Irritated...

Erin

New member
Well, wow. It seems my statements were twisted and taken out of context somewhat. First of all, I will respond to A'isha's comment. My intent in pointing out that the term "belly dance" was coined by Americans was not intended to imply that it did not refer to Middle Eastern dance, but that the the dance form travelled to America and was so named by Americans. Deeper meaning also implies that again no Culture is pure and all Cultures have shared practices, and goes back to my comment about the human body and dance forms all over the world. Our body only moves in so many ways, and for anyone to believe that only Middle Easterners can shimmy and do hip circles, as well as undulate their torsos etc, etc, is not looking at the deeper picture. African dancers use these moves, dancers in Dance Clubs use these moves, Aerobics Instructors and Line Dancers can grape vine and tap their feet and execute many different moves that are also included in Middle Eastern dance. Stating the obvious, Americans (or non-Middle Easterners, in general) come from many different Cultures (actually Middle Easterners do as well), including Middle Eastern ones, and they have shared those cultures to become what they are today.

Suheir and Gypsy,
Again you bring what I said to the shallow end of the pool instead of looking for the deeper meaning. When I dance, I may not understand all the words to the music, but I do feel the music and "express myself beautifully" to that particular piece, in the dance form. Dancing is a meaningful and spiritual undertaking for me, and of all types of music, Middle Eastern music speaks the most deeply to my soul. It is not just about the pretty costumes (I'd dance in my PJs) nor about the "hip shaking" but about how one expresses (one's emotions, expressed in grace, and form) one's self to the music. Look deeper into what I am saying rather than assuming that I am saying that any old move to Middle Eastern music constitutes Middle Eastern Dancing. If I were doing say, Contemporary Dance moves to a Middle Eastern song, I would call it Contemporary Dance, not Middle Eastern Dance. If I were doing Middle Eastern dance moves to Rock and Roll I wouldn't call it Middle Eastern Dance.

There are beautiful dancers who dance Middle Eastern dance from all cultures, and there are not-so-beautiful dancers from all cultures. You can't stereotype. Not all Texans are cowboys and (for example; I have known people who have moved to Colorado from New York City or Chicago, who have never been on a horse or seen a cow, become unbelievably good cowboys) Being a cowboy (and being a dancer) is something that comes from your heart, it is something you are born to be, regardless of culture of origin. On the other hand I have seen people who are born into ranching families who thrive in the city and are afraid of horses, not to mention cows. Nor are all Coloradoans into skiing (I've never been on a ski slope). Certainly, understanding and living in a culture that produces a particular dance form could be helpful and make one a better dancer, but sometimes it is one's skill and personality and charisma, and what is in one's heart, that makes a dancer, not one's culture.

And I say EXACTLY!!! to your comment that it is the whole picture; not just Middle Eastern culture, but ALL Cultures contribute to each other, and that Middle Eastern Culture did not develop in a vacuum, instantly, but over time (thousands of years) drawing from OTHER Cultures, as well as developing new practices on its own. Next, I do not claim that just because "belly dance" is an American term, that Belly Dance is an American invention, but that, again ,I used the example to illustrate my point that cultures do not develop in a vacuum! My comment about belly dance "wherever it originated" was not made in ignorance of where it originated, but to point out, again, that cultures do not develop in a vacuum. Go back to my previous comment above that our body moves in only so many ways and you will see that Middle Eastern dancers used body movements that ANYBODY can do and put them to their particular style of music. And so we call it Middle Eastern dance. I do a grape vine to Greek music or Country Western music and call it by those names. I do a shimmy to Hip-Hop and call it that. Or undulate my torso up in a Contemporary move and call it that. So as you can see, cultures share practices. Dance (of all types) originated in the human body, and moves and styles have been shared, across cultures, again, for thousands of years.

