I don't know

cathy

New member
Hi all,

In a very broad sense I agree that all arts including music, dance, poetry, painting, etc. spring from the same kind of creative energy that sex and all forms of social bonding spring from. I've even read that language itself was sexually selected for, in the sense that women preferred men who could chat them up first. Possibly dancing especially springs more from the sexual side of creative energy, given all the dances that originated in young men and women checking each other out.

Personally I would be flattered to be thought a sexy dancer. But that's not what's on my mind when I perform or go about putting together a choreography. What would I consider the highest compliments? Beautiful, talented, exactly with the music, choreography that exactly expressed the feeling of the music, great motor control, deep feeling.

I'm definitely not afraid of the terms sex, sexy, or sexuality.

I've read people say that Georgia O'Keefe's paintings of flowers are "about" female genitals, but as far as I know, she never said this. Or I've read critics say that Martin Scorsese's movies are "about" his lapsed Catholocism, yet he denies it. Where is the truth there? Who gets the greater say as to what the art is "about?" The artist or the public? Are there any other art forms (besides arguably pole dancing, porno films, etc) that are inherently about sex?

When you think about it, are there any schools of painting or music that are "about" sex? Yes, there are sexy paintings and sexy songs, but whole genres? And aside from porno films, there are certainly lots of sexy movies, but are there any film makers whose entire oeuvres are sexy?

I think that we as dancers choose how to define ourselves and yet viewers may see what they choose in our art.

And BTW I am proud to call myself a feminist. And I've been married (to a man) for 20 years now, and he's all for women's rights as well. That is, women as deserving of *equal rights* to those of men.

Cathy
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Sexy, etc.

Dear Cathy,

Responses in context so as to be less confusing.

Hi all,

In a very broad sense I agree that all arts including music, dance, poetry, painting, etc. spring from the same kind of creative energy that sex and all forms of social bonding spring from. I've even read that language itself was sexually selected for, in the sense that women preferred men who could chat them up first. Possibly dancing especially springs more from the sexual side of creative energy, given all the dances that originated in young men and women checking each other out.

A'isha writes- I think that some dances hold a more sexual message than others. for example, Irish step dancing has far less pelvis centered activity than say, belly dance or Tahitian. Tango has a very explicit sexual message.

Personally I would be flattered to be thought a sexy dancer. But that's not what's on my mind when I perform or go about putting together a choreography. What would I consider the highest compliments? Beautiful, talented, exactly with the music, choreography that exactly expressed the feeling of the music, great motor control, deep feeling.

A'isha writes- I think that it does not have to be on one's mind as such to be a quality of the dance itself. In fact, often when people are purposely trying to be sexy they are not. However, I think that when one is being true to the dance, sexual energy is a part of that equation whether or not it is choreographed into it.

I'm definitely not afraid of the terms sex, sexy, or sexuality.

A'isha writes- But you seem consistently to want to deny its place in the dance form, whether or not you are comfortable with sexuality.... I guess you seem a bit uncomfortable with it in the dance, maybe??? I am not trying to be difficult, but I feel like you are sending mixed messages about it to some degree.

I've read people say that Georgia O'Keefe's paintings of flowers are "about" female genitals, but as far as I know, she never said this. Or I've read critics say that Martin Scorsese's movies are "about" his lapsed Catholocism, yet he denies it. Where is the truth there? Who gets the greater say as to what the art is "about?" The artist or the public? Are there any other art forms (besides arguably pole dancing, porno films, etc) that are inherently about sex?

A'isha writes- Many dance forms are clearly and inherently about sex. O'Keefe, I am sure was aware of the sexual context of her art, as are most artists. There are many,many dances around the world that are inherently
about sex, but I think we have a miscommunication here because things can be very sexy without being about the act of having sex.

When you think about it, are there any schools of painting or music that are "about" sex? Yes, there are sexy paintings and sexy songs, but whole genres? And aside from porno films, there are certainly lots of sexy movies, but are there any film makers whose entire oeuvres are sexy?

A'isha writes- Has anyone here given you the idea that they think the dance is relegated to exclusively sexual context????

I think that we as dancers choose how to define ourselves and yet viewers may see what they choose in our art.

