell ya much, they say Belly dance is a ancient dance veiled in mystery and they are not make that up :lol:
 

Greek Bonfire

Well-known member
No correction -- that is how a lot of American dancers view it. It's a mishmash of whatever, done with whatever mishmash of costuming, and to whatever mishmash of music you want: Alabina, Balkan folk, Greek music.

To me it's ridiculous, but I've seen so much of it that I'm ready to barf, AND I've seen it passed off as ethnic dance way way way too many times. A deliberate fantasy is one thing. Deliberate ignorance is another.



Do you enjoy watching that? Just curious.

The only dancer who I really thought pulled off the "gypsy" styling was Mesmera, and really only because she pulled from Zambra Mora more than the generic Esmerelda gypsy thing.



Perfect sense. And as Yame mentioned, "Gypsy" can be a loaded word, like the N word, so it seems like we would do best in dropping the small g version and only using the Cap G version to describe the authentic ethnic dance, but I don't see that happening. :/

I enjoy watching when I see a more authentic Gypsy dance, but it seems that someone just wears a flowing skirt, and calls it a Gypsy dance but in reality it's just a fushion. And then again, if the dancer is really good, I guess you could say I enjoy it, but the longer I dance, the more I demand authenticity and also knowing more about what type of music you are using. And using the capital G is a something I never knew before but now I will always use it. It's like saying Indians here in the States when it's not politically correct nor does it acknowledge the individual tribes, just a generic term. I don't think I would like that either if I was Native American. Same thing for Hispanic when that was discussed in another thread.
 

mahsati_janan

New member
I read this in some books about the Dom People, but it was a while back, I have it posted on my website, when i was studying up on gypsies and india I'm sure it's on the web some where, I'm sure someone had to have copied some of the text. I will check but these are some of the notes I have anyway.



"Ghawazi" (Gypsies)The Dom people which they are believed to be related to the Domba people of India,the Domari language that they spoke suggest that they may have haled from the indian subcontinent. It was around the 18th centery that they danced in egypt. It is said that the ghawazi style could have gave rise to the Egyptian raqs sharqi, I think it said that in 1834 they were banshed from egypt or parts of.

Still does not tell ya much, they say Belly dance is a ancient dance veiled in mystery and they are not make that up :lol:

I'd love to know where you got this if you can find it again. The Ghawazee are acknowledged to be Nawari for the most part, though you also hear Sombati and Sinti listed by some Ghawazee as their heritage. I haven't ever found any reference to them as Dom/Rrom, but I have found references where they specifically state that they do not consider themselves as "Gypsies" of any kind or Rromani specifically.

**edit: Found it. It looks like it was originally on a random web page and then on wikipedia where it got picked up by a lot of other pages and sources. If anyone knows the original source material (book or article) that this is from, please let me know so that I can add it to my research pile.
 
Last edited:

teela

New member
If you do a search on Youtube for Gypsy dance you end up with a hodgepodge of stuff from all over the place. The videos that appear to be more "Rom" do not show all the swishy skirts, etc. This is being said by someone who is not an expert but only based on my very limited knowledge.
 

Yame

New member
Well, the word 'Gypsy' is commonly believed to have been created wen the Roma first arrived in Europe, as the Europeans believed them to be 'Egyptians' which they shortened down to 'Gyptians' and then 'Gypsy'. It is a pejoritve term, which nowadays as been expanded to include various nomadic or settled peoples. I myself am unsure of the origins of the word 'Gypsy' purely because I do appreciate that in contiental Europe, particularly southern and eastern, the equivilent there is 'Tsigan' or a variation on that word. Now I don't beleive that this word originated out of the same reasoning as the word Gypsy did. I'm still researching this more, and so far I am not enitrely convinced. Still trying to make up my mind.
The origin of the word "Gypsy" stated above is actually the known etymology of the word, not a common but unproven belief. The word indeed began when the Europeans thought the Romani people arriving were Egyptians (which didn't turn out to be true). I think in some places people literally called them Egyptians, which came to be shortened to "Gypsy."

"Tsigan" is a different word, in a different language, that comes from the Greek word "atsinganoi" which means "untouchable."