Gypsy, it is not my doing that people use the term "belly dance" to refer to many different styles of dance. I personally do not use that term, because it covers many of the different styles I listed in my original post. When people ask I say I am a Middle Eastern dancer, and if they ask about a particular piece, I'll say it's in the Egyptian style, or it's Lebanese, etc, etc. When our troupe dances Greek, Flamenco, or modern style dances, we make sure that is explained in our programs. I made that comment because words may begin meaning a certain thing, and when popular culture gets ahold of them and begins to apply the word to everything that even remotely resembles the original meaning, it broadens the definition of the word, and one then can't use that word specifically to define what it was originally meant to define without misunderstading. Tibal dance is certainly a form of "belly dance" with roots in Middle Eastern dance, but it is an American Dance form, as is true of Gothic Belly dance, or fusion. All use Middle Eastern Dance moves or "belly dancing" but they are not Middle Eastern Dance. Does that clarify what I said for you? I am hearing that the term "belly dance", for you, most definitely means Middle Eastern Dance, but the sad truth is that for popular culture, that is not what it means. The term is used to define many different types of dance that may or may not have originated in Middle Eastern dance. Change sometimes stinks, but we can't stop it. All we can do is educate the idiots on YouTube and such places that slam us because they don't know any better. I read a comment on a video once about the dancer's feet and how big and ugly they were, as if the woman could do anything about them. It was sad to hear such a shallow comment from someone that had nothing to do with the dancer's ability to dance well.

I appreciate the opportunity to voice my opinion and discuss and clarify this topic with you all. I think it is an important topic. It is difficult to express things clearly when one doesn't have the whole effect of tone of voice or body language to read along with the words. I certainly mean no offense to anyone, though from some your responses, it seems some was taken, so I apologize to those whom I offended, it was not intended. Also, I can only write so much without hogging the thread, so I am happy to clarify what I am saying. Thanks again for giving me the opportunity! :)
Respectfully,
Erin
 

Erin

New member
P.S. And I don't mean to say that we should not be respectful of culture. We most definitely should. I am just saying that we should recognize that Culture is not static. It evolves and changes and grows. We should by all means do everything we can to learn about and respect the culture from which we are borrowing this dance form. It will enlighten us and help us grow as human beings as well as dancers.

On the subject of Goddess Temple dances. I wouldn't discount it. I would say that Middle Eastern dance , in its current incarnation, is probably not related in any way to New Age Goddess worship. However, considering that most Middle Eastern cultures, before the advent of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, were sometimes Goddess oriented, as were many prior cultures and civilizations. So since human beings have probably been dancing since they walked upright, I would say there may have been some similar forms of dance practiced in Goddess Temples in the Middle East in ancient times.
Erin
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Well, wow. It seems my statements were twisted and taken out of context somewhat. First of all, I will respond to A'isha's comment. My intent in pointing out that the term "belly dance" was coined by Americans was not intended to imply that it did not refer to Middle Eastern dance, but that the the dance form travelled to America and was so named by Americans. Deeper meaning also implies that again no Culture is pure and all Cultures have shared practices, and goes back to my comment about the human body and dance forms all over the world. Our body only moves in so many ways, and for anyone to believe that only Middle Easterners can shimmy and do hip circles, as well as undulate their torsos etc, etc, is not looking at the deeper picture. African dancers use these moves, dancers in Dance Clubs use these moves, Aerobics Instructors and Line Dancers can grape vine and tap their feet and execute many different moves that are also included in Middle Eastern dance. Stating the obvious, Americans (or non-Middle Easterners, in general) come from many different Cultures (actually Middle Easterners do as well), including Middle Eastern ones, and they have shared those cultures to become what they are today.