A'isha writes- I disagree for one reason. Art always has a life outside the artist. It has its own meaning and essence, with or with or without the specific artist.

Regards,
A'isha

And BTW I am proud to call myself a feminist. And I've been married (to a man) for 20 years now, and he's all for women's rights as well. That is, women as deserving of *equal rights* to those of men.

Cathy
 
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Moon

New member
A'isha Azar said:
In fact, often when people are purposely trying to be sexy they are not. However, I think that when one is being true to the dance, sexual energy is a part of that equation whether or not it is choreographed into it.
I agree with that :clap:
 

cathy

New member
Dear A'isha,

I am thinking about what you have written. I hope you won't mind if I ask you ta few more questions to help me ponder this.

First, do you think Middle Eastern music is inherently more sexy than other kinds of music, and thus inspired a sexier kind of dance? Or could various kinds of dances have arisen for Middle Eastern music and the one that did is an inherently sexy dance? What about modern pop vs. classical also?

Second, I believe you said previously that raks beledi shares a movement vocabulary with raks sharki but is a totally separate dance. Would you say that raks beledi, the social dance, is pelvic centered? Is it inherently sexier than some other forms of social or folk dance in the Middle East? Or is the inherent sexiness of Raks Sharki for it alone? If so is this related to what I think you called the female essence?

Lastly, and unrelated to the sexy issue. Do you think people tend to enjoy most what they are best at in terms of dance? You said somewhere that certain forms of dance are best suited to certain people and having only studied one form and style, I wonder how to interpret that in regards to myself.

I appreciate all the time you have taken to respond to me, even if I don't always agree!

Thanks, Cathy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Cathy,
Responses in context below.

Dear A'isha,

I am thinking about what you have written. I hope you won't mind if I ask you ta few more questions to help me ponder this.

A'isha writes- I will be happy to answer any questions that I can.

First, do you think Middle Eastern music is inherently more sexy than other kinds of music, and thus inspired a sexier kind of dance? Or could various kinds of dances have arisen for Middle Eastern music and the one that did is an inherently sexy dance? What about modern pop vs. classical also?

A'isha writes- Not personally, but some Muslims interpret the Qur'an to say that music is too sensual to listen to.... I do not think the music in and of itself inspired sexier dancing, though I think that some Middle Eastern music is far sexier than a funeral dirge or Tibetan folkloric music, or most of the music from "The Sound of Music!! I think the times and places in which the dance was developed made use of the sensuality in the music to help manifest the femaleness of the dance, if that makes sense. Dancers like Badia Masabni used the tools that were available to them to develop their art, including the music.
According to some musical experts, there is no such thing as classical Arab music. I believe the same thing abut the dance. There is no classical belly dance. I would say that MOST current Arab pop music is not really that great for dancing an extended belly dance. It is too repetitive, no depth, few tempo or mood changes, no interludes, no lown, etc. There are some exceptions like a lot of Hani Shaker's stuff and Warda and a few others.

Second, I believe you said previously that raks beledi shares a movement vocabulary with raks sharki but is a totally separate dance. Would you say that raks beledi, the social dance, is pelvic centered? Is it inherently sexier than some other forms of social or folk dance in the Middle East? Or is the inherent sexiness of Raks Sharki for it alone? If so is this related to what I think you called the female essence?

A'isha writes-I would say that Raqs Beledi is a more sort of "open" style of dance, less centered movement, less tight control. It is a dance with less sophistication and more... "innocence" if you will. It is flirtatious in a light hearted way. Raqs Sharghi is a more complex dance with many moods, feelings and intensity that is not present in Beledi, which is for fun. There is a sort of hint at sexiness in Beledi that is brought to full bloom in Sharghi

Lastly, and unrelated to the sexy issue. Do you think people tend to enjoy most what they are best at in terms of dance? You said somewhere that certain forms of dance are best suited to certain people and having only studied one form and style, I wonder how to interpret that in regards to myself.

A'isha writes-I am not sure. I LOVE Turkish dance but I am not really good at it and may not have time to get good. I think there comes a time when we should study many different Middle Eastern/ North African dances from different instructors to see what best fits our own hearts and souls. I have found that there are certain teachers with whom I resonate and am able to learn so much!!

I appreciate all the time you have taken to respond to me, even if I don't always agree!

