I don't know

taheya

New member
Hi Kharmine and Aisha, what you both contribute to the forum is great and really interesting...debate is good and healthy please dont take offense at each others comments! Just because you have different opinions does not discredit the other. Different opinions are good, interesting and help us come to grips with understanding more about the dance. I sincerely hope this does not mean that you both stop contributing because that would be such a loss!!:(
I hope you dont think im interfering.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

Hi Kharmine and Aisha, what you both contribute to the forum is great and really interesting...debate is good and healthy please dont take offense at each others comments! Just because you have different opinions does not discredit the other. Different opinions are good, interesting and help us come to grips with understanding more about the dance. I sincerely hope this does not mean that you both stop contributing because that would be such a loss!!:(
I hope you dont think im interfering.

Dear Taheya,
Thank you for caring and thank you for wanting to help. I agree that people have differing opinions and that both opinions can have validity. However, there is a good way and a bad way to have a differing opinion. I have had similar run-ins with several other people, including Miles Copeland. Because I have a very controversial way of describing the various dance styles, some people feel threatened, rather than trying to look at their own ideas different point of view. I am always supposed to be the one who changes my mind because I do not agree with the majority of dancers.
Because I do not see any evidence to support Sol Bloom's claim that he came up with the term belly dance, I believe that Kharmine sees this as a devaluation of her work. It is not. It is an observation that she would hear from ANY professor. One source is never enough, especially when the source has something to gain from the information. Because I feel that she automatically discredits anything that is said by my teachers, relatives or me, I become offended. She has gone so far as to try to discredit me as a teacher and used words like "You are busted, lady", to try to convince this forum that I have no character or credibility, which does indeed piss me off bunches.
However, I feel very much a part of this forum, and I feel that my years of experience, both in the Arab community and in the dance itself do give me some ability to both recognize the valid contributions of others and make good contributions myself. I feel that years of college also give me the ability to back up my research sources and to understand how to clearly express when something is my opinion or to present the opinion of another person. Though I rarely do so, I can cite academically until the cows come home and generally know how to cite in the proper way for different sciences. I am no dummy and have quite a varied education. I feel that this, too helps me to see things from more than just the dancer's point of view. My goal is to be the best dancer that I can be and to hopefully make good contributions to the education of other dancers. Sometimes this means I am going to get into it with someone else. I try to be polite most of the time, but every now and then, I simply do not care to do so any further.
I am sure that Kharmine will speak for herself here, but she probably feels about the same.
And if this tiff might seem to some to be off base as far as the subject is concerned, I feel that this is a great education into the realities of belly dance for any newcomer!! This is no business to get in if you have a thin skin.
Thank you again for caring!!
Regards,
A'isha
 

Reen.Blom

New member
Come on A'isha cheer up! Here have a hug *big and fluffy hug* :)

Hey Kharmine have one too :) *big and fluffy hug*

Peace and Love,
Reen.Blom
 

Kharmine

New member
QUOTE=taheya;33150]Hi Kharmine and Aisha, what you both contribute to the forum is great and really interesting...debate is good and healthy please dont take offense at each others comments! Just because you have different opinions does not discredit the other. Different opinions are good, interesting and help us come to grips with understanding more about the dance. I sincerely hope this does not mean that you both stop contributing because that would be such a loss!!:(
I hope you dont think im interfering.[/QUOTE]

Hi, Taheya, I came back to this thread to make a final point for the general interest before leaving again (because beating dead horses is so unkind and pointless) -- saw your comment and didn't want you to think I was ignoring you or anyone else who responded to my last post in a positive way.

Once I make this post I don't intend to revisit this thread so if you want to respond on this subject, I invite you or anyone else to do so by private message or I will miss it.

But, first of all, thank you for your kindness and positive attitude.

I wish more people on the forum would speak up -- not necessarily to take sides, but to be a part of an important discussion. The sources are out there. You don't have to be an expert or even just college-educated to read up, make inquiries, do your own research and put in your two cents. Y'all are smart enough to make up your own minds from the available evidence.