Dear Erin,
The problem is that with Raqs sharghi/belly dance/Oriental Tanzi in specifics, too many dancers have decided that if one uses movements that are torso/ pelvis originated, viola, it MUST be belly dance. One only has to read any forum on the dance and see the references to Shakira as "belly dancer" for example, to see that this is true. I not only have made the argument myself that the human body has a finite number of ways to move, but I did a paper on that very subject years ago. However, the context of a hip movement in Samba is different than that same movement in hula or belly dance.
The cultural context in which those movements are performed is what makes each dance what it is in specific ways. Ghawazi, for example is a dance that has many movements in common with belly dance, but it is still its own separate dance, distinct from belly dance. This is because of the cultural elements in the dance to a large degree. Of course no culture survives all by itself without other influences, but there is a very specifically cultural way of assimilating other influences. Cultures are very specific and separate, even within regions. As a person who went to 13 different schools before I graduated from high school, I can tell you that California has a whole different culture than Wisconsin, which is different from Alabama or Maine, and that is just in one country. ( To be even more specific, L.A. has a whole different culture than San Francisco, judging from when I lived in both locations.) None of those states mentioned here has survived in a vacuum, but each has its own distinct personality and culture. Dance does indeed represent very distinct cultures, which is why we see a big difference between Lebanese, Egyptian and Turkish belly dance. They each bring to the dance their own distinct cultural elements along with the aspects of the dance that make them each belly dance. Belly dance is a dance from the Middle East/ North Africa. When we distill the cultural aspects out of the dance, we have some other form of dance.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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gypsy8522

New member
We most definitely should. I am just saying that we should recognize that Culture is not static. It evolves and changes and grows. We should by all means do everything we can to learn about and respect the culture from which we are borrowing this dance form.


All use Middle Eastern Dance moves or "belly dancing" but they are not Middle Eastern Dance.
Dear Erin,

I did not get offended by your response and I hope no one else did. I just don't like it when people take something that is not originally theirs and it is more disturbing is the fact that they appear to tell the public otherwise. Only because the American government thinks they have the right to Iraq's natural resources and were able to put their hands on it, does not mean it is theirs. I am not trying to bring politics into this, but what is happening here is no different than stealing resources, it is cultural theft. When, lets say, ninety five percent of the music, costumes, dance movements comes from the Middle Eastern region and are used in "belly dancing" yet people say that it is NOT Middle Eastern, it does sound a little more than "borrowing" culture.

Stating the obvious, Americans (or non-Middle Easterners, in general) come from many different Cultures (actually Middle Easterners do as well), including Middle Eastern ones, and they have shared those cultures to become what they are today.
Americans of Middle Eastern origin make up less than 2 percent of the US population( this includes Pakistan, bangladesh, iran etc..). Unlike Irish and other Europeans, as well as mexico and some latin cultures, the Middle Eastern has not assimilated into American culture. I know many Arabs in America who are living in their own communities, the 2nd and 3rd generation Middle Easterners who assimilate keep their own heritage seperate, mostly when they are around family and friends who come from a similar ethnic background. I am seeing evidence of this when I look at the "belly dancing" taken out of its cultural context. You said "they have shared those cultures to become what they are today". I say they 'tried' to share those cultures(which includes MUSIC, HISTORY, LANGUAGE, CUSTOMS etc) but the only things that were actually "shared" or accepted were the shimmies and undulations.
 

Dev

New member
Hello group, what an interesting discussion. I was born in India and spent my childhood there and grew up with the culture. I suppose that’s the essence we all are talking about. Well when I see a foreigner doing an Indian classical dance or even Bollywood I think I know whether he/she is feeling the dance or just doing it. But does it bother me at all? No in fact I feel proud when I see somebody trying to learn something from my culture. I believe most of the Indian people think the same way.

Most of the Bollywood teachers that I know in Australia are not Indian. 80 % of them cant speak or understand a single word of Hindi or any other Indian language, Most of them probably will never visit India in their life time, And surprisingly some of them probably never met an Indian whom they can discuss about the culture. I saw them dancing, some are technically almost perfect, but a lot of time I don’t feel the same when I see an Indian dancer doing an Indian dance. The essence will never be there , Essence is something you get only if you are born and lived in that country or lived there from a very young age. Its more complex than we think. but somehow I do feel pleasure watching others doing my culture. All I could do is encourage them to learn some very basic things about my culture and let them do what they enjoy, The interested ones always ask if they want to know something and I am always happy to answer their query or direct them to the resource they looking for.