A'isha writes- And I appreciate chatting with you because it helps me to see more clearly what I think and why when people like yourself want me to explain my wayward beliefs!!!!
With respect,
A'isha


Thanks, Cathy
 

charity

New member
this is off the subject of belly dance particularly but more about dance in general and in response to Cathy:

Cathy wrote:
Possibly dancing especially springs more from the sexual side of creative energy, given all the dances that originated in young men and women checking each other out.

i write:
historically dances evolved on the most basic sense from finding rythm in mundane things and harnessing it. rythm was translated into movement.

folklore and "traditional" dances were used to create a sense of comraderie and community. the repetitive nature was to emphasize unity and selflessness and an ability to complete the task as needed.

for matchmaking, dance was used in a more, if not provocative but a show-case sense. men or women would dance and do so in a manner that illustrated they were the alpha specimen, the choice/pick of the litter, it was a show of fertility and health and stamina (and sometimes wealth given that the poor could not dance in the same arena). there are some dances where the members do not wear fragrance, for the simple fact alone for the man or woman to be able to smell the health of the dancer.

imo and with what knowledge and experience i have of the ME it was forbidden to attempt to seduce or provoke a man or woman sexually for values of virtue and honor to the religion. when in reality the religion itself may not have been as severe as implied, but simply that a mother and father wanted to maintain virtue in their children so that they can be presented as a prize/choice candidate to marriage to another ally family. and in another reality maintaining ones virtue was a sure fire way of cleanliness and the continuance of ones lineage.

belly dance in private by the harem girls for harem girls was simply a way of entertainment, expression, and practicing ones sexuality/sensiality... like teenage girls dancing to pop music. that is no mystery.

and the feminite boys who danced for the kings/husbands were a part of another taboo subject of homosexuality. and for those men who were not homosexual it was conveyed as an acceptable form of temptation being that it was not from a woman.

and the evolution of the dance to performance is just like any other venture. it was for cultural/religious rebellion, creativity, sexuality, attention, money. and so it is viewed differently by many.

when you see MIDDLE EASTERN dance of no particular style, i, myself, do not believe ME dance and belly dance are the same. the underlying cultural ideas vary greatly. i do believe belly dance originated one way per the culture. and admirers of differing cultures introduced it into their own cultural/value/religous matrix, and so came forth another form of belly dance. and for each region and culture, so on and so forth. more styles, more ideas of what it is all about and what it conveys and what is taboo....

with evolution and change, origins just like the function, become murky and intrepretive.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Cathy,
For the most part there was no "harem belly dancing". There still is not except what the women of any household do to amuse themselves at parties etc. If you want to know what life was like in a Egyptian harem, read the life of Hoda Sharawi. If you are talking about sergelios of the Turks, then stories there are greatly made up and exaggerated, too, according to info I have read and lecture series I have attended. Most harems were places of political intrigue and dangerous for heirs and wives more than they were sexual havens for kings asnd princes.
I have been in the "haram" (forbidden) parts of the house myself. Basically they are just the parts of the house where male visitors do not go. It could be the kitchen or the family room or any part of the house that is not open to males outside the immediate family, and this kinship might or might not include cousins and uncles. I used to go to Seattle and stay occasionally in the house of a wealthy Saudi. They had the family living room and the majlis where male company met with the males of the house. That was practicing the rules of haram, just as is done in Saudi Arabia. Most Muslims I know even when they live in an apartment, have an entryway into the house that does not allow the stranger to see into the rest of the house, and the women have rooms where they go when their husbands have male company.
Another incorrect theory of belly dance is that it existed during the heyday of the Turkish harem, which it did not. Turkish concubines were probably much like Arab and Persian ones in that they often were pretty well educated, could recite poetry, do math problems and puzzles and sing and play music and dance, but that does not mean belly dance. The idea was that these women were well rounded companions, not just sexually available. Sex you could get anywhere; women who were all around sexy, intelligent, beautiful and the whole package, not so much.
Regards,
A'isha
 

cathy

New member
Dear Cathy,
For the most part there was no "harem belly dancing".
Hi A'isha
Small point but I think you may have meant to address someone else in this reply. I would most definitely not have raised the topic of "harem belly dance." Regards, Cathy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Oooppppsss!!!