The existence of another word with a different origin that describes the same thing, in another language, or even in the same language, does not disprove the origin of this word.
 

Kashmir

New member
From what I know, Gypsies are technically just a group of roaming people- people who migrate often. They can be of any ethnicity or from any country. Romani Gypsy just happens to be the most well known.
This would describe the adjective "gypsy" - lower case g.
"Gypsy" according to the OED is ""member of a wandering people of Hindu origin with dark hair and skin, living often by basket-making, horse-dealing, fortune-telling etc. and speaking a language related to Hindi". Not that everyone would agree with this - but the ethnic origin (and the captial G) is relevant - so many "gypsies" in the UK are not "Gypsies" . Many people consider the label as a slur.

There can be a negative association with Gypsies (especially hundreds of years ago) that they are theiving, poor, witches, etc. Since they don't put down roots anywhere, own land or have traditional jobs they were often times not highly respected peoples.
Actually in Hungary, until last year, Rom were permitted to steal a certain amount as a means of "making a living". I think it was 10 000Ft - which may not be much to you or I, but is a couple of weeks income to the poor non-Rom they were stealing from :(
I'm interested in doing a Gypsy belly dance, which will be more about the styling than anything. I think this might be why people associate Gypsy with belly dance, besides tribal stylings to be similar, they can be known to sing, dance and play music in the streets for money- so the idea of dancing for money combined with similar styling might be why one throws the word Gypsy in there.
Actually, this stereotype is one that most annoys those of an ethnic Rom/Sinti background. Their lives are often very hard - read Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca for an idea how many live (who haven't (or cannot) integrate into mainstream society and have more pride than to become thieves and prostitutes)
 

Belly Love

New member
There is no such thing as "Gypsy Style" belly dance and it drives me CRAZY that teachers still promote this. Throwing on a dozen hip scarves over a full skirt whilst wearing a babuskha does not make your performance remotely "Gypsy" anything.


Wouldn't that be like saying Gypsy doesn't exist? Any belly dance can be a style of anything if that's what one chooses. If one is dressed like a clown while belly dancing and calls it a clown belly dance, would you say clown belly dances don't exist?

It's a Western fantasy -- all the skirt swishing and tambourine banging and it's fine (albeit WAY overdone) if advertised as Oriental Fantasy, but to call it "Gypsy" anything is not only being deliberately ignorant but also borders on racist.

I think this may be quite extreme. I wouldn't think someone who is labeling their dance "gypsy" is borderline racist. After all, Gypsy doesn't just refer to a specific group of people, it's also used to refer to someone as a roaming person. This is common knowledge, it's not just something I'm making up.
Millions of things as we know them today derived from something different. That's not necessarily a negative thing.
You, yourself said that Gypsy people roamed because they were forced to, so I don't see why calling someone a Gypsy in reference to them being a roaming person is "Western fantasy". It derived from truth. I'm sure there is truth to some of the Gypsy people having uncommon jobs as well, seeing as they moved often.

This would describe the adjective "gypsy" - lower case g.

Yes, you are correct. I should be using the lowercase g when appropriate ;)

Actually, this stereotype is one that most annoys those of an ethnic Rom/Sinti background. Their lives are often very hard - read Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca for an idea how many live (who haven't (or cannot) integrate into mainstream society and have more pride than to become thieves and prostitutes)

I agree, it is a negative stereotype. Social classes were much more defined and respected years ago.

Some of this just got me thinking about how some dancers don't like belly dance being "fantasy". Well, I understand that it's not fantasy in cultures where it's common, but in cultures where it is not common, like in the U.S., it is fantasy for a lot of people. If a group of African people, in Africa, started line dancing to country music, they may see it as fantasy as well. Imagine if they weren't wearing the exact proper attire and called it a "Cowboy" dance and then some actual ranchers from Texas saw it- do you think the ranchers would think those African people were racist?
 
Last edited:

Jane

New member
This is giving me a lot to chew over. Let's see if I have this right:

Using the "G" word, unless it is a specific group who labels themselves that way, is like using the "N"word. Gypsy with the capital letter is an ethnic group and gypsy with the lower case g is the blanket term ethnic slur? I'm still murky on this differentiation.