I am aware that many people make fun of Bollywood or they totally dance something and call Bollywood, Again don’t bother me at all. As long as people present my culture respectfully and have fun doing it I have no problem with it. When I get a chance to see a Bollywood night or something in Australia I don’t expect to feel the essence but I try to enjoy it from entertainment point of view.

When those two foxy ladies did the Kamasutra style fusion , I thought that was quite weird but very intelligent move to do , I bet they enjoyed every bit of publicity , Now am I supposed to get angry because they used Kama sutra to depict some kind of dance. And you know Kama Sutra is not all about Sex but love and it belongs to my culture.;)
Regards
 
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Aisha Azar

New member
Dnace etc.

Dear Dipali,
Did you happen to see the "what do you think of this?" thread on this forum? I would like to hear your thoughts on it.
I think that the whole Bollywood craze is based on Hindis fusing their dance and movie culture with other elements, and that done well, it retains a lot of what Hindi culture is. When you have seen hundreds of people misrepresenting what that is, you might find yourself just a little weary of dancers who present it with no cultural essence. I disagree that no one outside a culture can ever capture that essence but I think it is a limited number of people who can successfully step outside their own cultural viewpoint and into someone else's. I think it is a matter of having a lot of natural affinity for said culture.
Regards,
A'isha
 

perfumeshop

New member
I suppose I am just grateful that when I danced at a party in Egypt, the reactions I got were:
an Egyptian Lady kissing me and telling me "You dance our dance beautifully" and a young man saying "You know what you are doing, don't you ..who has been teaching you ?"
So far I have been fortunate that MEers and North Africans have been pleased at my paltry attempts and even happier to know that I knew who Oum Khalthoum and M.A.Wahab were. But then I shan't venture forth onto Youtube and the lurking folks with prejudices and axes to grind.
In Egypt I have never been told this dance is not for white girls , not for black girls, not for old ladies although they did seem to expect the guys to be more macho in their dance "attitude"!
 

Aniseteph

New member
I think I'm somehow expressing myself wrong, because people keep misunderstanding me. ...... I feel offended by angry remarks as a reaction on videos of students dancing on haflas etc. who enjoy the art and try very hard but are just not there yet....
:clap: Me too. It's the way these type of comments get made indiscriminately, regardless of the context - it is exactly like jeering at the mistakes of someone who is trying to learn a new language. Different if they were reading the news in that language, or writing the Queen's Speech, or teaching it, but sneering at someone genuinely trying to learn and enjoy something about your culture is the mark of a small minded idiot, IMO. Says more about them than the person they are being rude about.

Perfumeshop, your experiences are much more heartening! :dance::clap::D
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

:clap: Me too. It's the way these type of comments get made indiscriminately, regardless of the context - it is exactly like jeering at the mistakes of someone who is trying to learn a new language. Different if they were reading the news in that language, or writing the Queen's Speech, or teaching it, but sneering at someone genuinely trying to learn and enjoy something about your culture is the mark of a small minded idiot, IMO. Says more about them than the person they are being rude about.

Perfumeshop, your experiences are much more heartening! :dance::clap::D
Dear Anhiseteph and Group,
The problem is that if you are an inexperienced dancer who is doing a bad job of it, along comes the general public who do not know any better. They think the second rate thing that they see on YouTube, in person, or wherever is what belly dance looks like, because they do not know there is much better out there. The impression they get is that the dance is just drek.
Those who are learning a new language generally do not feel okay about posting themselves on YouTube as if they were proficient at it. This is often what amateur dancers do, without letting the audience or other dancers, or those people from countries of origin, know they ARE amateurs.
There is nothing wrong with being an amateur in an amateur context, but when one puts oneself out there as a professional, then they open themselves up to all kinds of criticism and true professionals expect that this will happen to them on one level or another. Amateurs have no right to expect less if they put themselves out there under false pretenses, which happens, very, very often. This may sound cold, but I am sick of people not taking responsibility for their actions as far as the dance goes, and then blaming others when the going gets tough. I am not saying you are doing this, but there is another side to the coin. I think we need to care most about the dance.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Aniseteph