Hi A'isha
Small point but I think you may have meant to address someone else in this reply. I would most definitely not have raised the topic of "harem belly dance." Regards, Cathy
Dear Cathy,
Yet another social blunder!! Sorry, I meant "Dear Charity".
Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Regards,
A'isha
 

charity

New member
Dear Cathy,
For the most part there was no "harem belly dancing"...Most harems were places of political intrigue and dangerous for heirs and wives more than they were sexual havens for kings asnd princes.

my words have been misunderstood:(. i meant only what i said. i never thought harems were sexual havens as portrayed on some lame tv show where women come out scantily clad to dance for the king. though it has come to that in a modern sense, yes. i meant it simply as segregated areas of the house where harem women, meaning the women were segregated in the house, and could dance in privacy without repurcussion because like you said men, other than munichs (allegedly) were not allowed there. I DO KNOW harem is segregated/allotted areas of a house that are forbidden to him/her/servant.:shok: and nothing i read up above such as implies that the "other" version of the word was used.:think:

honestly to disagree is one thing, i've come to opinions based on what i have read or seen, as do most people. it does not make the opinions correct. believe me i'm not trying to pretend otherwise about my opinions, but i thought for sure with this last post i had stayed to the basic points.shrug

i concede this subject matter to origins, to function, to authenticity. i have tried in uneloquent ways to enforce that for me belly dance is about a feeling that moves me to dance and makes me to want to express myself in a delicate/femininte way. all other subject matters, irregardless of history lesson, is always disputable. though i was trying to learn something. going off subject.

:(i've taken to much to heart, i know, i feel chastised and shouldnt.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Cathy,
For the most part there was no "harem belly dancing"...Most harems were places of political intrigue and dangerous for heirs and wives more than they were sexual havens for kings asnd princes.

my words have been misunderstood:(. i meant only what i said. i never thought harems were sexual havens as portrayed on some lame tv show where women come out scantily clad to dance for the king. though it has come to that in a modern sense, yes. i meant it simply as segregated areas of the house where harem women, meaning the women were segregated in the house, and could dance in privacy without repurcussion because like you said men, other than munichs (allegedly) were not allowed there. I DO KNOW harem is segregated/allotted areas of a house that are forbidden to him/her/servant.:shok: and nothing i read up above such as wimplies that the "other" version of the word was used.:think:

honestly to disagree is one thing, i've come to opinions based on what i have read or seen, as do most people. it does not make the opinions correct. believe me i'm not trying to pretend otherwise about my opinions, but i thought for sure with this last post i had stayed to the basic points.shrug

i concede this subject matter to origins, to function, to authenticity. i have tried in uneloquent ways to enforce that for me belly dance is about a feeling that moves me to dance and makes me to want to express myself in a delicate/femininte way. all other subject matters, irregardless of history lesson, is always disputable. though i was trying to learn something. going off subject.

:(i've taken to much to heart, i know, i feel chastised and shouldnt.

Dear Cathy, ( Please look at this as if it spells "Charity"!!)
I apologize if you feel that I was rough on you, but belly dance still was not done by and for harem girls, as you suggest, and the problem is that using that terminology puts forth a wrong picture, especially when we start adding eunuchs to the mix. Eunuchs were widely used in China, and in some Middle Eastern locations. Hardly anyone had eunuchs in their households, though almost everyone, even the poorest Bedouin family, had a part of the tent that was haram. You would probably have found more eunuchs in Persia and China than in Arab countries by far, and in Europe during the days of the Castrati boys who gave up their manhood, by dictate of Holy Mother Church, in order to sing. I think the last Castrati died in the last century, and there is a recording of his voice somewhere. I have heard that some very wealthy and important Turkish folk also might have had eunuchs in their house, but many Muslims would also consider them to be a huge abomination against God.
Men allowed in the harem varied probably by family. Some men were allowed in the family part of the house even when they were not relatives, in some households. And in some cases, women could go to the majlis, as used to happen with a friend of mine when a certain Saudi prince would drop by. He was close enough to the family to be considered family, though he was no blood relative.
This is not by way of chastising, but by way of saying that things are not always as we are told they are when you speak to the real people, or when you look at things in a bigger picture.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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cathy