I've done my part to research and put out what I've found, and will continue to do so -- I've sorry there isn't more on the other side of this debate to consider as evidence but perhaps that significant lack speaks for itself.

Reasonable people of different viewpoints can have a discussion without getting irrelevant and spiteful -- if all the participants refrain from taking what seems like a challenging question or opposite opinion as a personal affront. :clap:

AND if they at least try to make an intelligent, sincere effort to back up their claims with something more than hearsay. Otherwise, a lively discussion could be considered rather entertaining, but it doesn't do much on a practical level!

This is not happening at the moment, and has been a recurring problem since the first time that I, politely and reasonably, asked for substantiation about some very singular claims. I'm a trained journalist; it's how I know how to make decisions, based on the kind of evidence a competent newspaper, jury or academic panel might consider.

But, once again, it's descending into the petty and pointless, so I'm bowing out of this thread as I've had to do on other threads for the same reason. :confused:

It does not mean that I will not challenge wrong information and false claims. I haven't always responded to irritating comments in the best way, and I hope to avoid those situations in the future. Resisting temptation, after all, is good for the soul! :pray:

I hope that when anyone DOES come up with some real evidence to the contrary of anything I've found (or in support!) that they will put it out on this here forum so we can all take a look at it.

Let me make this clear: I do not consider myself a cabaret/American Oriental-type dancer. However, generations of Americans, including Arab-Americans, and folks around the world have supported this style as a form of "belly dance" and no where else have I ever heard that it is NOT considered 'belly dance."

From the first, I only tried to get the person making this claim, who considers herself an expert and educator, to back her assertions with something other than her personal collection of hearsay. Anyone following the threads where we had these "discussions" again and again will know how well that worked!

And, yes, there were times I got sarcastic and downright cranky. I apologize to anyone I offended on that score.

My intention was never to discredit anyone but to head off what I see as an attempt to co-opt a term to mean something else for a personal agenda. I don't like it when some conservatives co-opt "family values" to mean "anti-homosexual," or when the far left tries to redefine "Christian" as meaning "ignorant and arrogant."

In the same way, I object to hearing cabaret/American Oriental dancers reclassified as not belly dancers because someone is trying to redefine 'belly dance," a very loose, American slang term that isn't even an accurate, proper genre name.

Now, anyone can have an opinion as to what is or is not "real" belly dance -- but I contend there are more tactful and far more accurate ways to make distinctions for public information purposes.

Which brings me to my last strictly educational point before bowing out on this thread:

The claim has been made that 'belly dancing" can only refer to those styles that developed in the Middle East. If so, then we would have to logically exclude tchiftetelli and oryantal dansi as 'belly dance" because Greece and Turkey are not in the Middle East.

In other countries, including the Middle East, Turkey and Greece, they've long called this modern synthesis of dance styles with a strong Western influence "Oriental dance," or 'dance of the East" -- not 'belly dancing," a much more recent importation.

Each country has its own proper name for its particular style -- including that of the United States and other countries with "cabaret/American Oriental." If we want to be specific and accurate (and fair, darn it!), then that's how we should be defining what "is" and what "isn't."
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

Dear Group,
All one has to do to see if my assertion that this dance called belly dance is, in the minds of the American public, not an American dance, is to actually take the time and trouble to ask them and see how many think its an American dance. In asking that question many times, no one has EVER said to me that they thought it was an American dance, unless they were dancers who perform styles other than authentic belly dance. In other words, "Belly Dance" is the English though not literally, for what is known as Raqs el Sharghi in Arab countries and Oriental Tanzi in Turkish countries. NO ONE THINKS THIS DANCE IS FROM OHIO, OR GEORGIA OR NEW Y0RK OR CALiFORNIA OR ANY OTHER STATE, except for a few dancers who have taken the term for their own. All of them do not even agree on terminology.
RE Sol Bloom- I STILL have not seen or heard of any evidence other than Sol Bloom's word that he coined the term belly dance. Even if he did, it still applied to dancers who were from the Middle East and North Africa, NOT to American style dances. However, when I have asked for other proof of the usage of the word before World War II in the U.S, she produces nothing, only points out that I need to give proof. I think it is not even necessary to prove that there is plenty of evidence to show that the term has been in use since after World War II, since all we have to do is look back a few years to see that is indeed HAS been used since then.
Since Kharmine is a journalist, I am sure she is familiar with the word "Spin". I am not good at spin, but I know what is real and what is not. Either way, with or without Sol Bloom, the dance is STILL Middle Eastern/North African and Bloom himself does not seem to have disputed that much, though of course, he was around a little earlier than the dance that Americans now refer to as "belly dance".
Regards,
A'isha
 