New member
:think: If the general public are taking at face value everything they see on YouTube and expect responsible and accurate tagging then they really are incredibly stupid and deserve to believe that a fat bloke wobbling his beer gut is belly dance. As if most of them care anyway.... :rolleyes:

I completely agree about not misrepresenting ones amateur efforts. But as Moon said, comments are along the lines of "you're a .... (insert colour/ appearance/ gender/ religion/ background etc), you'll never get it, you shouldn't be doing this" are plain offensive. It sends a hate-filled message to everyone, from the ones who don't get it, don't care and just want to do their own self expressing thing in the name of belly dance, to the most responsible and dedicated genuine student. :(
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

:think: If the general public are taking at face value everything they see on YouTube and expect responsible and accurate tagging then they really are incredibly stupid and deserve to believe that a fat bloke wobbling his beer gut is belly dance. As if most of them care anyway.... :rolleyes:

I completely agree about not misrepresenting ones amateur efforts. But as Moon said, comments are along the lines of "you're a .... (insert colour/ appearance/ gender/ religion/ background etc), you'll never get it, you shouldn't be doing this" are plain offensive. It sends a hate-filled message to everyone, from the ones who don't get it, don't care and just want to do their own self expressing thing in the name of belly dance, to the most responsible and dedicated genuine student. :(

Dear Aniseteph.
I know that when I see things I am not familiar with, I do not necessarily jnow enough to judge whether or not they are good or bad. I think we often feel that because WE know about the dance that everyone else does, too. Not being able to tell good from bad in dance does not mean the public is stupid. it only means this is not an areas of expertise for them. ( Of course some thing are obviously awful, but not all.)
RE the prejudicial statements, I agree that any kind of blanket prejudicial statement is terrible. Personally, I have not had any of those kinds of comment made to me, so I am not sure how ubiquitous they are. I know I might get the impression that westerners can't belly dance if I saw only what I see of westerners on You Tube, where there is a LOT of hideous stuff done by us in the name of the dance.
Regards,
A'isha
 

Kharmine

New member
I really don't get the ethnocentric attitude. What we call "belly dance" today is a fusion of ME dance traditions with a strong WESTERN influences. The term "belly dance" is an inaccurate, old American slang term applied generally.

So what part of this East/West mixture belongs so exclusively to a few ethnic groups that "white girls" or non-Arabs or whatever can't possibly do it as well?
 

nicknack

New member
Ok first I just have to nitpick about the first post. There is such a thing as Jewish culture, the word "Judaism" was only invented in the last couple of centuries to describe the religion of the Jewish people (a distinct ethnic group/nation, with sub divisions). In Israel "bellydance" is sometimes referred to as Sephardi dance, as it is also part of Sephardi Jewish culture... Just as there are different groups of Roma, there are different groups of Jew (there are even groups that have come together to form an entire new community)...

The fact is there will always be someone out there with a superiority complex, who doesn't like the idea of sharing. There are the Arabs who insult Turkish dancers and Turkish dance, Lebanese insulting Egyptians and vice versa, and a whole host of other things that stem from the fact that some people can't accept the fact that there's more to middle eastern culture than what's in their little sphere of reference with little notice to their neighbours (although that might take a while to change in a world where the rest of the UK still continues to deride Wales (that's a rant I'll save for another day))......... Also even if you see a bad western dancer on youtube, that does not justify throwing insults, constructive critiscism would be much more helpful.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance

I really don't get the ethnocentric attitude. What we call "belly dance" today is a fusion of ME dance traditions with a strong WESTERN influences. The term "belly dance" is an inaccurate, old American slang term applied generally.

So what part of this East/West mixture belongs so exclusively to a few ethnic groups that "white girls" or non-Arabs or whatever can't possibly do it as well?