New member
Dear Cathy,
I apologize if you feel that I was rough on you, but belly dance still was not done by and for harem girls, as you suggest, and the problem is that using that terminology puts forth a wrong picture, especially when we start adding eunuchs to the mix. A'isha
Hi A'isha

Again this is a small point but I think here you meant to address Charity. I would not raise the issue or use the phrase "dancing harem girls." No apology required! Cathy
 

charity

New member
hi a'isha, actually you were not chastising at all.

i was under the impression that harems historically consisted of concubines/servants, women usually of african descent, employed by political leaders/elite members of society. i have read that because they were not muslim women some of them were even trained in dance, singing, music, and some were even given an education.

and for the common house, i thought the harem only existed as a young muslim lady was coming of age and was therefore segregated from the rest of the household and guarded over by women or servants until she was married off.

i was also under the impression that no muslim woman was allowed to dance so immodestly except in the company of other women.

of course how this relates to now-a-days i dont know. and perhaps it is no so accurate after all.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Haram

Dear Charity,
Responses in context below so I will not get too confused.

hi a'isha, actually you were not chastising at all.

i was under the impression that harems historically consisted of concubines/servants, women usually of african descent, employed by political leaders/elite members of society. i have read that because they were not muslim women some of them were even trained in dance, singing, music, and some were even given an education.

A'isha writes- Can you tell me where you gt this information?? In many wealthy Muslim households the slaves were of Caucasian descent as well as African. Muslim w0men were also trained to dance, sing, etc. I would suggest that you read Hoda Sharawi's autobiography. She lived in a house with slaves. In fact, slavery in Saudi Arabia was outlawed in 1968. Etab, who is a very famous singer of the 1980s, was born a slave there. She now lives in Egypt, but goes back to Sauidi to sing when it is requested. They pay her scads!!

and for the common house, i thought the harem only existed as a young muslim lady was coming of age and was therefore segregated from the rest of the household and guarded over by women or servants until she was married off.

A'isha writes- No, the harem always exists in any Muslim household, including as I said, Bedouin tents.

I was also under the impression that no muslim woman was allowed to dance so immodestly except in the company of other women.

A'isha writes- Well, think about the Muslim women dancing in Egypt even into this generation. Lucy and Fifi and Dina and many other famous dancers are Muslimmeh.

of course how this relates to now-a-days i dont know. and perhaps it is no so accurate after all.
We in the West have generally been fed a lot of garbage about life in the harem. I have just known too many Arab women who were all too happy to straighten me out about it!!!
Regards,
A'isha
 

charity

New member
i get tidbits of info anywhere, everywhere, is it accurate, i dont know. all of history is censored, tailored, modified, glorified, horrified depending on the forum in which it is presented.

more specific sources:

bernard lewis
human rights watch group pubs (yes surely biased on many issues)
the coming of age reenactment on history tv. it was in india. it aired years ago.
classes in world civ, world religion and topics in ethics, respectively taught by history teacher, PhD in world religion, and a nun in america.

people can decide for themselves what to take and what not to.

dancing is a creative process, the modern, perhaps american version of beautiful women in beautiful costume dancing for an adoring crowd before a king, it is a fantansy of many girls. true or no, it lends itself to the "image" of bellydance.

and the segregation and coming of age, is a parable for virtue and modesty, i'm sure. is it accurate, sometimes, but that too is fantasy that lends itself to the history and culture of bellydance. fact and fantasy both play a part in history and the evolution of something.


the subject that has strayed and i have no desire to expound on:
i know women of muslim faith or heritage still dance and in public performance but the faith does consider it immodest behavour. how people of faith receive it depends on them.

same is true of other religious concepts of alcohol consumption and pre-marital sex, some people of faith do both, and some people of faith do not.

other peoples faith and what they do within it does not concern me in my study of bd so i prefer to avoid this discussion of dance and religion.

i know, i know, a lot of inaccuracies but they have been consistent inaccuracies throughout time, a fantasy that has prevailed and so merit has been given to the fantasy and is incorporated into the "feel" and "show" of modern day belly dance. this is all i take from it whether it be a dance of "rebellion", "beauty", "empowerment", "virtue", "sensuality", "sexuality" they are all reflected in the nuances of bd.
 
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