Mouse

New member
Wow this thread has really evolved from the original questions posed in the first post! I have learnt so much from the members of this forum that so generously share their knowledge.

However, while I understand that its easy for things to get heated when discussing a subject we are so passionate about, as a mod of the dance styles forum I'd really appreciate it if we could keep the discussion centred on the topic rather than fellow forum members.

Cheers!
Lisa
 

cathy

New member
Hi all,

Here's my two cents. Look at the name of the thread: Belly Dance Forum/Dance from, and and inspired by, the Near and Middle East/ Dance Styles. Confusion abounds just in this taxonomy.

Best I can follow this, A'isha loves the pure Middle Eastern dance, Raks Sharki, and believes "belly dance" is the name for it in English, and she cares passionately that this term should be reserved only for the dance from the Middle East. Or perhaps only specifically for Egyptian style.

Kharmine thinks "belly dance" is an American term and thus can only logically be defined as covering both the dance from the Middle East (as presumably done in the West) and other dances inspired by the Near and Middle East (as the thread implies).

I agree with A'isha in that I love and do Raks Sharki--the pure Egyptian style. It also bothers me when it is perceived by the public--or worse by dancers themselves--as being the same as other, more American, fusion or watered-down styles (no offense to anyone who does these other styles intended!)

I agree with Kharmine in that I think the way the term "belly dance" was born, evolved and has come into use in the West evokes in the minds of most of those who use it (not including A'isha obviously) other offshoot styles including AmCab and yes, fusion styles and tribal.

That is one reason why I do not like or use this term.

Best wishes, Cathy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Hi all,

Here's my two cents. Look at the name of the thread: Belly Dance Forum/Dance from, and and inspired by, the Near and Middle East/ Dance Styles. Confusion abounds just in this taxonomy.

Best I can follow this, A'isha loves the pure Middle Eastern dance, Raks Sharki, and believes "belly dance" is the name for it in English, and she cares passionately that this term should be reserved only for the dance from the Middle East. Or perhaps only specifically for Egyptian style.

Kharmine thinks "belly dance" is an American term and thus can only logically be defined as covering both the dance from the Middle East (as presumably done in the West) and other dances inspired by the Near and Middle East (as the thread implies).

I agree with A'isha in that I love and do Raks Sharki--the pure Egyptian style. It also bothers me when it is perceived by the public--or worse by dancers themselves--as being the same as other, more American, fusion or watered-down styles (no offense to anyone who does these other styles intended!)

I agree with Kharmine in that I think the way the term "belly dance" was born, evolved and has come into use in the West evokes in the minds of most of those who use it (not including A'isha obviously) other offshoot styles including AmCab and yes, fusion styles and tribal.

That is one reason why I do not like or use this term.