The dance is, indeed a Middle Eastern dance. No matter what influences were there during its development,they were all subject to being filtered through the Middle Eastern world view, and because of that, the dance is uniquely, specifically Middle Eastern/ North African in its essence and spirit. Cultural anthropology explains this process. I can not remember if it is called filtering or what. I sincerely doubt that it has been proven as a fact that the dance was based on strong western influences, any more than it was on Hindi, or Persian or other influences. The West does not stand out as a defining factor for the spirit of the dance.
I am rather inclined to discount the supposed importance of the West in the development of the dance. As always whenever anything great comes out of a Third World country, Western peoples have to lay some kind of claim to it, and try to take credit for it on some level or other. It is my opinion that whether or not the West was there, the dance would have come about simply from the transition of large groups of people leaving an agrarian lifestyle of the Big Man variety and moving into the city-state, where they were exposed to many different things and developed more sophisticated form of entertainment.
Neither surmise if difinitively provable. Can we please, just for once, try to give credit where it is actually due and admit that it was the brain child of a woman who took it to the stage, with her very much Middle Eastern cultural background to influence what she made?
 

gypsy8522

New member
I'm not going to comment over the "there is such thing as jewish culture", simply because I don't like to argue over something I don't know much about, I suspect what you are saying is not correct. It would be like saying "muslim culture" or "christian culture"... Islam and Christianity are religions, not cultures. As for "jewish sephardi dance", I don't know if it relates to belly dancing, never heard of it. But what I do know is that only a few years ago before belly dancing hit its worldwide craze, it was not accepted by a lot of people in the jewish community. I read quite a few articles and testimonies from dancers that confirm this. I also came across a statement made by a jewish Rabbi where he said " belly dancing style comes from cheap and defective cultures." The Rabbi also added that "even if belly dancing is performed in full dress in front of a female audience, halachic law still does not permit it. The Arab music which accompanies this type of body movement does not comprise the appropriate spirit." Again, how is belly dancing part of "Jewish culture"?!?!!! And if you are going to talk about someone's insulting comments, as Aisha Azar said, you have to check the other side of the coin too!

Not 'liking the idea of sharing' is one thing, and objecting to someone's misrepresention of an important piece of a country's history is something else. Especially if there is people trying to misinform the public by letting us think that they created it or that it came from a place far away from its native roots. There is A LOT of bad belly dancing done by westerners that is spread all over the internet. And please don't tell me that it "is no longer Middle Eastern because it has western influences" nonsense. Almost every video ( I have see hundreds!) contains arabic music and Egyptian or Turkish made costumes, so it IS a display of Middle Eastern culture after all. I travelled to so many western countries, went to restaurants where they had belly dancers and saw the looks on people's faces who were non-arab. And let me tell you, it wasn't very pleasant.



Now, about the superiority complex and ethnocentric attitude remarks...

Why don't we all google the word "racism" and see what comes up?? I can't think of a time in modern history where the Middle East or some other third world countries weren't fighting off white occupation. History has proven that the white man is always trying to forcefully take away something from others and lay a claim on it whether it is land, culture, OIL, hello??? History has also proven that the white race is the "superior" race.

It is amazing how some people point fingers at others without thinking about the four other fingers that are pointing back at them.
 
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Kharmine

New member
...
It is amazing how some people point fingers at others without thinking about the four other fingers that are pointing back at them.
Gypsy, I doubt anyone here is ignoring the shameful history of white imperialists/colonialists just to make you or anyone else angry. If the complaints on this thread say anything it is that racism and co-option of culture are not practices that are confined to any one group. And that's all I will say about this argument.

As to my own comment --

Oriental dance has ME origins, has versions that originated in Turkey and Greece, no one is denying that. I mentioned that is a fusion of ME dance traditions with a strong Western influence, which it is. Nothing I've ever researched has ever excluded the Western influence, which is all I meant by my not understanding an ethnocentric attitude that wants to exclude "white girls" and non-Arabs from acceptance as belly dancers.