Is it generally accepted now that doing gypsy fantasy dance is racist or disrespectful, and perpetuates stereotypes?

It is the common consensus of the forum that they did not bring belly dance with them or invent it, but did have some influences on stylization in the Middle East, Turkey and North African areas where some lived- yes?
 

Belly Love

New member
Using the "G" word, unless it is a specific group who labels themselves that way, is like using the "N"word. Gypsy with the capital letter is an ethnic group and gypsy with the lower case g is the blanket term ethnic slur? I'm still murky on this differentiation.

I think I glazed over the part where someone mentioned the N word.
Gypsy refers to an actual ethnic group, gypsy (lowercase g) refers to a nomadic person. That's how I see it anyway- no negative connotations whatsoever.

Is it generally accepted now that doing gypsy fantasy dance is racist or disrespectful, and perpetuates stereotypes?

I hope not. I certainly don't feel this way.
 

Farasha Hanem

New member
No correction -- that is how a lot of American dancers view it. It's a mishmash of whatever, done with whatever mishmash of costuming, and to whatever mishmash of music you want: Alabina, Balkan folk, Greek music.

To me it's ridiculous, but I've seen so much of it that I'm ready to barf, AND I've seen it passed off as ethnic dance way way way too many times. A deliberate fantasy is one thing. Deliberate ignorance is another.

Well, if you think you're sick now, empty your barf bag, 'cause you're fixing to refill it: try Gypsy Bellydancer Warrior Princesses...with swords. :confused:

Yyyyyyeah. :confused:

I have to admit, although I knew that there are some here that are not into the Ren Faire scene, I didn't stop to think about what social, political, or ethnic messages our troupe is sending out. :( I dance at Ren Faires because it's one of the few "family-oriented" venues I have the opportunity to dance in, besides art festivals. I'm not ready for restaurants, and I refuse to dance in bars (which, unfortunately, make up a number of my troupe's performances :( ). Now I'm starting to feel guilty about Ren Faires. :(

But then again, our local Ren Faires themselves are anything but historically accurate. :confused:
 

Belly Love

New member
Well, if you think you're sick now, empty your barf bag, 'cause you're fixing to refill it: try Gypsy Bellydancer Warrior Princesses...with swords. :confused:

Yyyyyyeah. :confused:

See, I don't see anything wrong with this! He he :) Is obviously fantasy... although, I have a feeling I wouldn't actually want to watch it.

I have to admit, although I knew that there are some here that are not into the Ren Faire scene, I didn't stop to think about what social, political, or ethnic messages our troupe is sending out. :( Now I'm starting to feel guilty about Ren Faires. :(

I don't think there is anything wrong with Ren Faires (except spiritual stuff I don't personally agree with) for the following reason: it's just fantasy and everyone knows it. It's like watching a play or a movie- no one expects that they are historically accurate with the costuming or the music, it's just for entertainment.

Btw- what's it like dancing at the Ren Faire? Do you audition? How is the pay? You don't have to answer if it's too personal ;)
 
Last edited:

Sara

New member
What is a Ren fair? I hear people mention them alot. :confused: I don't think we have them in Britain that I'm aware of. What kind of things do people perform there?

As for gypsy style belly dance, I think it does perpetuate the stereotype but that's also because those who do this dance style tend to have an interest in the stereotype. I don't think anybody means to be disrespectful or racist etc, they just tend to be swept away the the 'mystery' and 'romanticism' of it all. They neglect reality a tad lol. Despite this, I have found some of the stuff out there a bit infuriating. For me it is because it is taking a part of a persons culture, in this case usually just the offensive name, and overlooking the actual culture. Even if they just tried to get the dance right and ignored everything else, it would be a start. But a lot do not even do that.

My problem with the fantasy stereotype is that some people seem to envy something which does not exist and either try to emulate it or turn a bit nasty. For the other stereotypes (ie/stealing/dirty) they can be exceptionally insenstive and racist.

Yame: Thank you for saring that info with me. I think that where I get confused, is that now in European countries they say Gypsy (or variants) too. I guess it must have spread across from England? Or do you think that that they were called that in Europe too along side Tsigan/Gitan/Czgany?
 
Last edited:
Top