Best wishes, Cathy



Dear Cathy,
I call "Belly Dance" any of the actual belly dance styles that are Middle Eastern/ North African. The three main styles are Turkish, Lebanese, and Egyptian. This is not about what I do or do not do, since I have expertise in only one of these three main styles. It is easy to see the relationship among these styles, though they are all very much unique to their cultures.
I would still suggest that if you want to know what the majority of American think concerning where belly dance comes from, that all you need to do is ask. The majority will tell you that they think the dance is from the Middle East, sometimes specifically a country, sometimes they refer to Orientalist images, but are still right there in the old Middle Eastern/North African ball park.They know that it is NOT American. I have said before that usually we find this idea that the dance is American only among dancers who perform American off-shoots of the authentic dance. Many western forms are very beautiful and deserve recognition as art. However to call them "belly dance" only confuses the public, newer dancers and even some dancers who have been at it a very long time. We are at a time in the history of the dance in western countries, where this blanket term is being questioned, not only by me, but by many other dancers who see that said blanket term is confusing the heck out of, not only the general public, but dancers as well, as they try to figure out just what is the reality of belly dance as opposed to fusion styles with a western essence. (Whew, any good professor would have to deduct points for a run-on sentence here!!!) The general public does not usually have the education to know the difference and most dancers do not do anything to make it clear for them. This is just one reason why I feel the way I do.
Regards,
A'isha
 

cathy

New member
Dear A'isha,

Yes most Americans would say if asked that "belly dance" comes from the Middle East. But if you showed them Tribal, AmCab, double veil and sword, etc. they would classify all these as "belly dance" too.

I agree with much of what you say including that it is confusing to lump American offshoots under the same "umbrella term" as dance whose essence is Middle Eastern. And I agree that a lot of dancers don't do anything to make the difference clear. As I said look at the way this thread is worded, "dance from, and inspired by, the Near and Middle East." Tension between separating out and lumping together these two groups is right here in the structure of this forum.

Your argument is that the term "belly dance" is generally accepted by the English speaking world at large, so you accept the term, but seek to clarify or alter the definition. I agree it's a confusing term but I believe rather than seeking to change the meaning, definition, or connotations of the term, we should stop using it in favor of more accurate, specific, and respectful ones.

Regards, Cathy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Terms etc.

Dear A'isha,

Yes most Americans would say if asked that "belly dance" comes from the Middle East. But if you showed them Tribal, AmCab, double veil and sword, etc. they would classify all these as "belly dance" too.

I agree with much of what you say including that it is confusing to lump American offshoots under the same "umbrella term" as dance whose essence is Middle Eastern. And I agree that a lot of dancers don't do anything to make the difference clear. As I said look at the way this thread is worded, "dance from, and inspired by, the Near and Middle East." Tension between separating out and lumping together these two groups is right here in the structure of this forum.

Your argument is that the term "belly dance" is generally accepted by the English speaking world at large, so you accept the term, but seek to clarify or alter the definition. I agree it's a confusing term but I believe rather than seeking to change the meaning, definition, or connotations of the term, we should stop using it in favor of more accurate, specific, and respectful ones.

Regards, Cathy

Dear Cathy,
The reason that the general public lumps all the dance styles together is because WE do not usually take the time to educate them. This is what I mean when I say it is misleading to call all of it belly dance when the general audience thinks they are seeing something from the Middle East, regardless of what they see. It is not their job to automatically know the differences, but ours to inform them.
I use the Arabic term every time I do any kind of belly dance performance, informing my audience that the name of the dance in Arabic is Raqs
Sharghi, explaining its translation, etc. The term is no more or less accurate than the term,"Belly dance" when it comes to describing the dance; just different. The average citizen does not know Raqs Sharghi from a hole in the head, but they know belly dance because it is the
English for the Middle Eastern dance form.
What do you find disrespectful about the term belly dance and how is the name in English any more disrespectful than the attitudes of the natives themselves in the environment of countries of origin where it is certainly not respected as a fine and dandy thing for sisters and daughters to do. This dance is way more about a certain from of sexual freedom than it is about respectful behaviors.That's the truth.
Belly dance is only an offensive term if we let it be, and so far I have had very little trouble with that. When WE buy into the bullshit, then it becomes disrespected, regardless of what we call it. In other words, if we expect disrespect, we will surely be disrespected. I am aware that there are some who disagree with me about the term belly dance and that is their choice, but I find nothing disrespectful about it at all.
And if it is disrespectful then why would anyone want to call what they do by that name?
Regards,
A'isha
 

da Sage

New member
Dear A'isha,

Yes most Americans would say if asked that "belly dance" comes from the Middle East. But if you showed them Tribal, AmCab, double veil and sword, etc. they would classify all these as "belly dance" too.