As to how much Western influence -- well, that may be the subject of some debate. From what I've read, Cairo's early cabarets that catered to a European clientele often had Westernized bands playing Westernized music for dancers of various ME countries who incorporated Western touches such as veils, heels, Hollywood movie-style costumes -- that seems to be pretty conclusive in the development of raqs sharqi. How much of an influence on individual dancers varied, and still does.

IMHO, it is as wrong to dismiss or downplay the Western influence as it would be to give it too much credit.

Finally, we've seen plenty of videos showing some famous Egyptian, Turkish, Greek, etc. dancers doing weird or very bad stuff. It's not just Westerners misrepresenting the art. Bad belly dance is bad belly dance, period. Let's leave it at that.
 
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gypsy8522

New member
What you've read I'm assuming it came mostly from online articles and belly dancing forum. Correct? Unless you watch arabic TV programs, besides that I can't imagine any other sources. Now, from what I READ, very little was known about Egyptian dancers and the Cairo nightclub scene in America in the 50's, let alone the 20's when the whole cabaret scene took off. So any gossip or myths I hear from a belly dancers ninety years later who are living thousands of kilometers away from where the 'history' took place, I wouldn't consider it accurate and reliable information. You mentioned veils, heels, Hollywood movie-style costumes... but all these props, what does it have to do with the actual dancing? Shafiq Galal is a Shaabi singer who a lot of times wore a western suit instead of a galabeya, this doesn't mean his singing was Middle Eastern with a 'strong WESTERN influence'. Om Kalthoum had the electric guitar in her orchestra, why not claim Om Kalthoum as a highly western influenced singer as well.. at least with her we know exactly what the influence was and where it came from, not just making up stories and passing them around.

Sharqi music is about SOUL, the Middle Eastern soul. The feeling and cultural aspect of it cannot be ignored. Oriental dance is no different, as it is the human embodiment of that music. It is not exercise, where you are just moving your body around vigorously. And it is not gymnastics which is just moving your body in controlled ways. Although I'm sure if I went to a gymnastics contest and told the judges I wanted to express myself ignoring the rules, I will get thrown out of the competition.
 

Aniseteph

New member
I get what Gypsy is saying - people, a lot of them Western :)think: what about the Far East???) are out there doing horrible things to art forms they don't understand out of arrogance, ignorance or whatever, dumbing it down and misrepresenting it to others. Which is wrong.

I don't think anyone here is trying to pull the "you in the ME couldn't have done this without the help of the white man" line - that's ridiculous - of course what Gypsy is referring to is about the dancing and the music and the feeling and the soul, not high heels or a veil or an electric guitar here and there. And that is an essentially ME thing, difficult if not impossible for an outsider to see in the same context as someone brought up with it. To claim Western influence for that is arrogant in the extreme. :shok::shok::shok:

I really don't get the ethnocentric attitude. What we call "belly dance" today is a fusion of ME dance traditions with a strong WESTERN influences.
And I agree with this too. There is a huge Western (and elsewhere) scene and right or wrong the same words are used, belly dance, for the versions that have evolved over the last hundred years or so in other countries with Western influence, good or bad, by the bucketful.

Kharmine and Gypsy are not talking about the same thing.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance, etc.

Dear Aniseteph,
Responses in context so I don't get confused!

I get what Gypsy is saying - people, a lot of them Western :)think: what about the Far East???) are out there doing horrible things to art forms they don't understand out of arrogance, ignorance or whatever, dumbing it down and misrepresenting it to others. Which is wrong.


A. writes- Yes. And with Middle Eastern dance it is so far out of hand that we have stuff being passed off as the dance that is not even close!! And it is definitely wrong to so misrepresent something we are borrowing from another culture. by not clearly defining what is being done. There is some amazing good fusion going on out there, but it is not belly dance; it is fusion.
Belly dance is a very specific dance form, from the Middle East/ North Africa. It has precise movement families, a certain cultural essence and spirit, and is performed to music that denotes those cultures. And, even when someone breaks from that musical demand, as in the recent movie clip of Nadia Gamal, the essence of the dance remains. The thing is, there is a way to break the rules within cultural boundaries that few of us westerners understand!