I agree with much of what you say including that it is confusing to lump American offshoots under the same "umbrella term" as dance whose essence is Middle Eastern. And I agree that a lot of dancers don't do anything to make the difference clear. As I said look at the way this thread is worded, "dance from, and inspired by, the Near and Middle East." Tension between separating out and lumping together these two groups is right here in the structure of this forum.

Your argument is that the term "belly dance" is generally accepted by the English speaking world at large, so you accept the term, but seek to clarify or alter the definition. I agree it's a confusing term but I believe rather than seeking to change the meaning, definition, or connotations of the term, we should stop using it in favor of more accurate, specific, and respectful ones.
I'm with you, Cathy. While I don't have any problems with the term "belly dance", I believe that seeking to radically restrict its meaning (as A'isha would have us do), is a: silly, and b: not possible at this point.

Even if "belly dance" at one time ONLY referred to ethnic dance performances direct from (or in) the Middle East, we are at least half a century too late to put the genie back in the bottle. Carrying on about the original, correct meaning of "belly dance" on our boards will get us about as far as a bunch of English teachers sniping in the faculty lounge about the current usage of the word "gay".:rolleyes:
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dancer, etc.

I'm with you, Cathy. While I don't have any problems with the term "belly dance", I believe that seeking to radically restrict its meaning (as A'isha would have us do), is a: silly, and b: not possible at this point.

Even if "belly dance" at one time ONLY referred to ethnic dance performances direct from (or in) the Middle East, we are at least half a century too late to put the genie back in the bottle. Carrying on about the original, correct meaning of "belly dance" on our boards will get us about as far as a bunch of English teachers sniping in the faculty lounge about the current usage of the word "gay".:rolleyes:

Dear DaSage,
Actually, those of us who promote definition in dance are closer than we were when I began dancing in the 1970s, to seeing dancers consider and think about what it is they are doing. In the 1970s, it was all just "belly dance". Now, we know better and have more education than ever about styles, etc. I believe this is happening because people, including many dancers, ( not JUST me, as so many of you seem to think), want to know the truth and the realities of what they are seeing on stage. I try my very best to deliver in that area and all of my shows are narrated so that the audience gets an education in dance as well as an entertaining time. Carrying on, as you put it, about the original correct meaning of belly dance seems to be on the minds of many people, if you read other forums besides this one and open your eyes to the possibility that I am not the only one who feels this way. I can honestly say that some pretty well known dancers feel the same,because they have told me so, but they are afraid that they will lose business if they admit it publicly. I can only say that for me, the dance and what it is comes before my desire to have huge turn-outs at workshops. I guess since I limit my workshops to 30 students it would not be the financial issue for me that it is for them.
Regards,
A'isha
 

da Sage

New member
Hi A'isha,

I'm all for definition in dance.:) It's just that I disagree with your definition of "belly dance".:)

Obviously you feel much more strongly about this issue than I do, and have a lot more invested in the topic. That's why you post often on it, and I do so rarely.

I certainly wouldn't avoid a workshop because I disagree with the teacher's definition of bellydance. I might decide that one teacher is less desirable because of her general attitude and poorly/offensively expressed opinions (I'm not talking about you here, but about other workshop teachers I've heard about), but I rank that below A) whether I'm interested in what the teacher has to teach, and B) whether she's reputed to lead user-friendly workshops.
 

teela

New member
I prefer knowing the type of bellydance because I really am not into certain types. If I sign up for a workshop or buy a ticket for a show, I'd like to know its focus is on egyptian, turkish, tribal or whatever so I can decide if I'll get something out of it.
I will say, i love reading posts here because I learn so much.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