I don't think anyone here is trying to pull the "you in the ME couldn't have done this without the help of the white man" line - that's ridiculous - of course what Gypsy is referring to is about the dancing and the music and the feeling and the soul, not high heels or a veil or an electric guitar here and there. And that is an essentially ME thing, difficult if not impossible for an outsider to see in the same context as someone brought up with it. To claim Western influence for that is arrogant in the extreme. :shok::shok::shok:


A.writes- I think people here ARE trying to say that there is a lot more of the western influence in the dance than actually has ever existed, and people seem to be talking here about the dance's beginnings. For that matter, the western instruments were often originally Middle Eastern anyway, in the form of violin (rebab), guitar (Oud), etc. The western world took these instruments and made something uniquely western out of them, just as the Arabs took a very few western concepts and made them uniquely Middle Eastern/ North African. In other words, what is assimilated changes and becomes what it is within the context of the culture that is utilizing it. The oud, once it reached Europe, became the lute, and each is its very own instrument with its very own ethnic soul. The same with dance. Western innovations in the music did not change its Middle Eastern soul. There was no "heavy western influence" that in any way overshadowed the cultural context of the dance or the music.. The dance is and was and always has been a uniquely Middle Eastern/North African dance. As Gypsy said, we only read the history of the dance as it is produced by westerners. That is why I have found the Arab point of view so important in my ideas about the dance. I think that the people whose dance it is are often dismissed when others don't like what they are hearing from them. I thank my lucky stars every day that my first teachers were Arabs!



And I agree with this too. There is a huge Western (and elsewhere) scene and right or wrong the same words are used, belly dance, for the versions that have evolved over the last hundred years or so in other countries with Western influence, good or bad, by the bucketful.

A. writes- And this is changing as more and more dancers take responsibility to really define what they are doing. People are beginning to realize that these western fusion dances are indeed NOT belly dance, as without the cultural context, those words mean very little. Hence we now have made steps in clarity of definition and have things like Tribal, American Oriental, distinctions between Turkish, Egyptian and Lebanese belly dance, etc. When I first started dancing, there was only one person that I knew of who was making these distinctions. She was my Arab teacher. I later learned about Aisha Ali, who is also Arab, and a few others who feel a responsibility about what we are borrowing.


Kharmine and Gypsy are not talking about the same thing.

A. writes- I think they are talking about the same thing, but from different world views.

Regards,
A'isha
 

nicknack

New member
Gypsy, over half of the Jewish population of Israel are of North African and Middle Eastern origin, many having lived in the region for over 3000 years, the term generally used to describe this group is "Sephardi", if you go to a Sephardi synagogue you will hear quarter tones in the music and tunes (music written in the middle east), the older generation of middle eastern Jews spoke Judeo Arabic (written in Hebrew characters), wrote many texts in it that are still referenced today. And if you look at any Jewish party in Israel playing Mizrachi (that means eastern) music, the sephardi girls do what you would describe as shaabi. There are those however who forget this fact, and are generally idiots. There is no law written that says you can't dance or have fun.

To be Jewish is to be part of a people and a religion, the same goes for Native Americans, Druse, Aboriginal Australians. Yes people can convert to the Jewish religion, but they don't go off on their own, they are absorbed into the community, and if they marry, will end up marrying an ethnically Jewish person.... if being Jewish was just about religion we would make up more than one tenth of one percent of the worlds population.

Anyway my original thought was that each group thinks of the dance as their own, which is permissable when if it's Egyptians talking of Egyptian bellydance, Turks talking about Turkish bellydance etc. This is great that so many people can put a different stamp on it. The only problem is people getting possesive and not being able to see any region specific style other than their own as valid.... which leads to the idiotic comments that we can see just about everywhere...
 
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