I prefer knowing the type of bellydance because I really am not into certain types. If I sign up for a workshop or buy a ticket for a show, I'd like to know its focus is on egyptian, turkish, tribal or whatever so I can decide if I'll get something out of it.
I will say, i love reading posts here because I learn so much.
Dear daSage and Teela,
Many people do disagree with me but not all of them, as is often thought by those who don't. I also do not avoid workshops where teachers are teaching other than ethnic styles. I have sponsored dancers who teach
American Oriental and Middle Eastern inspired Dance Theatre, as well as teachers who teach authentic ethnic belly dance and folkloric. I am not against the fusion dance styles. I only wish those who perform them to be clear with both students and audiences about what they are. Many people take my attitude as as negative feeling against fusion dance styles, which it is not. I do feel, however, that man times, sticking the words "belly dance" onto something that is not Middle Eastern/North African gives those who are not educated in the dance forms a very misleading impression.
Teela, I agree with your observation that you want to KNOW what it is that you are seeing and learning.... and that is precisely my goal in wanting dancers to be clear in their definitions, advertising, marketing, etc.

Regards,
A'isha
 

cathy

New member
Dear A'isha,

As you know I disagree with you when you say: "This dance is way more about a certain from of sexual freedom than it is about respectful behaviors" amd about whether "belly dance" is a respectful term. We can skip revisiting those subjects.

I have no first-hand experience of the countries of origin but from what I have read and heard, my conclusion is that the reason this dance is not respected as a thing for sisters and daughters to do there is due to a few inter-related factors. 1) misogyny is stronger there 2) women doing anything for pay in a public sphere is considered "loose" and suspect 3) until recently--maybe even now--all forms of performers, musicians, singers, dancers, etc. were considered not respectable.

To a lesser degree we have these same issues in our society.

I have given a fair amount of thought to your question:

"And if it is disrespectful then why would anyone want to call what they do by that name?"

My theory is that people who invest a lot of their sexuality in this dance and in their image of themselves, are the ones who embrace the "sexy" interpretation of the dance. I further speculate that they also embrace the "sexy" connotations of the name "belly dance." They don't find it disrespectful because they identify with exactly that aspect of it.

Cathy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear A'isha,

As you know I disagree with you when you say: "This dance is way more about a certain from of sexual freedom than it is about respectful behaviors" amd about whether "belly dance" is a respectful term. We can skip revisiting those subjects.

I have no first-hand experience of the countries of origin but from what I have read and heard, my conclusion is that the reason this dance is not respected as a thing for sisters and daughters to do there is due to a few inter-related factors. 1) misogyny is stronger there 2) women doing anything for pay in a public sphere is considered "loose" and suspect 3) until recently--maybe even now--all forms of performers, musicians, singers, dancers, etc. were considered not respectable.

To a lesser degree we have these same issues in our society.

I have given a fair amount of thought to your question:

"And if it is disrespectful then why would anyone want to call what they do by that name?"

My theory is that people who invest a lot of their sexuality in this dance and in their image of themselves, are the ones who embrace the "sexy" interpretation of the dance. I further speculate that they also embrace the "sexy" connotations of the name "belly dance." They don't find it disrespectful because they identify with exactly that aspect of it.

Cathy
Dear Cathy,
Under what conditions and why do you think the dance was developed? What do you, personally, think the dance is? I am not asking these questions to be a snot, but to try to understand how you perceive the dance in the face of the reality that it was developed as an entertainment in which the feminine charms was/are the main physical aspect of the dance. This does not mean that the dance has no depth as sex and sexuality are a very complex issue.

And, regardless of why or how the dance has its reputation in the Middle East/North Africa, that is still very much a factor in the cultural authenticity of the dance. We can not just say we will accept this and that, but not this and that about the realities of the dance form, what it is , how it is danced, its place in a macrocosmic environment in which it is not the center of all things, as it is for many of us. For that matter, dancers who make it to the top of their field in those countries are perhaps the freest women in their own societies, and it is their very use of their femaleness that gets them there.
Regards,
A'isha
 

cathy

New member
Dear A'isha,

The origins of Raks Sharki the performance art for stage is something I want to learn more about. From what I have read and heard, one of the first to adapt the dance for the stage was Badia Masabni and then I believe she trained Tahiya Carioca and Samia Gamal. I do not doubt that the stage performance version developed as an entertainment in which feminine charms were featured prominently--as I am willing to bet they did with all kinds of female performance of any kind worldwide at the time (they certainly did in the US!). And of course feminine charms still do feature prominently in virtually all kinds of female performance today (movie actresses, popular singers, etc).

Also I have no doubt that the development of Raks Sharki, the stage performance art, occurred in a context of misogyny and that the early performers managed to succeed and become some of the freest women in that society at that point, as you say. I have a lot of respect for that and I am not trying to cast aspersions on them for how they went about it. They were busting enough stereotypes as it was to get up on stage at all.

If Badia Masabni were around today instead of then, I wonder what stereotypes she would be busting down, what kind of a dancer she would be.

I don't dispute that this dance has a lot of depth or that sex and sexuality are complex and also have a lot of depth. My point is that they are not necessarily connected, but are only connected by a series of historical forces. And I tend to believe that a lot of dancers today have become invested in the overlap. In my opinion, the conflation of these two factors explains the original appeal of the inaccurately translated and pejorative term "belly dance" and I suspect that is why so many dancers actually embrace the term.

While the stage art began as a dance for female performers, the original social dance from whence it came was and still is done by men and women alike (and of course the stage version is also done by some men today). That dance--the social version--existed for a long time in a misogynistic culture, though I don't think we know for sure what the cultural context was when it first arose.

I think there was a lot wrong with the cultural context in which the social dance existed for many generations, and it was still there when Raks Sharki came into being as a performance art. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it as a dance in and of itself.

Take the example of blues. It developed in a context of oppression and most of the songs are about suffering. Great songs that are just as great when sung by people who are no longer actually oppressed and suffering. The still ongoing legacy of slavery and racism in this country are very much part of the "cultural authenticity" as you say of blues (and other forms of music made by and popular in African-American communities) but I can love the music without supporting racism which formed part of the context from whence it sprang.

Or consider popular actresses today in America. Most make extensive use of their "feminine charms" and are expected to do so, both on and off screen. There is quite an appetite for tabloids reporting on who they are sleeping with and so forth. There are not as many good parts for leading women, and there are not as many truly respected female actors. Does that mean I look down on the great female actors we do have? No. But I think it's wrong that they are expected to "use their femaleness" as you say to get there.

I will have to think more about what the dance is to me personally. Actually I think about this every day! As I have said before, to me it's about a lot more than sexiness, but I know you disagree and consider that an essential element.

Cathy
 

Reen.Blom

New member
I prefer knowing the type of bellydance because I really am not into certain types. If I sign up for a workshop or buy a ticket for a show, I'd like to know its focus is on egyptian, turkish, tribal or whatever so I can decide if I'll get something out of it.
I agree with that! Still Egyptian, turkish, tribal etc are all "belly dance" forms/styles!
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance,etc.

Dear Cathy,
There might be some snippage below. I am mentioning it just so I am not later accused of trying to change your meaning,etc. I am snipping what does not seem necessary to keep order to respond. Response below in context.


Dear A'isha,

The origins of Raks Sharki the performance art for stage is something I want to learn more about. From what I have read and heard, one of the first to adapt the dance for the stage was Badia Masabni and then I believe shetrained Tahiya Carioca and Samia Gamal. I do not doubt that the stage performance version developed as an entertainment in which feminine charmswere featured prominently--as I am willing to bet they did with all kinds offemale performance of any kind worldwide at the time (they certainly did in the US!). And of course feminine charms still do feature prominently in virtually all kinds of female performance today (movie actresses, popular singers, etc).
Also I have no doubt that the development of Raks Sharki, the stage performance art, occurred in a context of misogyny and that the early performers managed to succeed and become some of the freest women in that society at that point, as you say. I have a lot of respect for that and I am not trying to cast aspersions on them for how they went about it. They were busting enough stereotypes as it was to get up on stage at all.


A'isha writes- I think women here have overcome just as much mysogyny, considering that we could not even vote, own our own property,etc, not so very many years ago. Our children, just like Muslim children belonged to their fathers and not us legally until what year?? Late 1800s or early 1900s. I have taken enough university level classes in women's issues to know that we are not too much better off here; its just that we blame the Islamic societies more because they do not go about it the same way we do. Ask one woman who can't get past the glass ceiling at work, or listen to one uncensored song by Ja Rule and you can see an even more hostile environment right here in the good old USA. Ask the girl who was raped and it's okay with the court because she was asking for it because her dress was too short.

If Badia Masabni were around today instead of then, I wonder what stereotypes she would be busting down, what kind of a dancer she would be.

A'isha writes- Probably the same kind. I sincerely doubt she was interested much in politics and her name is mentioned as an entertainer but not a political activist, in "Feminists,Islam and Nation", a book about Egyptian feminism beginning in the 1890sd. (Author, Margot Badran, ISBN 0-691-02605-X)

I don't dispute that this dance has a lot of depth or that sex and sexuality are complex and also have a lot of depth. My point is that they are not necessarily connected, but are only connected by a series of historical forces. And I tend to believe that a lot of dancers today have become invested in the overlap. In my opinion, the conflation of these two factors explains the original appeal of the inaccurately translated and pejorative term "belly dance" and I suspect that is why so many dancers actually embrace the term.

A'isha writes-The dance and sexuality is connected. Why is this reality so awful to you? I really don't understand. I do not see belly dance as a "pejorative term" at all; only as the English term for a specific Middle Eastern dance.

While the stage art began as a dance for female performers, the original social dance from whence it came was and still is done by men and women alike (and of course the stage version is also done by some men today). That dance--the social version--existed for a long time in a misogynistic culture, though I don't think we know for sure what the cultural context was when it first arose.

A'isha writes- Beledi and other folkloric forms are very separate from belly dance. They are not the same dance, do not have the same meaning or feeling but merely use some of the same dance vocabulary. I believe even Morocco agree with me on that.



I think there was a lot wrong with the cultural context in which the social dance existed for many generations, and it was still there when Raks Sharki came into being as a performance art. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it as a dance in and of itself.


A'isha writes- The issue is not what was right or wrong socially, but what was and is, and how the dance developed into that it is. In order to appreciate the dance, which I deeply, deeply do, one must appreciate it for what it really is. Otherwise one is appreciating what they want the dance to be rather than the dance itself.


Or consider popular actresses today in America. Most make extensive use of their "feminine charms" and are expected to do so, both on and off screen. There is quite an appetite for tabloids reporting on who they are sleeping with and so forth. There are not as many good parts for leading women, and there are not as many truly respected female actors. Does that mean I look down on the great female actors we do have? No. But I think it's wrong that they are expected to "use their femaleness" as you say to get there.

A'isha writes- Acting the the blues are quite different in nature from belly dance. There is no comparison and yet, I think that blues singers and actresses both understand that sexuality is a part of what they do from time to time. Both on the same visceral level in which one finds the sexuality of belly dance. ( I think blues is one of the sexiest musical forms around!!)

I will have to think more about what the dance is to me personally. Actually I think about this every day! As I have said before, to me it's about a lot more than sexiness, but I know you disagree and consider that an essential element.


A'isha writes- Why would you make a derogatory comment like the one at the end of your last paragraph? You are drawing incorrect conclusions. Just because I disagree with you does not mean my interpretation of the dance is shallow. I could have been equally insulting and stated that I think you have no depth of understanding abut the nature of sexuality or its ability to totally enchant. There is a reason why concubines worldwide have always had a variety of skills, talents and the brains to use to develop them. It is because sexuality permeates everything and in many subtle and diverse and intriguing ways. It is in the budding of a Spring flower and in the embrace of a couple who have been married for 75 years. It is in every speck of pollen and in the DNA of every living thing. I think the dance is about all aspects of femaleness, and that it takes an intelligent, well rounded person to do this dance with any skill whatsoever. If you can not see that in the very nature of the dance, or if you have such a narrow and negative view of sexuality, then I am sorry for you.
Regards,
A'isha

Cathy
 
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